From Blair to Caligula to Twilight’s Aro, Michael Sheen loves getting his teeth into bad-guy characters. He tells TARA BRADYwhy he relishes playing the villain
AND NOW the end is near. As Stephenie Meyers’ megafranchise takes a final bow with Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Michael Sheen, superstar thespian and the sequence’s resident villain, is preparing to say goodbye to Aro, his maniacal alter-ego of some four years.
“It’s good that it’s definitely going out with a bang,” he says. “It’s the best of the bunch. It’s certainly the film that I’ve enjoyed watching the most.”
Sheen has a particular weakness for the franchise, partly because he loved channelling those twin horrors “the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Blue Meanie from Yellow Submarine”, and partly on account of his 13-year-old daughter, Lily.
“She’s grown up with these stories so I know from her how important they are. The supernatural elements, in some ways, gives a scale for the epic feelings that you feel at that age. Viewers have somewhere to put those feelings that make sense. They’ll always associate their teenage years with those characters.”
Sheen gets the appeal and he also understands the gender politics that underpin a good deal of anti-Twilight vitriol.
“It doesn’t surprise me that there’s a huge backlash and snobbishness against it,” says Sheen. “We’ve come to think of fantasy as nerds and geeks and what-have-you. And most of those are teenage boys. That’s not the prime audience for Twilight. It sticks out because it’s for young girls who are becoming young women and because that’s what it’s about.”
By now, we’re so accustomed to seeing Michael Sheen play iconic Englishmen – Tony Blair, Kenneth Williams, Brian Clough – its almost a shock to hear him speak in his own melodic Welsh accent. He rarely, as he notes, gets recognised on the street. Maybe it’s the beard. Maybe its because he disappears so completely into his better-known biographical portraits. His depictions of, say, HG Welles or David Frost convey the essence of those subjects without resorting to cheesy impersonation. It’s all down to “finding out as much about their lives as possible”, he says.
On this side of the Atlantic, Tony Blair made Sheen a household name; the actor has played the former British PM in TV’s The Deal and in the Oscar-decorated The Queen. Across the water, he’s rather better known for Lucian in the Underworld series or Twilight’s Aro. For a proper Shakespearean actor, he seems awfully comfortable in entirely pixelated worlds.
“Growing up, I was a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and Philip K Dick and Stephen King. My taste has always been with science fiction and fantasy, so its been great to be able to do the Underworld films and Twilight and Tron.”