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V For Vendetta - Stephen Fry interview

Stephen Fry in V For Vendetta

Interview by Rob Carnevale

Q. What was it that appealed to you about the role and why did you decide to take it?
A. Being beaten up! I haven’t been beaten up in a movie before and I was very excited by the idea of it. No, I love the idea that someone changes. As an actor it’s always the thing that you look for. He is someone who starts off bright, cheerful and confident and then has everything taken away from him. It’s a wonderful journey to take.

Q. What, if anything, debate-wise are you hoping this movie will create?
A. Do you remember in the ‘70s there was a wonderful strand of dystopic films, like Zardoz, Soylent Green, The Omega Man and, of course, Logan’s Run which I think Joel [Silver] is developing at the moment. I guess it was because there was a big issue about the individual and the state. In the ‘80s it seemed to be less interesting to people. But suddenly it’s something that everyone’s talking about again and it’s rather wonderful that a fantastic popcorn movie like this also has people coming out of screenings really talking about things. Not in a pompous, intellectual way but genuinely talking about the way their country is going, and the way the state is going. The Patriot Act has finally gone into law in America, for instance, and we have our own issues like that. The film doesn’t directly address these issues, of course, but it raises the questions, which is one of the best things film can do. If it can do it in a form that’s wholly entertaining then so much the better.

Q. If you could project 25 years into the future from where we are now, how likely is this to be the face of England?
A. [Laughs] If only it could be that stylish… I think my view is that whenever you project into the future you’re never likely to be accurate in the details, or the paraphernalia and style. It’s in the spirit of it. I mean Orwell’s 1984 was not physically accurate in many ways. We don’t know what’s going to happen in 20 years time. But it’s certainly possible that the liberty of the individual will be compromised if not by the state then by a combination of the state and the billions of bits of data about us floating around which anyone can access, whether it’s organised crime, or corporate or global organisations, or individual states. There’s no question that things will be up in the air in a way that we can’t imagine.

Q. Were you a fan of graphic novels before appearing in the film?
A. Personally, I’d never seen a graphic novel. I knew they existed because friends of mine like Jonathan Ross collect them and some very literate and intelligent people really rate the graphic novel as a form. When James first gave me a copy of the original I was absolutely astonished by its power, its passion and its smartness. I became really keen and read a couple of others.

Q. Did you mould your witty TV host on anyone we might know?
A. It was a talk show host as they’re termed in America but we don’t really have that kind of person here. I can’t say I modelled him on Jonathan Ross or Michael Parkinson because they’re obviously very different sorts of animals. There are people like Craig Ferguson, the Scottish comedian who now does a show in America, who kind of blends comedy with interviews slightly more in the manner of my character. But it’s an amalgam of people. No one in particular.

Q. Has appearing in an action film wetted your appetite for something like Die Hard V?
A. Moving from chair to chair, from coffee machine to coffee machine is the limit of my action in most films. But I enjoy being cast in them because I love watching them.

Q. V has his Shadow Gallery in which he stores national treasures. If you could have your own Shadow Gallery, what would you store?
A. Apart from the obvious first editions of Shakespeare and so on I think I’d have a cricket bat signed by the side that beat Australia. And a big old wireless set that had lots of episodes of The Archers on it.

Q. Would you like Hugh Laurie to have been in this film and, if so, which character would he have been? And have you any plans to work with him again?
A. Well I nearly was in an episode of House. But it didn’t come together unfortunately. I had to be over here. There’s nothing Hugh can’t do as we now know from House. He’s a superb actor and he decided to be good looking which I thought was a rather cheap and obvious thing to be. Actors make their own choices and he decided to be handsome. I think my decision was rather more interesting, but still… He could have played many of the parts in V I think because he is so extraordinarily adaptable.

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