A/V Room









X-Men 2 - Brian Cox Q&A

Compiled by Jack Foley

Q. You're now based in LA and the film offers are coming thick and fast, but in terms of accepting projects, do you try and get a balance of thinking in terms of 'this is an interesting project, there's no bad roles, there's only small, good roles, etc?
I once read a book by Michael Powell, it was a biography, and he said that, in films, 'there are no big parts and small parts, there are only long parts and short parts'. And it's true, actually.
I think the hardest job for an actor is the one day player. Because he has to walk into a situation, which isn't a family set up like we had, and I've seen actors get really thrown off their game by a director not quite relaxing them, and they're only there for that one day, so the discipline is tougher, harder.
And I very much view that there are no big parts. I've been very lucky, because the quality I've had has been every interesting, very precise and particular, and I love that, working with Spike Lee and Spike Jonze.
I just like doing the job. I'm at a stage now where I really enjoy what I do. I mean, I'm older, and thank God I am, because I'm actually happier doing what I do.
But like Alan, and I think it's partly to do with my Celtic nature, I still feel eclectic; I don't feel that this is it.
You know, I think I'm passing through this stage and I think I'll come out the other side and there will be something else... I might go back to writing, or go back to teaching, anything.
You know, anything is possible, and I think that if you limit yourself, it tells. I think you have to always kind of push your horizons out, and I think that the most important thing is not to buy into any of it.

Q. When you were growing up, were you a comic book fan? And if you could have chosen any power to have, which one would you have liked?
I was a huge comic book fan.I probably had the biggest comic collection in the east of Scotland. My mother threw it out, but it would probably be worth a fortune. I had original Batmans, original Spider-Mans, in my hometown of Dundee, there used to be a wonderful comic book shop and I used to go in there and spend all my time there, collecting vast amount of comic books.
My passion was a thing called Classics Illustrated, which was basically how I got into the classics, because they took wonderful comic form.
The X-Men actually came along just at the point where I stopped collecting comics. I think it started in about 1961, when I was 15. But I've always liked comics.
But the X-Men, of course, are very different because, I think, Stan Lee took a whole different turn. All the superheroes before them, you know like Batman, had a very clear sense of good and evil. But really, they became more circumspect, and that's what the X-Men are.
I don't know about super powers. I guess I would jokingly say invisibility, because it seems like a funny idea.

Q. The X-Men is always topical because of the theme it embraces. But particularly with the climate over the past couple of years, is it more relevant than ever, this film, because it's about tolerance?
Well, the zeitgeist is incredible, really if you think about it, because this film was made last year.
I think there is an allegorical nature to the movie, apart from anything else, that speaks for itself. And I mean, who'd have thunk it?
In fairness to Bryan, being the fact that it's something that he really identifies with, there are certain biographical aspects to it.

Q. Do you want to get back to theatre? And do you mind being the latest in a long line of great British actors playing the villain?
I'm getting a little bit itchy about getting back on the stage, basically because my memory, to see if I can still remember things.
I always wanted to do films, I never wanted to do theatre in the first place. I sort of stumbled into it, by accident or by education, but by birth I wanted to do movies.
By education, however, I wanted to do theatre, because it seemed more proper.
I have more disatisfied evenings in the theatre than I do in the cinema, partly because I feel a lot more for the theatre.
But I don't feel that I could ever not do theatre. I just think it's the stuff, at the end of the day, that relationship between you and the audience and being on the stage. There isn't anything like it, really, once you've tasted it. But it's hard work and there's not a lot of profit for it. It's demanding.
But the other part. I just think, it's an interesting thing about America, how they perceive people who also speak in the English language.
I think they perceive them with suspicion, because they don't have an American accent.
And I think that is really why British people are cast as these characters. We have a lot of $9 words, we say things like 'depraved', and they feel it's a $9 word. There is that element, so that anybody who seems a bit fast on their feet, or quick with the language, becomes immediately suspicious, so they're perfect for bad guys.
And British actors, particularly theatre actors, fall into that; people like Jeremy Irons, Alan Rickman, Anthony Hopkins, the list is endless. But I don't think it's a bad thing, because they are great roles. There was a time when I got fed up with it, but now I see it as the Devil does have the best songs and one should be thankful.
As for the decision to base myself in Hollywood, it's really to do with work.
I started in the theatre in 1961, so that's 40 years, and over that time I've been able to observe changes and stuff going on, and I kind of got to a point, with British theatre, where I got really fed up. And particularly British television.
I think British television comedy is excellent, but British drama, in terms of drama, is kind of like you want to drop off. And I felt that in order to continue, I've got to go and get work, basically. So I went to America in order to get work.
I could have gone on in the theatre forever, and become some sort of sacred theatre animal, but that's not what I wanted to do. It's rather boring, rather predicable, and that wasn't my life.
And also I'm Scottish. I'm a Celt and it's different. I've always felt like I'm a visitor here. I love it, I love London, and I had a great time when I came here as a student and based myself here, but I've never felt that really this is my home. In fact, I've always found it really difficult to know where my home is, except in the work I'm doing.


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