When I was on my Sorcerer’s Apprentice set visit last summer for Fandango, I spotted a dapper Alfred Molina (in Victorian garb as the villainous Maxim Horvath) and exclaimed to a fellow journo, “It’s Doc Ock!” Given his dramatic pedigree, that’s not what my peer would have first thought of, but hey, when I saw Nicolas Cage, I immediately thought, “Vampire’s Kiss!” I often enjoy people in roles that are not famous or their trademark.
Regardless, Alfred Molina is a first-rate thespian who first came to public attention playing the deceptive guide in the opening of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Since then he has amassed an impressive resume with wide-ranging roles in films like Prick Up Your Ears, Maverick, Chocolat, Frida, The Da Vinci Code and, yes, Spider-Man 2. He’s not only an erudite interview but a jokester as well, as I discovered when chatting him up with the press gaggle on set.
This is a very different look than you had in Prince Of Persia.
Shorter hair, no turban, decent suit, an interesting tie. And the scarab [broach]. My character has different insects. There’s this, there’s a beetle, there’s a spider on one of the hats. It’s kind of a running motif in the movie.
Does he use them in his magic?
Yeah, he does. Without giving too much away, there’s a little moment when he forms out of this massive, roiling pile of beetles. It’s a running idea in the movie; that’s his way of morphing into this [me].
“My daughter said, ‘Wow, Dad, that must have been an amazing day.’ I said, ‘A day? That took three weeks!'”
Do your character and Nic’s character have a backstory?
Yeah, very much so. They were very old friends, very good friends at one time. The three of them — the triumvirate of Balthazar, Maxim and Morgana — were the three favorites of Merlin, and at one point they were on the same side. Something happened, there’s a terrible cleaving of their friendship, and Balthazar continues to be Merlinian and looking after the good side of things, and my character becomes what we describe as Morganian, which is the dark side. They’re in this struggle for power, which has been going on for 1,000 years. This is the latest manifestation of that crisis between them. So they go way back.
How does it feel to return to big budget villainy? Do you revel in that?
I love it. It’s a very exciting way to work, in a way. The stories are usually very, very good — if you choose the right ones — and there is a real sense of excitement and fun in this kind of material. Also, the fact that we’ve got as our producer Jerry [Bruckheimer], and this is my second movie for him, I’m getting to know the way he works and operates. There is a real enthusiasm on that side of the business for this movie and this kind of material, which is very satisfying and supportive because there’s nothing worse than working your ass on on a film and then finding out that the producers really couldn’t give a shit. They might as well be selling cars. But here you’ve got a whole team of people who are really, really committed not just to this material but to this very kind of genre. This for them is important, worthwhile cinema, so it’s a good environment to be working in.
It seems like there’s more humor in this movie.
There’s a lot of humor in these stories. I think there has to be because you can’t… it’s like a diet of broccoli. Broccoli is good for you and it’s really nice, but broccoli all the time is really, really boring. You’ve got to have some Mac and cheese now and again. I think the same thing applies to movies. If my character spends all his time going “Grr,” you’d get bored after a while. You have to give it a nice balance, and also these stories lend themselves to a playfulness that keeps them alive and fresh.
What’s it like shooting in New York again?
It’s great. This is one of the most film-friendly towns in terms of facilities and the generosity of the city. We’re standing here in the middle of a very large space downtown, just off of Battery Park, Wall Street’s just over there, and this is in the middle of the working week. So it’s pretty amazing.
What do you do in your downtime?
You can’t get bored in New York. I live here while I’m shooting. You can’t get bored in this city. If anyone says to me that they were in New York for three works and were really bored, you start questioning a person’s intelligence or their capacity to have fun. It’s great to be here.
What’s your favorite place in New York?
It depends on what I’m doing. What did you have in mind? If you’re asking me out on a date…
I’m in my fifties, so I don’t have much of a nightlife. My idea of nightlife is two beers and a newspaper. But there are some great restaurants here. What I like finding out is all of the ethnic places to eat — small, little, formica top places. A nice place where you can get a nice Cuban meal or Vietnamese food. I find those sorts of places. In my spare time I go out and check out all the other boroughs to see what’s going on. The only one I haven’t been to Staten Island. I’ll bet there’s loads interesting things there.
“There’s nothing worse than working your ass on on a film and then finding out that the producers really couldn’t give a s**t. They might as well be selling cars.”
You mentioned Spider-Man before. Has there been any talk of bringing back Doc Ock?
No one’s mentioned it, and I think it’s highly unlikely seeing that he died. Mind you, when the movie came out and we were at the [SM2] premiere in London, I turned around to one of the producers and said, “It’s a real shame that I die because I would love to have done another one of these.” He did say, “Oh, characters don’t die in this universe, they simply disappear.” Which I thought held out some hope, but they haven’t called me since, so maybe that was just bullshit.
Could you talk about working with Monica Bellucci? She complemented you earlier.
That’s because I paid her. I gave her $50 to say something nice. No, she’s great, she’s wonderful. It’s a testament to the class of this cast. There’s a wide range of not just actors and acting styles but actors who are coming in with very, very different backgrounds and very different kind of histories. I always think that mix is really, really good for a movie. And she’s fantastic. She’s very beautiful and has got a fantastic way of playing a great combination where she can play sexy and scary at the same time, which is really quite brilliant. I think we’re going to exploit that to the max in this movie.
As far as your stunt work, have you been surrounded with fire yet?
We’ve done some of that. I believe we are going to do more of that tonight. It has to do with when the Wall Street bull comes alive. There are going to be some great stunts with Nic and I flying through the air and crashing into cars and all that stuff. You know what it’s like. You shoot these sequences in increments. I remember my daughter being so shocked when she saw a movie fight sequence I was in that didn’t take up much time. She said, “Wow, Dad, that must have been an amazing day.” I said, “A day? That took three weeks!”