As the imperious, florid-faced Sinestro, actor Mark Strong is a scene-stealer in “Green Lantern” and with a chuckle he said he thoroughly enjoyed submerging himself in the alien role despite the rigors of the makeup process and risks of digital effects.
“I’ve learned that I’m the kind of actor who loves transformation,” Strong said last year during a break from fight and flight training on the film’s Louisiana set. “Wearing someone else’s clothes, someone else’s hair, somebody else’s face, that’s very interesting to me and I think it’s because I come from the theater. When I was in drama school I played 70-year-old characters and it was the accumulation of makeup and costume and wigs that allowed me to do that and find the performance. If you approach that digitally also, it’s not any different to me. In fact it’s exciting because it’s new and offers so much possibility. You can change physiology.”
The 47-year-old British actor’s sneer is growing familiar to moviegoers after movies such as ”Sherlock Holmes,”Robin Hood,” “Syriana,” “Body of Lies,” ”Kick-Ass“ and “Stardust.” But with “Green Lantern,” which opens Friday, he has an especially potent opportunity to make a mark. The character of Sinestro is a strident but heroic figure in the film as a member of the Green Lantern Corps, the interstellar peacekeeping group that is akin to a deep-space knighthood with super-powered rings they wear as weapons. Readers of DC Comics, however, know that Sinestro goes on to become the greatest nemesis of Hal Jordan, the first human member of the corps and the film’s central figure as played by Ryan Reynolds.
That means Sinestro has plenty of dark upside if the Warner Bros. film scores at the box office.
‘There are a lot of interesting places this could go, as readers of the comics know,” Strong said. “Myself, I wasn’t a comic book reader, I was in England. The comics there were ‘Whizzer and Chips‘ and things like that, not really the superhero stuff. Marvel and DC were around but they were really exotic stuff, to me at least, and I didn’t have any older brothers or anyone to indoctrinate me into that world. So all of that was a bit of a mystery to me. So it was only recently that I delved into this world and I was amazed at how enthusiastic people are for it. Some people live and breathe this stuff.”
Strong’s research gave him plenty of insights into character, too, and he was happy to see that the final look of Sinestro was fairly close to the usual comic book version of the character.
“Early on in the concept stage for the film, they took him into a different direction,” Strong said. “He had a goatee and a long ponytail and just a different visage, really, and I was quite adamant that if we were going to do this you better re-create the comic — or one of the most popular versions of the comic through the years — or you risk a big misstep. The comic book character [created in 1961] was based on David Niven with the pencil mustache and all. Green Lantern was based on Paul Newman and Carol Ferris [played by Blake Lively in the new film] was based on Liz Taylor. So in a way it was a movie cast that became a comic book and now is going to be a film.”
The long hours of experimentation that resulted in the final look of the character weren’t easy but they were satisfying, Strong said.
“I loved coming in for makeup tests and working with the prosthetics and coming up with this really fantastic look that is true to the comics,” he said. ”It meant four or five hours in the makeup chair [on shooting days] to get the look right but I was happy to do that. It really helps you to create something other than yourself. The accumulation of props, accents, costume, setting, all of it, helps you transform yourself with a level of commitment that is very exciting. It’s very welcome.”
As for that ponytail and proposed changes to the character’s face and mien, Strong said he feared that Hollywood’s casual revision of Sinestro’s appearance could alienate fans of the five-decade mythology in comics. (Some of those die-hard fans will point out that Sinestro did sport a ponytail in the comics at one point, but that’s certainly not the most enduring version of the villain.)
”If you’re not going to go with the source material, why do it? If you go to that material, you should use it. Of course, what was in comics changed often and you need to make choices to get a film done and on the screen, but change for change’s sake seems wrong. So I didn’t want a ponytail version of Sinestro. And I don’t even mean in terms of commercial viability, I don’t really care how much a movie makes. It’s more to do with the purity. If you think something is worth doing, go and do it the best way you can. You don’t mess it up.”
– Geoff Boucher
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