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Screenjabber Pubcast: Paddington? No, Euston

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sat, 29/11/2014 - 20:53

Join Andrew Jones, Amon Warrman and host Stuart O'Connor down the pub for a quick peek at the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer as well as a look at two great new films on offer in UK cinemas this week: Paddington and Horrible Bosses 2.

You can listen to and download the podcast – or subscribe to it on iTunes ... plus you can follow us on Twitter and join us on Facebook.

PubQuest: We're looking to take the Screenjabber Pubcast on the road, and want your input. Know a great pub in London we should visit to record the show? Drop us a line and let us know.

WriterQuest: We're seeking some more writers, particularly those who want to cover video games for us. Please get in touch if you're keen.

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Interview: Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood on 2001 A Space Odyssey

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Fri, 28/11/2014 - 23:05

Join Screenjabber's Stuart O'Connor joins in a roundtable discussion at the BFI on Southbank with Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, the stars of Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is getting a cinema rerelease.

FROM THE BFI: Philosophically ambitious, technically innovative and visually stunning, Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic is frequently cited in polls as one of the finest films ever made. Co-written by the director and novelist Arthur C Clarke, the film charts the progress of ‘civilisation’ through the influence of mysterious black monoliths on prehistoric apes developing their skills and, later, on astronauts involved in a secret mission to Jupiter. Characteristic of Kubrick’s interest in evolution and artificial intelligence (most notably in the astronauts’ battle of wits with troublesome computer HAL 9000), the film also displays his desire for technical perfection: Geoffrey Unsworth’s camerawork, Douglas Trumbull’s pioneering effects and the production design remain enormously impressive to this day. But what’s perhaps most striking is the audacity of the measured, largely dialogue-free storytelling, with Kubrick allowing the judiciously chosen music (Ligeti, Khachaturian, the two Strausses) and the crisp, balletic beauty of the images to work their spell. A cinematic milestone, and a huge influence on the development of the sci-fi genre.

Listen to the round-table discussion with Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood

Gallery: 2001 A Space Odyssey then and now

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 24/11/2014 - 07:52

Audiences not as hungry for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 as predicted

By Rich Matthews

While it still effortlessly beat the year's highest opening weekend gross – Transformers: Age Of Extinction's $100m – Lionsgate's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 fell more than $30m short of previous franchise entry Catching Fire.

With $123m, the first half of cleaved-in-twain final novel Mockingjay, even fell nearly £30m behind the first film in the Hunger Games series. Admittedly, Interstellar still had a grip on all the IMAX screens that Catching Fire ran on, but that would only account for some $4-5m.

It's more likely that this is a backlash about splitting final entries and is similar to the drop suffered by last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in the US. We'll have to wait a year to find out if Mockingjay Part 2 can mirror Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 by becoming the biggest (and last) chapter in its franchise. Of course, we only to wait a few weeks to see how The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies fares.

Internationally, Mockingjay's movement was stronger, to the tune of $152m (pacing some five per cent ahead of Catching Fire), which takes its worldwide opening to $275m, just behind Catching Fire's overall global opening.

Last week's leader, Jim Carrey/Jeff Daniels sequel Dumb and Dumber To tumbled a hefty 62 per cent to gross $13.8m and land at fourth place. Its domestic total now stands at $57.5m and $70.8m globally. Disney's kids superhero adventure Big Hero 6 and Christopher Nolan's space epic Interstellar rose above the Dumb sequel, with Baymax and co still pipping Matthew McConaughey to the post, taking $20.1m to raise its domestic tally to a healthy $135.7m and its worldwide gross to $185.2m, with lots of key territories still waiting in the New Year wings. Currently, it's pacing just over $1m ahead of Frozen in the US at the same point.

Interstellar, meanwhile, took in $15.1m to raise it's total to $129.7m, but, more impressively, its Earth-wide gross to an impressive $449.7m, so it has a long way to go to match Inception's $825.5m, but is on course to zoom in on Gravity's $716.4m. At the other end of the chart, Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory Of Everything, starring an awards-buzzing Eddie Redmayne, debuted at 10 at only 140 theatre count, grossing $1.5m for a total of $2.8m.

The remainder of the chart, from five to nine, was David Fincher's Gone Girl with $2.8m ($156.8m domestic, $327.7m worldwide), Relativity's Beyond The Lights with $2.6m ($10.1m), Bill Murray being curmudgeonly in St Vincent with $2.4m ($37m), Brad Pitt riding his tank in Fury with $1.9m ($79.1m, $138.5m), and Michael Keaton in the critically acclaimed Birdman with $1.86m ($15m).

Next weekend, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are back in Horrible Bosses 2 and family animation spin-off Penguins of Madagascar entry the holidays fray, followed swiftly the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch in Oscar-bait The Imitation Game.

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The Purge: Anarchy Street Wars event in London

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Fri, 21/11/2014 - 22:14

Andrew Jones: In a future America crime rates are now so low because of one big reason, a 12-hour period on one night called The Purge, where all crimes, including murder, are legal. This means gangs deemed too intense for The Warriors roam the streets waving machetes and guns and smiling at their victims, like a cat toying with a mouse.

In London last week there was a less-murderous version of The Purge as part of a StreetWars experience. Teams were rounded up in Limehouse town hall and, after signing documents to make sure that anarchy was sanctioned without legal response, the hall was invaded by Purgers. They had guns on them. Water pistols. One squirt and you're dead. The only way to survive? Run.

There were checkpoints that served both as safe-houses from the maniacs outside and plotpoints for the story of the night. A cafe in an open area, where the leader of our team was killed as he left, a blocked-off house on a main road where a female purger was dying, giving us ammo, a printing place where weapons were stored, a car-wash where, what was meant to happen was a moral dilemma, sacrifice one of us to get a ride to the end, or let them kill the van owner and defeat evil.

Then there was the end, a park south of the river, where if you were unlucky enough not to be in the van meant you walked a mile through a tunnel to get to, for Purging. The end was an all out Purgers versus Survivors massacre. There were few when the horn blew and the Purge was over.

Of course this wasn't just for the fun of running around with an umbrella as a shield in East London, there was reason, and that was the release of The Purge: Anarchy on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD, and despite not having the flamethrowers and Frank Grillo As The Punisher-type of hero taking down Purgers, the experience was as thrilling and fun as the film.

Jessy Williams: When I was asked to participate in a mock The Purge: Anarchy StreetWars event, I jumped at the opportunity. Sadly, we weren’t to be given weapons of any real damage, just water guns, nerf guns and water balloons. In this autumn weather I was worried about freezing my ass off, however, running amok in the streets was surprisingly stifling. The experience was a hilarious and, at times, terrifying one. There aren’t many things scarier than being chased by a masked man with a baseball bat, even if you know you aren’t REALLY going to be injured. Teaming up with strangers and navigating the quiet roads of Limehouse in the dead of night was a challenge; no one really knew what to do or how seriously to take the armed and masked assassins. Nonetheless, we all liked to run, duck and dive in to quiet corners and escape their watery hell. I didn’t survive until the end, but I tried my damnedest. It was a great experience and a lot of fun, bravo StreetWars for bringing The Purge to life.

Stuart O'Connor: Most normal people are at the pub on a Friday night. Or at a movie. Or maybe even in a restaurant having a quiet, civilised dinner and a bottle of wine with friends (if they live in any other country but the UK, that is). But we film writers like to do things a little different, and so on a recent Friday night a group of us from Screenjabber found ourselves running around the east end of London trying to keep away from "Purgers" armed with water pistols and Nerf guns. It sounds silly, but it was great fun – and, truth be told, a little scary. We knew that we couldn't get hurt, but none of us really wanted to get "killed" if we could help it. We did quite well, managing to make it to the fourth checkpoint before we were taken out. All in all, a great launch stunt for The Purge: Anarchy – but maybe do it in the summer next time?

• The Purge: Anarchy is out on Blu-ray and DVD now

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Q&A | Michael Bay on Transformers: Age of Extinction

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Tue, 18/11/2014 - 22:00

Q: Michael, Transformers: Age of Extinction is your fourth installment of the Transformers franchise. What should fans expect?
A: I think this one is the best. It’s got a really fresh feel about it. The cast is amazing. We’ve got Mark Wahlberg starring and Mark’s record speaks for itself. We had a great time working on Pain & Gain together. It’s the same on this. In fact, we have such a strong cast. There’s Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, Jack Reynor, BingBing Li, Nicola Peltz.
 
Q: There was talk after the last one, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, you’d step away from directing this movie. Shia LaBeouf walked away, but here you are. Were you contemplating handing over the directing reins of the franchise to somebody else?
A: I did think about it, but I came to the conclusion I didn’t want to hand it off to somebody else. The franchise has a big, loyal audience all around the world. We started working on the script and I worked with Mark on Pain & Gain and it was great fun. When Mark showed interest in doing a Transformers film it got me really excited. We redesigned the robots a little. That gives this film a totally different look and feel.

Q: Let’s talk about Mark for a second. Can you describe his character and what Mark brings to the movie?
A:
Sure. Mark plays a father who is struggling to protect his daughter. We all know Mark’s previous work so you know just what he will bring to that. He’s a devoted family man, a great father away from the set and he
really brings that into this role. Mark’s always prepared. I just love working with the guy. He’s a pro. He knows his lines and all of the other actors’ lines. He knows where to stand.
 
Q: It’s a shame you couldn’t get Dwayne Johnson on this as well. Mark and The Rock had such g
reat chemistry in Pain & Gain.
A:
I did look into it. Dwayne was too busy. He had some other projects he was locked into. I’d love to pair them up in a Transformers movie. That would be great.
 
Q: Mark is obviously a lot older than Shia. Was there any talk of going with a teenage or early 20s actor as your lead instead of an older, established star like Mark Wahlberg?
A:
Yes there was. The studio suggested that, but I liked the father-daughter story and my experience with Mark on Pain & Gain was so good it seemed like a natural fit. We also give this film some gravitas with Kelsey and Stanley. Kelsey plays the bad guy. They are just great actors.
 
Q: Transformer movies are known for their big action scenes. But, it seems like on this you really took it to another level and pulled off some really complex action scenes.
A:
Yeah. We really pushed ourselves. We had some single 30 second shots with explosions, actors. That was great. It takes a lot of preparation and setting up, but it was definitely worth it. Our audience will appreciate it.

Q: What’s your favourite robot in this film.
A:
I like them all. The Hound character makes me laugh.
 
Q: Yes, he’s great.
A:
Yeah. Hound is fearless. He has a major arsenal of weapons. He doesn’t stop until he runs out of ammo.
 
Q: What’s different about Transformers: Age of Extinction compared to the previous three.
A:
This one is more grounded. It starts in Texas farm country among people living a simple, innocent life. It of course doesn’t stay that way. We go into outer space, to other parts of the US. We are in China and Hong Kong. While it is more cinematic than the previous, we have Mark’s character, a father, and we see the story through his eyes and his relationship with his daughter. That’s completely different. The previous films we saw it through Shia’s eyes and he was fantastic. Mark gives it a different feel.
 
Q: You were laughing about Hound and the fun things he does, but this Transformers, because it is grounded in family relationships, seems more serious. It’s not a kid battling robots. It seems like there’s more on the line here. It feels a little grittier.
A:
Yes, that’s really it. There’s a reason “Extinction” is in the title of this film.  This is our fourth film and the franchise has matured. We have to keep on improving, keep it fresh, keep the audience involved. That’s why this one has a more serious tone. It’s still fun, but definitely grittier and more grounded.
 
Q: It also seems like we get to know the personalities of the robots more this time around.
A:
That’s true. We wanted the audience to know more about them and the Transformer world. Their personalities. Their characters. We mainly just focus on five robots this time. That creates more of a connection with the audience. We have also tinkered with their design a little so you’ll notice Optimus and Bumblebee still largely look the same, but there’s slight design changes.
 
Q: Why did you do that?
A:
It’s like when Batman gets a new suit for each movie.
 
Q: The cars are also always an important part of the Transformers films. You are a renowned car lover. How do you select the cars that make it in the movie?
A:
One of the coolest things about doing the Transformers movies is car companies see the value in having their new cars in the film. So, they’d literally fly their new cars from car shows in Europe or wherever to my office. Bugatti, Mercedes, Chevy, Lamborghini. They all wanted to be part of this franchise.

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 17/11/2014 - 08:00

Dumb and Dumber To out-grosses Big Hero 6 and Interstellar

By Rich Matthews

Cue joke about the US box office dumbing down, with Peter and Bobby Farrelly bringing Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels back to play dumb once again in 20-years-in-the-waiting sequel Dumb and Dumber To, which grossed (out) $38m to take the top spot this weekend.

Mind you, it only narrowly pipped the sophomore bow of the latest Disney animation hit, Big Hero 6, which declined a narrow 36 per cent to add a further $36m to its domestic tally of $111m – which is nearly $20m ahead of Frozen's pace at the same point last year, but don't expect to have the same kind of longevity as that female-driven picture.

Only only showing a decline of 38.6 per cent, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar grossed $29.2m to take third, with a homegrown total of $97.8m. Internationally, however, Nolan's space epic has the lead, crossing the $320m mark, while Big Hero 6 currently has $148m, but Disney hasn't opened it in as Warner Bros did Interstellar, and any Disney title is likely to be a strong performer over the school holidays.

The other new entry to make the top 10 was Relativity Media's romantic music drama Beyond the Lights at four, with $6.5m. Of note at the other end of the chart, Fox Searchlight widened the release of critical darling Birdman starring Michael Keaton, landing at 10th with $2.5m and a domestic tally of $11.6m.

In between, Gone Girl took $4.6m at fifth ($152.7m domestic, $318.9m worldwide), Bill Murray in St Vincent rascalled up $4m at six ($33.3m), Brad Pitt tank actioner Fury ($75.9m, $127.4m) rolled on at seven with $3.8m, Jake Gyllenhaal continued creeping audiences out in Nightcrawler at eight with $3m ($25m) and Universal horror Ouija scared up a further $3m at nine ($48m, $65.6m).

Next Friday should some box office records being challenged when Lionsgate bows the first part of the split up finale to The Hunger Games, Mockingjay, which is likely to be the biggest hit of the year at this point. Well, we live in hope – if the worldwide box office king of 2014 remains Transformers: Age Of Extinction, I just might retire...

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Ripper Street Series 3 Preview

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 13/11/2014 - 21:12

By Sarah-Louise McGrath

Stars Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Charlene McKenna, Louise Brealey | Written by Richard Warlow

Last December there was an avid outcry when BBC decided not to renew fan favourite Ripper Street due to flagging viewership.

However the Victorian era show had a very loyal, cult fanbase who took to the internet with their outrage. Endless tweets and campaigns fuelled the calls for another series and Amazon Prime Instant Video answered.

In this shiny new internet age we live in now, nothing is ever really gone, or cancelled in this case. Amazon rescued the floundering Ripper Street from cancellation with a third series, much to the joy of the fans and now the boys of Whitechapel are back and dare we say it, better than ever.

Jumping back in the show feels the same as ever but also totally different as we've jumped forward four years since the end of series 2.

The crime-solving threesome of Whitechapel is no more as Drake (Jerome Flynn) is busy in his new role as Inspector in Manchester while Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) has turned recluse and Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) is back to his old tricks.

However a new mystery reunites everyone when a terrible train crash brings them all together again. Including the once downtrodden Rose Erksine (Charlene McKenna) who is now performing to the delight of London Society and newly made businesswoman Long Susan (MyAnna Buring) with the newest addition to the fold Dr Amelia Frayn (Louise Brealey).

The first episode lays the foundation for new and old fans alike, bringing all the characters back together and giving some context as to what they've been doing for the last four years and setting up the new mystery whereas the second episode really revs things up with a surprising callback to the earlier series which longtime fans will appreciate immensely.

The episode also take a decidedly darker turn, a result of the show not being constrained by being on terrestrial television, with twists that will leave you wanting more.

Fans can rest assured that the move to streaming with Amazon Prime Instant Video hasn't changed the show at all – in fact, it may even be for the better as there will be special "Amazon cuts" of the episodes shown online which allow for more exciting, and shall we say adventurous, scenes that won't be included in the BBC airing next year.

Series 3 of Ripper Street is available exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video from Friday November 14

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Interview: Michaël R Roskam on The Drop

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Thu, 13/11/2014 - 19:38

The Drop is a new crime drama from Michaël R Roskam, the Academy Award-nominated director of Bullhead. Based on a screenplay from Dennis Lehane, The Drop follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funnelling cash to local gangsters – “money drops” – in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the centre of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighbourhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

Read our review of The Drop

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US Box Office Report

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Mon, 10/11/2014 - 07:26

Big Hero 6 launches higher than Nolan's Interstellar

By Rich Matthews

After taking an early lead on Friday, Christopher Nolan's 2001 wannabe epic Interstellar dropped to a lower orbit than Disney Animation's latest success, Big Hero 6, which is based on Marvel characters. Big Hero 6 soared to $56.2m, while the Matthew McConaughey space vehicle landed second with $50m (plus $2.2m from a limited 250-screen run on Wednesday and Thursday).

That's only the fourth time that the top two films have both hit $50m or higher, and in all cases it was one animated, one live action and in all cases the animated movie triumphed (in case you're wondering: Wall-E beat Wanted, Madagascar 2 beat Prometheus and Monsters University trounced World War Z. However, Disney is rolling out Big Hero 6 at a slower pace than Interstellar, which took $80m internationally to post a massive global launch of $132m.

Both movies cost $165m to make, so both need to have strong legs over the coming weeks, with Big Hero 6 scoring higher with viewers than the more mixed Interstellar, which has befuddled as many punters and critics as it has delighted. Interstellar is also the lowest-opening Nolan movie since 2006's The Prestige (a much lower $14.8m – its final gross was less than a million away from Interstellar's opening) and his first since 2002's Insomnia to not land the top spot straight out of the gate.

Coming in third was David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl ($6.1m, $145.4m, $303.2m) starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck, then horror holdover Ouija ($6m, $43.5m, $56.8m) at four, Bill Murray snarking it up in indie St Vincent ($5.7m, $27.4m) at five, Jake Gyllenhaal taking a fair old tumble from the top in Nightcrawler ($5.5m, $19.8m, $21.5m) at six, Brad Pitt driving his WWII tank in Fury ($5.5m, $69.3m, $120.8m) at seven, Keanu Reeves back on form (if not box office appeal) in John Wick ($4.1m, $34.7m, $42.7m) at eight, Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day ($3.5m, $59.2m, $78.5m) starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner at nine and The Book of Life ($2.8m, $45.2m, $79.7m) at 10.

Next weekend will see whether Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels' heavily-hyped Dumb And Dumber To can knock this weekend's champ from pole, but the weekend after is a foregone conclusion as ONLY The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens on November 21.

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Vikings set visit: interview with Clive Standen (Rollo)

Posted by Stuart OConnor | Sun, 09/11/2014 - 20:58

Clive Standen, who plays Rollo in Vikings, tells Screenjabber's Paul Anderson about the physicality of the role and his martial arts background.

The first season is focused on introducing the characters and the world to the audience. At the end of the first and on into the second season you don’t have to play it safe, and you are able to play around with things a little more. Is there a feeling of liberation when making that transition from the first to the second season?
I loved putting those little beats in the first season that didn’t necessarily travel anywhere. Rather you were planting seeds for the future, and [showrunner] Michael Hirst is very good at doing things like that. You read something in a script and you think how on earth does this effect Rollo or why on earth am I saying this? Then you start to get the scripts for season two, and you realise that’s something that was probably setup eight episodes ago, and which is now at the forefront of the storyline.

When you build the character up that’s the way that I feel you can really explode, and that energy seems to be scattered across so many different paths and crossroads that can be taken. I think that life in general is about the choices we make, and that’s no different when you are acting and you are making those choices.

There is a lot of love between the two brothers – between yourself and Ragnar. What went wrong, and how can we expect to this play out in season two?
At the end of season one Rollo in his eyes has the chance of a lifetime – to be the general of his own army. That’s what Jarl Borg ultimately offers him – the chance to be king for a day on his own terms, and so he trades in everything. It's one of those cases that you don’t know how much you love something until it's gone.

He realises that the one the person who has always been there for him is Ragnar, but it doesn’t strike him until he’s face to face with his brother on the battlefield. Ragnar’s sword is down, and Rollo’s spear is almost against his neck, and he has every opportunity to kill him and to have everything he wants. But he can’t go through with it because in that moment he realises that all through his life all he’s ever had his brother. Anyone with siblings will know that one minute you love them and the next you hate them. But they are blood, and you can’t choose them, but you also can’t live without them. That’s the problem that Rollo encounters on the battlefield – he can’t go through with what he thought he’d always wanted.

In episode two you quickly realise that its four years in the future, and he’s a shadow of his former self. He’s an alcoholic and he’s all washed up, and the relationship between the brothers will never be the same again. So he spends the majority of the first few episodes trying to gain enough courage to go and speak to his brother, to regain that trust, and it all comes to a head.

Rollo’s kind of like a phoenix rising from the flames so to speak in season two, and in episode three Ragnar punishes him just like you would punish a child. What do you do when you want to punish a child? You take away what they love most. I always thought that by stopping Rollo from raiding and going West with him again is almost like chopping the plug off the PlayStation [laughs].

When he’s left behind, and Jarl Borg attacks Kattegat, he’s in charge of Ragnar’s children along with Aslaug and Siggy. There isn’t a great army left because Ragnar has taken the best men with him, bar the women, children and old men. I’ve always seen that scene where the old man comes up to him and says, “Your main aim is now to look after the children of Ragnar” almost as if Thor is looking back at him. It is a massive turning point for him, and he’s at a crossroads. Everything about Rollo is looking after yourself, living on the margins, being a hedonist, and proving to the Gods that if you fight well then you are worthy of your place in Valhalla. This old man is encouraging Rollo to go against everything that he has believed in - to run away to fight another day in order to protect his brother's children, and the future kings of Kattegat. When he goes through those months in the farmstead looking after Siggy, Aslaug and the children, it’s the first time Rollo has had to worry about anyone other than himself before, and I think it is then that he starts to realise what it is to be a leader of men - to lead by example. It’s not just about going out there with all axes blazing and decimating the battlefield. There are a lot more qualities that a leader needs, and he starts to learn that, which culminates in the scene where Ragnar comes back and he finds out Jarl Borg has taken everything. Ragnar says something along the lines of, “I want to rip out Jarl Borg’s throat with my bare hands.” Rollo is the one in a role reversal of the brothers who says, “You and what army?” He is almost the mature brother saying we can’t do this. He tempers his brother, and I think that’s when they start to trust each other, and find themselves once again in each other’s good graces.

The problem with Rollo is that while he may be back on side with his brother, he realises that his ambitions mean that he doesn’t have to trample all over his brother, because Ragnar isn’t involved in his ambitions. But they are still ambitions and they are not going to go away. So he still struggles with the inner turmoil of where he is going to go and what his fate holds in store for him? He has this great line where he says, “I was in your shadow, and when I stepped out of it there was no light.”

He's a great character to play, and we can tell that you’ve got your teeth into the part!
I feel that if we were to talk about the 21st century and people who self-harm, who may scar their wrists or cut themselves on their body with a sharp implement, it’s a way of almost taking away from the emotional pain – wanting to feel the physical pain. I feel a lot of the fighting in that first episode when Rollo goes into battle bare chested and beserking - the word of which comes from bare skin - is because he believes the day of his death and his fate was decided by the Gods when he was born. When he touches the knife he doesn’t seem to feel the pain, and so it’s a displacement for him – a way of almost avoiding the emotional pain that he’s feeling inside.

Would you describe the journey of the characters in Vikings as a long journey?
Yeah, most of the main characters in the show are historical figures and any spoilers you want are all in the history books. The story of Rollo is only just beginning in season three, which we are filming right now, and so there is a long character arc. It’s a great character arc to play, and you don’t get to do that in film at all. So it’s great to be able to play in something that runs for 50 or maybe 60 hours of television - to play a character over that time.

To quickly pick up on an earlier point with regard to the relationship of the brothers, why does storytelling continue to mine family relationships and dramas for the basis of narratives?
I think for as long as humans have been on this Earth there are few characteristics that have changed and are at the route of everything.  Usually it’s to do with family, sex, power and pride. All those things are always at the forefront of anything regardless of whether you’re playing a geography teacher in a 21st century drama or if you’re playing a Viking in the 9thcentury.  Everyone can always relate to a family drama because everyone has some kind of connection, and what’s great in general about a drama series is that you’re a fly on the wall, and if we get it right you get to see things that you can relate to.

Have you discovered any new sides to your personality through playing Rollo?
Obviously Rollo does some very questionable things in season one, and so I found it very hard to relate to him. But you have to love your character, and as the series goes on there are aspects of him that I find myself having more and more in common with or I was at least able to attach things to his circumstances. The thing is we are all human and we all make mistakes, and what I love about Rollo is he’s not black and white. He lives in the grey, and that enables me as an actor to make bold choices, and to really take him in different directions.

There are many things that I can relate to in my own personal life which [laughs] I won’t share with you! Hopefully if we are doing our job well they should be within all the characters where you can see little bits and pieces, because as an actor you only need a little nugget to get into the character, and then the rest of it is make believe.

Why does Rollo stay with Siggy?
It’s a marriage of convenience in a way, and there is a parallel with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. He knows what he wants and he has no idea how to achieve it. She's been there and done that, and she wants it back. So she’s using him to get what she wants – to get the power back – and Rollo hasn’t got anyone fighting his corner.

I always say that the thing about Rollo is that you can never really trust him, but you definitely don’t want him in the other corner. But I think he just feels like a bit of a lone wolf. He doesn’t really have anyone guiding him whilst Ragnar has a family network around him – he has everything that Rollo doesn’t have. Siggy is the first person to show any interest in Rollo, and so he clings to her. The problem is that there isn’t any real love there, and so it gets tempestuous, fiery and as the series goes on it's a hard thing to get your head around anyone who says they are sleeping with the king and his son, and they are doing it for you. It’s a very hard thing to get over and that relationship is therefore waning.

How did you found the physicality of the role, and did your back ground in martial arts help at all?
I did a lot of sword fighting and stunt work when I was younger. When I was 14 years old and when most kids were getting part time jobs in shoe shops, I started working with a stunt team doing The Tales of Robin Hood. It was pretty much around the same that Robin Hood Prince of Thieves came out. So I learnt to joust and abseil out of trees and fire bows and arrows. We used to scream at all these Canadian tourists, "The Sheriff’s men are coming; the Sheriff's men are coming." We’d all run off into the woods and then they’d all congregate around the Major Oak where we’d all be skirmishing and jousting.

This was way before I got into acting, and then Muay Thai kind of took over my life for a little while. You do stage combat at drama school, and somehow on the last couple of jobs along with Vikings it’s been at the forefront. So it has all kind of come full circle, and I’ve been able to use all those skills with this character.

But with the physicality, I always think it’s the quiet guy in the room that’s the scariest, and that’s how I try to play Rollo. I’m a big guy and I can’t change my physicality that much, but it’s more about when you are big, you don’t play big. You don’t go I’M A VIKING! because that’s the guy that gets his head chopped off. With Rollo he is a bit of a sociopath and there is something quite dead behind the eyes when he is fighting, which is even more scary. With Ragnar that little smarmy smile has the same effect.

When you knew you were going to be a part of this project certain expectations must have come to mind. How has the experience compared to the expectations?
I did a series called Camelot that lasted a season, for which I thought Michael Hirst was going to be the main show runner, and for whatever reason he wasn’t there when I got there. I was really excited to work with Michael because of his work on Elizabeth and The Tudors, but it didn’t happen. Then when I found out he was doing Vikings I became excited and so I chased this part, and I fought tooth and nail to be in it.  

I’ve always been mad about period dramas because I love to immerse to myself in history, and I feel that through the research I learn something. This period drama for me breaks the mould a little bit, because I think there’s definitely a formula for certain network period dramas such as Downton Abbey or Pride and Prejudice for example, which go for a certain demographic. With Vikings it's an historical based drama that will attract the historical based demographic who are interested in it. But because of the amount of action, adventure and intrigue with the gods, the pagans and the belief system that has never been done before, along with the battle scenes and such in each episode, I think it has captured the imagination of a younger demographic as well. There is almost something there for everyone.

I feel like I’ve got everything I ever wanted in a drama series, and I don’t feel like I’m too high brow, and I don’t feel like I’m something like Xena: Warrior Princess. We've just the right mix for the show, and that’s what’s so great. There is never an episode that is the same – now I’m learning Old Norse. But we try our best to make it as historically accurate as a drama series can be.

Are you repackaging the vikings for people?
It’s just that they have never been portrayed on screen in an honest light before. Although it’s changing now, everything I was taught at school was about the horned helmet, which comes from Wagner’s operas and the idea of these raiding marauding psychopaths from the sea that came and murdered all of the Christian monks. In a way most of it is the Christian Monks’ propaganda because they were the only people that were writing stuff down. So it’s nice to be able to go back and look at it from the inside out, and to put that on screen to realise that they were market traders, colonists and families, and that there was a heart there and a reason as to why they went West. They were almost the Da Vinci’s of their day with some of the technology they invented. The way they built boats, the sun stone that we see in season one, and how they circumnavigated the globe.

Do you feel that Vikings is playing a part in rewriting history?
I hope so yeah. If we do our job well and we make it to five or six plus seasons, it will be great if this ends up on a syllabus somewhere. I’ve got three kids now that are aged 11, eight and four. Hopefully when the four year old or maybe even the eight year old are studying history, they might watch this series called Vikings which is a good starting point, and they'll say, ‘My dad’s in that!’

• Vikings Season 2 is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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