Mark Strong

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He is better known these days for his dark characters but the Welcome To The Punch actor tells Henry Fitzherbert that he very nearly missed out on success because everyone thought he was Mr Nice Guy.

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Mark Strong knows exactly who to blame for all the bad guys he has played in recent years: his wife. The prolific actor is Hollywood’s favourite go-to villain with an impressive array of nasties on his CV in the likes of Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, Green Lantern and the new British action-thriller Welcome To The Punch.

Although he played one of the good guys in that Oscar-winning picture, his wife still clearly sees the evil in her beloved. Liza is the executive producer of  his new picture Welcome To The Punch in which he plays a big cheese London crime lord, albeit one who has retired to Iceland with his loot.

Inspired by the slick, silvery police thrillers of Michael Mann and John Woo, it is an entertaining and stylish picture that pits Mark’s Jacob Sternwood against James McAvoy’s obsessive cop Max who has is sucked back into the criminal underworld in London out of love and concern for his troubled young son. He is not actually trying to rob anyone. In the interests of fl eshing out his character, Mark fi lmed several scenes giving Sternwood a more human and sympathetic dimension rooted in his troubled personal life. They did not make the fi nal cut, however.

“It would have been great to have them and it was always envisaged that they would be there but once they got into the edit it was felt they slowed the movie down.” There is no hint of disgruntlement from Mark, he is too much of a pro for that, but you can sense his excitement at the more robust acting challenge presented by his latest project, an adaptation of the bestselling thriller Before I Go To Sleep. The story is essentially a three-hander in which a married woman with amnesia attempts to piece her life back together with the aid of her doctor. Mark plays the latter, Nicole Kidman the troubled woman and Colin Firth is her husband. Filming began a few days ago at Twickenham Studios. Produced by Sir Ridley Scott’s company Scott Free, one of the picture’s executives is Liza. KEEPING things in the family certainly comes naturally to Mark who, having come to fatherhood relatively late, is a committed family man.“For me family comes over and above everything,” says the actor, an only child brought up by his Austrian mother after his Italian father walked out soon after his birth.

“I think as a younger actor I might have felt differently but now at my age it is the be all and end all and everything I do I do for the family, I have to admit.” With two young children and two such busy, high-powered working parents, family life has its challenges, “but you just make it work”. He continues: “When I talk to younger actors and young people in general who are holding off having children because they think they cannot fi t them into their busy lives I now know, and am able to say to them: ‘You’ve just got to get on with it; there is never going to be a right time.’”

In any case, one imagines most children would forgive their busy father’s absences on a fi lm set if their godfather was James Bond. Strong says he caught up with the Skyfall star just last week when he was in London for the premiere of Oz: The Great And The Powerful starring his wife Rachel Weisz. They reminisced about Our Friends In The North. “We were remembering how we walked down the streets of Newcastle one day and looked at each other and said: ‘Do you think this is going to be any good?’ We had no idea it would give us our careers.”



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