Is doing stuff other than Superman a way of reminding us you can play different characters or has it just turned out that way?
It’s very intentional. I think you’ll see a kind of me that hasn’t been seen on screen before. Guy Ritchie really brings out the best in every actor so I can’t give myself credit for it but I can give Guy credit for it.
But I definitely chose this role to be contrary to Superman. When you have a movie of that size it’s human inclination to pigeonhole someone and say ‘I now know what that person is’, and you have to fight against that as an actor.
So you might play someone totally off the wall next?
I don’t want to be crazy and all of a sudden play a meth-head transsexual. But I do want to show the audience I have range. Not only that but just because the first time people saw me on a world scale was Superman and that’s not necessarily what I do. I’m a period guy to be honest.
Which is why Superman was so great. It was such non-obvious casting
But only people who knew my career beforehand would think that. Most people still think I’m American.
What do you make of all the talk about British and Aussie actors playing iconic American superheroes?
It’s bemusing but people don’t think about that. I mean if I were to go on all the internet forums and write something applying logic the trolls will just ignore it.
It’s funny when you read the bitchy comment, then the bullshit facts, then another bitchy comment. Then someone writes a small paragraph of sense and no one acknowledges it. The logical, sensible thing is completely brushed over.
The Man From UNCLE is a very different kind of acting because the locations and props are very real. How different is that from green screens?
You have to learn a different way with effects and green screen. You have to relearn how to live within your mind’s eye. You’re sitting on an apple box and I’m sitting on a bunch of green pillows and they say ‘okay lounge back like you’re sitting on a sofa’.
Did it feel more familiar because you came from TV where it’s shot a bit more traditionally?
No, I’m comfortable with both now. Green screen I can do, and sets are easier to work with because you don’t have to do that little extra thing but I wouldn’t say I’m more comfortable necessarily. The whole first season of Tudors, for example, we had to imagine all sorts of things. It was half green screen, half sets.
Any stunts that went a little bit wrong or dangerous moments?
No real dangerous moments because everything is so controlled. There’s lots of money involved here and last thing you want is a bloody actor dying on your set because that changes everything. There’s been some moments where you’re uncomfortable, sure.
What’s the best mishap story?
At one point Armie Hammer is trapped under water and my swim is about 30 plus feet to get to him. When I get to him I need to go 20 feet up, carrying him.
He’s got a weight on his toe, which he hilariously didn’t actually let go of the first time. Until you get comfortable holding your breath under water it can get really bad because we weren’t wearing goggles or anything. The safety diver’s in the pool but if you inhale the water it’s not a great feeling.
You’re panicking and you can’t get to the top and can’t see the safety diver try and put something in your mouth and you’re trying not to swallow water at that stage. They say drowning is supposed to be quite cool though.
How about just general scrapes from fight scenes?
You always get bumps and scrapes, it’s like going to the gym on a regular basis, you’re always going to be injured if you train hard enough. The nature of doing what you do is if you sell it hard you’re going to get bumps and scrapes.
You were front and centre in The Immortals and Man Of Steel. The Man From UNCLE is much more about an ensemble cast with Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander. Does that mean a bit less pressure?
I don’t feel pressured. I’m aware of it but if you start focusing on pressure then you’re going to screw yourself up. It’s like saying ‘what if I fail, what if I fail, what if I fail’? Then you’ll fail, you will fuck it up.
If you’re in a more ensemble cast it’s more of an enjoyable thing, everyone’s doing the thing together. It’s not like ‘hey man, you’re the guy’, it’s ‘let’s do this together, let’s make a great story’.
Real life isn’t about one person, it’s about a group of people or numerous people or just two people in a relationship of sorts… or more if you’re into that.