Interview By: Rocco Passafuime
At his age, you’d expect English actor Ray Winstone to slow down and take less demanding roles. But to his incredible skill and credit, we’ve only just begun to know of his talent as an actor in Hollywood film.
Winstone made his breakthrough film role at the age of 46 in the Antoine Fuqua film King Arthur alongside Clive Owen. Now, at the incredible age of 50, thanks to the latest in CGI technology, he now has the chance to take the role of a lifetime, as the hero Beowulf in the film of the same name, directed by Back To The Future and Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis.
Ray has previously shown incredible voice talent skills as Mr. Beaver in The Chronicles Of Narnia series and as Soldier Sam in the British CGI animated film Sprung! The Magic Roundabout, which for Americans, was made into Doogal. When the actor spoke with us, he made no attempt to restrain his sheer delight at playing such a prestigious role without having to a lot of the work that comes with it.
“It’s like my alter ego really,” Winstone enthuses, “I thought it was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t have to train. I didn’t have to eat the right foods. I didn’t have to go running. All these geniuses just put it all together and away you go, so my jaw hit the floor. They kind of explained to me what was going to happen with it, because, you know, you go in, you see the artwork.”
“The only way I can kind of explain it, I guess, is when you go make a film normally, you go and the set’s built. There’s a beautiful set, you know, and you get a feeling for the set and you go in and you put your makeup on and then, you put your costume on, and then, you perform. With this, you go and you perform, and then,
As described, Beowulf is one of the most highly anticipated films of the holiday season. This is due to the most incredibly realistic CGI animation ever seen in a motion picture, which rises to a level that blurs the lines between the world of animation and live-action. However, participating in such an incredibly ground-breaking, yet seemingly more cloistered project turned out to be an ironic experience.
“What it does is your imagination explodes and you’re performing with some of the greatest actors in the world,” he reveals “And performing you are in the most physical job I ever worked on in my life.”
“I think the word computer confuses people and even with me,” Ray adds, “I have a computer, I would say that, you know. But it’s the most physical job often that I ever done in my life, especially at 48, which I was at the time. You know, you had to do the stunts, you had to walk like you’re 6’6″ with an eight-pack warrior, you know. You’re naked, and when you’re finish, you’re tired. I never enjoyed a job so much in my life, to be honest. It was the purest form of performance I guess you can act, you know.”
In learning of this, we asked the actor how much of a challenge it was playing a legendary character over half his junior.
“Well, yeah, I mean acting like a 20 year old 6’6″ with an eight-pack, for number one, was a real challenge because you had to move like you’re 6’6″ with an eight-pack,” Winstone explains, “Because if you move like a 50 year old man, that’s what it’s going to be, you know. And then you play the dragon and your arms, you do all the movements of the dragon, I’m hanging there in mid-air, and my arms
“So, it all becomes about body,” he continues, “It was fantastic, you could play King Kong on that, you know. So it was you were propelled into another world really and it was a good feeling, good vibe, as I said, with some of the greatest actors in the world. And you can’t ask for more than that.”
Ray also shared with us how Robert Zemeckis approached the actor to play such a highly unlikely role.
“When you read scripts and it’s a great story and you get to the part where it explains him as 6’6″ and eyes are blue, coochy coochy coochy coo, right, and you’re go, there must be another Ray Winstone, because I’m 50, I’m 5’10″, and I got a one-pack, so this girl got to have made a mistake there,” he recalls, “Until I went along to meet him, I was quite in Fulbright. I had my ideas about what the story was about, it could have been about Los Angeles, it could have been about Hollywood. It’s about ambition and about greed and that kind of stuff and it could be about a corporation. You think about the past and you think about the future, so one thing that’s stuck in my head is that man never learns and make the same mistake.”
“It’s not just about Beowulf, I mean it could have been a very good story about life for a time,” Winstone continues, “And we talked about that and how he was going to do it, which made sense to me then why I was called in, because I’m still making out to be someone else. And I was quite surprised that I got offered the part and he was surprised that I was surprised, but he had seen me in Henry VIII, playing
Winstone also says that it was a no-brainer participating in a film based on Old English long poetry and felt a great deal of national pride in being given the opportunity to play such a role.
“I thought, I’d love to play a Viking, ever since I saw Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas do it,” Ray claims, “Because for me, that’s part of our history, that’s our heritage, I mean, Vikings we are, we are them, they are us. We can’t help if we have race in pieces, you know, certainly some of their blood is in us. It’s a fantastic thing, at 48, to have probably played, I don’t know, the top Viking’s grandfather or something, you know, but to actually play Beowulf, which, by the way, I never knew anything about before I read the script.”
“I didn’t know the books, we didn’t read them in my school,” he adds, “So it was something really special and that’s the great thing about where I’m working because you could play those parts that have passed you by, and you could play parts that, maybe if you was of age to play, that you were incapable of playing and strong enough or you didn’t know enough about it.”
We also asked Winstone, now that he has the opportunity to play the kind of roles he’s always wanted without the ravages of time being a factor, whether there are still unsought roles that he would like to go after.
“I haven’t stopped thinking about it (laughing). Honest to God, it’s not just for me, it’s for other actors,” Ray replies, “Yeah, of course, I could now play Henry V, for one, I got in all that Shakespeare luck, me being an Englishman. That raises a passion in
Cast alongside Ray are incredible talents like Crispin Glover, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Wright Penn, and John Malkovich. He shared with us a particular joy about working with fellow British actors and how he brought his own London background into the role.
“You got Brendan [Gleesan] playing Irish, he’s from Ireland,” he notes, “You got Anthony playing Welsh, which is all accepted in Old English fairy tales. Then, I come and move a bit of London and then people go, oh, that’s a bit stronger, I’d say, you know. Beowulf never spoke in London, well, what do you spoken? Danish. No one would understand a word I’m saying, but you being a little bit of yourself to your own culture. This is my culture, this is my celebration, so I like that. I don’t mind that at all. Give a little of the deep throat and away you go.”
Adding to that, Winstone spoke at his sheer delight of working alongside Angelina Jolie.
“Well, there’d be something wrong with you if you didn’t,” he claims, “You’d have to be a funny person. I think she’s an absolute stunning girl, as is Robin Wright-Penn. Two of the most beautiful women in the world and, to be quite honest with you, you get that impression when you meet them anyway.”
“They’re just stunning, but not only that, they’re just fantastic actresses as well. They’re at the top of the game, which makes them sexy,” Ray continues, “People that are good at what they do, it don’t matter what they look like after a
The actor also spoke of how much he enjoyed the experience and how he felt when it was over.
“I actually didn’t want it to end, when we were ending, because I did enjoy it so much,” Winstone admits, “It only took six weeks to shoot this and two years from to put it together. So, I was in the run of it, I was feeling good about it and it just chops you off there. I felt, it’s like come down, I guess. You feel tired after because it was very physically demanding.”
Winstone also explained to us what it felt like to work on a project that does not involve being on actual set and how that factored into his incredibly reaction to the end result of the film.
“You kind of forget about it a little bit because you’re doing other things,” he says, “You lose the idea of it being such an epic in a way, because you’re filming it in four walls of white. So even though you’re imaginations going, once you leave that, you remember the four walls and the blue suit.”
“And in a way, that’s what gives you the big shock, when you actually sit down and watch it, when you see these beautiful effects of 3D, the way it looks, the way it moves,” Ray adds, “And then, all of a sudden, you come on the screen and you’re like, my God! Exactly that, and you kind and you kind of lost touch by the time you get to it.”
He also says he was particularly impressed by how the CGI and motion-capture animation managed to really capture not only the vocal, but distinct physical performances of all the actors.
“All I know is, when I watched it, being in front of Anthony Hopkins, the performance that he gives on the screen is what he
“You might give a good performance, but in any event, you’d find a better performance somewhere, by putting three of the takes together and messing them around and that’s making films,” he continues, “In theater, you can’t do that. You’re out there and away you go. If they don’t like you, they boo you, quite rightly so.”
Finally, we asked the actor what was next for him on the horizon now that Beowulf is now finished and being released.
“We made a couple of small films, which I’m pleased with, and we’re going to do one after Christmas,” Ray says, “We’ll just jump along and work with people on their art and that’s what we’re going to do after Christmas, make a couple of films. I’m going to do for the people who did Sexy Beast, we have a film with a new director Malcolm Venville called 44 Inch Chest. It’s about a man who loves his wife too much and it’s really well-written.”
“I’m doing another film in Brighton in England with Nick Cave, who wrote The Proposition, and the same director, called Death Of A Ladies’ Man,” he adds, “And it’s very dark, funny, but it’d break your heart. It’s a really great script. I think Nick Cave gets better and better when he writes. So that’s me, I got better work. That’s what I do.”