Mackenzie Crook on his Career and ‘Tintin’: “It was frustrating to be in the motion-capture environment”

Mackenzie Crook might not be as well known as Rainn Wilson is in the United States, but Wilson’s character Dwight on the U.S. version of The Office owes everything to Gareth Keenan, the character Crook played in the original U.K. series of The Office.

While Crook has appeared in such films as the Merchant of Venice, Finding Neverland, The Brothers Grimm, and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and has appeared on stage in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Seagull, and Jerusalem (in which he was nominated for a Tony Award), the scrawny actor doesn’t seem to be satisfied.  As he explains to The Independent, he still yearns for that elusive leading role.

There’s a sense of frustration from Crook, who seems to want to be a bit more than Gareth from The Office or a supporting actor in various films and television series.  He suggests, “I could play a lead, but it’d have to be a skinny lead. I think I’m a character actor. I’m happy with the quirky character roles. If lead roles come along, I’d love to do them.”  He returns to the topic later, arguing, “If I can prove myself with some weighty or serious roles, that would be something I would like to explore.  If it doesn’t happen, if I just continue this way, then I have a blessed life. I have no complaints.”   Curiously, though Crook seems accepting of (yet also almost resigned t0) his role as a character actor, one of his primary character roles — the pirate Ragetti in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies — is a role that he’s previously claimed that he has no desire to return to.  Nonetheless, even that seems like an unsure stance, as he says about playing Ragetti again, “Yeah, I don’t think I am, unless they come and ask me then I might.  I would like to say that’s done; but the fact is I shouldn’t say absolutely never because I had a great time doing those movies; and I’m a big fan of them.”

Despite his humorous roles, Crook admits he isn’t very funny in real life.  However, one of the reasons he enjoys acting is that he gets to become someone totally different than himself.  He explains, “I’m not particularly outspoken or the funny one in a group of friends. I don’t feel comfortable doing that, so my showing off has to be professional showing off. I enjoy being a different person; acting as a different person is a thrill.”

You might have trouble spotting Crook in his next film — he appears in The Adventures of Tintin as Ernie under many layers of CGI.  He says you shouldn’t bother looking for him, explaining, “You won’t recognise me.  They’ve changed the faces. It has taken three years to get the final results. It seemed crazy, when we were making it, that we weren’t going to see the final results for three years.”

Still, Crook doesn’t seem all that impressed with the 3D animated craze that has become a must for most major blockbusters, particularly family films.  Even though he got to work with Stephen Spielberg, Crook confesses that it was nothing like working on a traditional film set, saying, “It was frustrating to be in the motion-capture environment.  It’s not like a film set, there are no props, and you’re filmed from numerous angles: that information is then fed to the computer, and as long as they get one good take that’s all they need, they can choose the angles and close ups later.”

In fact, he shrugs off the whole process, saying, “I don’t mean to sound old fashioned, but it sounds like a gimmick to me. You still have to wear glasses don’t you? Once they get the technology where you don’t have to wear glasses, if that’s possible, perhaps it won’t be.”

Lest you think Crook is disowning The Adventures of Tintin, he does say, “It’s going to be a great film though.”  Perhaps if Crook learns how to dish out a few more compliments he’ll find his way into a lead role in no time!

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