As an actor, Michael Sheen has played a variety of interesting and varied characters: he has portrayed a pompous Brit on the sitcom “30 Rock” and made 3 films playing the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. But it would be Sheen’s biographical portraits he is best known for: Mozart in a stage version of “Amadeus,” journalist David Frost in “Frost/Nixon” and controversial soccer coach Brian Clough in “The Damned United“.
In Woody Allen’s latest film “Midnight in Paris,” which opens Friday, Sheen plays a self-important scholar who spouts facts – at times inaccurately – about Rodin and Monet. In stark contrast, Sheen takes a dark turn in “Beautiful Boy“, a film that opens June 3 in which he plays the father of a college student who goes on a killing spree.
The 42-year-old Welsh actor grew up in Port Talbot, Wales, the childhood home of Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins. He says while he works steadily, he is not inundated with scripts. “Often I’m booked up in advance, so it’s pointless to read them. But, certainly in America, I think people are unsure how to cast me because I haven’t branded myself. I don’t just play the bad guy or play British. I don’t think I’m necessarily the person that first comes to mind for any character in particular, and that’s a dangerous thing career-wise to do, but I enjoy metamorphosis and not being obvious. That’s allowed me more variety.”
Sheen has enjoyed the diversity in the roles he has played, some he is proud of, while others he feels were not such a good fit. “I think “The Damned United” is the best performance I’ve done in a film, but it wasn’t the right film at the right time. Two years later, the same director makes the “The King’s Speech” and it’s a very different thing. That has taught me that there is no build, in that respect. It’s not like I’m on an upward trajectory where I’ll eventually hit a point where it all happens. People see the standard of your work, and maybe everything will coincide and you win the Oscar and suddenly you become “that” actor. I’m often told, “Your day will come.” I appreciate that because it feels like a recognition, but it’s also quite annoying. What, one day everyone will let me reach something? I don’t really see it like that anymore.”
“In this industry, once Academy Award nominee or winner becomes part of your name, that changes the scripts you get, the people that want to work with you and your profile. There are people whose films made me want to be an actor in the first place—something like an Oscar increases the chances of working with them,” the actor says.
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