The Lizard: a reptilian monster with classical theater roots
BY DENNIS KING
NEW YORK – Welsh actor Rhys Ifans asserts that he’s oddly and uniquely qualified to play the raging, reptilian villain in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the epic new rebuild of Marvel Comics’ classic superhero franchise.
As the earnest, brilliant Dr. Curt Connors, the one-armed OsCorp research scientist who morphs into the rampaging arch-villain The Lizard, Ifans (pronounced Ee-vans) said his ace card in landing the coveted role in what promises to be another lucrative run of summer blockbusters (following the three Sam Raimi-directed films of summers past) was his classical training as an actor at London’s Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
“Theatrical training really helps when it comes to green screen performance and stuff like that,” Ifans said during a press conference hosted by Columbia Pictures at the tony Crosby Street Hotel in Soho. “In the theater you do have to apply your imagination a lot more than you would on a film set.
“Generally, if you’re looking at a New York landscape in a film they fly you to New York and you look at the landscape,” he said. “In the theater, you have to conjure it all in your mind. And with green screen, a stick can easily become a sword; a tennis racket can become a guitar. It’s an extension of play. You know, the theater trains your mind to apply it in such a way. So it helps. It doesn’t feel weird; it feels like fun.”
But playing a giant rampaging, comic book Lizard? How does classical training help with that?
“When I went to drama school, we’d do a number of different exercises and techniques in class,” he recalled. “I remember one class we were in the tutor said, ‘OK, you’re a piece of bacon frying in a pan. Just try to portray that physically and see how it works.’ And I’m lying there on the floor thinking, ‘What the (bleep), when am I ever going to be asked to play a piece of bacon?’ And the next day we come in, and they say, “Alright, now pretend you’re a lizard.’ And lo and behold, here we are. So I’d say that to any drama student, whatever they tell you to do, if they tell you to be a tree, be a (bleeping) tree. Because you never know.”
Ifans’ film resume attests to his wide versatility, ranging from period drama in “Anonymous” to dark “Harry Potter” fantasy to light “Nanny McPhee” fairy tales to the urban angst of “Greenberg.” In addition to loads of live performance on stage, Ifans’ career also boasts a gritty rock ‘n’ roll facet – he once fronted the band Super Furry Animals and now acts as lead singer for the Welsh group The Peth.
While Ifans said his personal knowledge of science is sketchy (“Making a cup of coffee is alchemy to me”), he did feel that his rock ‘n’ roll lineage helped inform his performance as Spider-Man’s Jekyll-and-Hyde nemesis.
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