|Born||Edward Maurice Charles Marsan
9 June 1968
|Spouse(s)||Janine Schneider (m. 2002; 4 children)|
I sometimes think if I had gone to Oxford or Cambridge and looked like a handsome young guy who could be in an Evelyn Waugh novel or something, I'd be a massive movie star. But there's a longevity to what I do. It's more reliable. Someone isn't deciding that I'm the next big thing.
I have friends who are leading men, and they're only ever allowed to play leading men of a certain type. But as a character actor, there's a wider variety of projects available. On the big Hollywood films, all they care about is having their lead in place, so it's actually easier for someone like me to slip in. And I'm happy to do so.
I'm used to being in front of camera and knowing what to think. But if you're asking me to be me, I get very self-conscious. My job isn't to be me. Being an actor, people think you can do a eulogy at a funeral, a speech at a wedding. I find all that very nerve-racking.
I come from a place where there's violence and inarticulacy. I worked in a pub from the age of 12 or 13. I used to see people smashing glasses over each other. I was never tough. I was scared of them.
I've got four kids to feed and a wife to provide for. It's a worry but a great responsibility as well and one I relish.
I went swimming the other day and my wife was watching and she said, 'You know, it's funny, it's when you've got no clothes on, no one recognizes you.' I said, 'What are you saying? That I should do more love scenes?'
The trick to acting is not to show off; it's to think the thoughts of the character. I was lucky because when I started acting, it was doing jobs above pubs. I learned to act in anonymity, so by the time people saw me, I knew what I was doing. I was crap for years, but no one saw me being crap. It's a trade you learn.
I've never played a gay character on screen, so that would be interesting. I've never played a gay character, and that would fascinate me because I'm not gay, so that would interest me.
I'd love to play a Bond villain. Yeah, I'd love to play a Bond villain. Everyone always says this to me; they always say, 'You've got to be a Bond villain', 'We're going to make you a Bond villain…' But they've never, ever approached me, I've never had a whiff of it. I think I'd love to play a Bond villain; I'd have great fun.
As a working-class actor, leaving school with no qualifications, being a printer and then becoming an actor and then working with people who to a certain extent had had a leg up. I never had that advantage. It's less an artistic need to express myself and more a need to prove myself.
The trick to acting is not to show off, it's to think the thoughts of the character.
My idea is just to do something different each time; the next thing I do has to be completely different to the thing I've done before – that's what I try and do, because you know, I'm an actor, not a film star.
I'm the guy who plays human beings. I understand why the characters are doing what they're doing. When you play a villain, you don't play a villain: you play a human being doing what he thinks he needs to do to get what he wants.
I want to be respected as an actor. There's my ego. But I don't have a great need to be liked by an audience.
There's no great mystery to acting. It's a very simple thing to do but you have to work hard at it. It's about asking questions and using your imagination.
I consciously decided not to be a 'London' actor. Those gangster movies made a lot of East End actors think they were movie stars. And I was very aware that they were going to go out of fashion.
When you're the youngest and the only boy, you get spoilt but you get told you're spoilt so you don't get to enjoy it very much. I was the only man in the house because my parents divorced and my dad moved away when I was 13.
I used to do a lot of comedy. I don't know what happened. I think it's my face.
When I think of character actors, I think of Spencer Tracy; I think of Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall. When I was a young lad watching films, my eyes were on them – watching 'On the Waterfront,' my eyes are on Rod Steiger and Karl Malden, not on Brando.
Mike Leigh taught me about making choices – as an actor, you choose between being honest and clever, and with Mike, it's always about being honest. I learned how to behave on a film set from Jim Broadbent. He was a great example of someone with a fantastic career who kept his feet on the ground.
I'm not one of these actors who can make a bad script good. Some actors, a script can be terrible, and they can bring something to it and make it really special. I can't.
I was brought up in a house full of women; the first time I realised no one was interrupting me was when I was on stage – that's probably the subconscious reason I became an actor.
With a face like mine, I'm never going to play a character who conquers the universe, I'm going to play characters who are subject to forces bearing down on them. My career's based on how we are rather than how we wish we were – they get the good-looking boys in for that kind of role.
I see all these people talking about acting as a great spiritual thing. It's not. There's no great mystery to acting. It's a very simple thing to do, but you have to work hard at it. It's about asking questions and using your imagination.
What I love about the East End is that there's a great perseverance, determination and courage. What I dislike about it is that there is sometimes a celebration of ignorance.
I was approached to do something for seven years, and it was a quality project. I did seriously think about it, but I didn't want to be away for six months of the year. I've never done the L.A. thing where you go and have loads of meetings; I can't say to my wife, 'I'm going to wait by a pool for six months.'
Different races never fazed me because coming from Bethnal Green, I'd been around people of different races forever. Different class? That was much harder.
I wasn't one of the ones voted most likely to succeed when I was at drama school, but I persevered and concentrated on the acting rather than going to the right parties and getting the right agent. Eventually, after ten years, it paid off.