Film & TV

Why Paul Bettany is worthy of ruling Asgard and Hollywood


Paul Bettany has been screwed over by Hollywood big guns numerous times. “If I had a dollar for every time someone told me my career was over, my career could be over,” he said. But in Hollywood, anything can change in an instant. Minutes after being told that, and sulking in the sidewalk, Paul received a call that (a) required him to keep a huge secret for almost two years and (b) would skyrocket his career once again.

You may have known him as the man that the ’90s kids swooned for alongside Heath Ledger in A Knights Tale, or the tennis player we all wanted to date in Wimbledon, or for some, he’s the albino Silas that we all feared in The Da Vinci Code. One thing is for sure: we’ve all seen him around. And by the looks of it, we’ll be seeing more of him as he plays Marvel superhero, The Vision.

For the past years, Paul Bettany has been playing the voice of JARVIS (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) — Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) artificially intelligent computer — in Marvel’s Iron-Man. Now, since The Avengers: Age of Ultron came out, he has been transformed into the superhero, The Vision.

Last weekend, Paul visited the country as a guest in the AsiaPOP Comicon, the first major comic convention in Asia. In a special question-and-answer portion with members of the press, Paul told us some interesting things like his love for potatoes, his four year-old daughter’s obsession with co-star Robert Downey, Jr., his hatred for Emojis, shooting with his Avengers/Captain America:Civil Warco-stars, and his role as The Vision.

Press: How do you bond with your Civil War co-stars off-cam, and is Robert Downey, Jr. fond of doing pranks?

Paul Bettany: How do I bond? Ah, well we use glue. We glue each other, don’t judge us it’s a hobby (laughs). He’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) delicious, he’s so lovely, uhm my four year-old daughter is in love with him and that’s kind of humiliating. She much prefers Robert Downey to The Vision.

You are the only one that has two roles, so do you attribute it to your relationship with the director?

What happened was, I was doing JARVIS with Joss Whedon and we laughed a lot whilst I was doing it. And he went away, and he really wanted to bring in Vision into the universe. You know, there’s a rule in Marvel that you’re only allowed to play one character, and well it’s a good rule, but they found a way of bending the rules for me so I am very honored and flattered, and better off financially.

If you were asked to play a super villain, who do you think would embrace most aspects of your evil self?

Wow, I don’t know. That’s an impossible question. I’m not sure how many evil traits I have, I’m English so I tend to sound evil. It’s just one of the hangovers from our colonial past. I am so impressed with what Statham did with Ultron, and I would relish the chance to do something like that.

What other things do you geek out on?

You know how others have an irrational fear, like an irrational fear of flying, or like shellfish, whatever, well my fear is that The Walking Dead will end. Yes, it keeps me awake at night because I love it so, so very much, and I love everybody in it, and I’ve been watching it since the beginning. I’m so frightened of a life without The Walking Dead.

Do you read DC Comics?

No, because well I was raised to — well, I’m an old man, I’m in my mid-40s and in London, and we never really read comics. We kind of had Greek gods and stuff. I became aware of superheroes when Superman came out when I was a little boy, so no. It’s all been very new to me.

Yesterday, you mentioned that you dream of potatoes. Do you have a favorite potato dish? What do you prepare for your children?

I’d rather like roasted potatoes, thank you for asking. Ah, I prepare everything for them. I make the best spaghetti Bolognese.

Do you use emojis?

Emojis? Absolutely not. I think they’re a sign of weakness, I try and use words. We used to be gaining words and now we’re losing words, I would never use an emoji. And when one of my friends send me a text with an emoji, I (talk) them down for such nonsense. To be honest, I also think an exclamation point is a sign of weakness. It means that you’re worried that your sentence wasn’t clear enough, so you try to be funny, so make your sentence funnier, instead of adding a smiley face at the end of it. You know what I mean? Be funny, and emojis should just stop, stop, stop!

If you had your own JARVIS, what would you have him do for you on a daily basis?

Uhm, I loathe doing the laundry, and I loathe emptying dishwashers, but everything else I kind of enjoy.

If you were to create your own superhero, what would the power be, will it be Marvel or DC?

Oh, you’re trying to get me in trouble. Yes, it would be Marvel — and uh, I love playing The Vision. I’m really intrigued by him. There’s an innate danger with his ability to put his logic to give us a flip, and maybe get tired of all you human beings.

How is it looking back at your old situation where you started off as a drama student and now you’re here?

I think about it a lot, and I’ve been thinking about it recently. I’ve recently finished shooting my first film as a director, it’s called Shelter, and it stars my wife, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Mackie. It’s about a Nigerian Muslim man and a heroin addicted woman. In NYC last year, we passed two milestones. One, is that the first apartment sold for $100M, and also 60,000 of its citizens was seeking shelter, and 20,000 of those 60,000 were children. And this was in a city that houses most billionaires. So, I do find myself thinking about how fortunate I am, all the time. I face it all the time. I was a street performer and if I didn’t make money, I go to bed hungry.


You mentioned during the Captain America: Civil War panel that The Vision was a little bit naïve, so why did he side with Tony during Civil War. Is it because of loyalty to Tony or is he able to think for himself — why is he there?

Logic. I don’t think he knows anything about loyalty yet I think he’s trying to learn. He’s on his own journey and that journey is a process of learning what being human is and what love is. The interesting and slightly dangerous thing about The Vision is because he works entirely logical, until he discovers what is to be human or to love, his allegiance can flip if it’s logical, if he thinks the outcome is correct. So that’s what’s sort of dangerous with The Vision.

Since you’ve already become JARVIS, and now Vision, what’s your opinion on the shared universe of Marvel?

I think it’s an extraordinary creation. It’s like a very small young country that was able to develop their own gods, it’s kind of fun, and great things can be spoken about it.

During your performance as Vision, who’s human but not quite human, and knowing you’re JARVIS in the film, was it just like bringing out a suit for JARVIS?

No, not really because JARVIS can’t kick your butt and The Vision has such power and with that power comes real responsibility. And JARVIS is a servant.

How did you transition into that role?

I was shown a lot of concept art, I said a lot of “Ooh, I like that one” and “I don’t like that one.” And we did some make-up tests which went on for nearly a year, and we did a lot of fittings and stuff, then I showed up on set and started doing my thing.

If you could trade places with one of the Avengers, who would it be?

Iron-Man. Out of anyone, he’s the best paid, and my daughter is so in love with him, it’s so humiliating.

You’ve done serious films before, and how different is it in terms of preparation and preference in doing a comicbook film?

Well, all movie sets are still the same. You are all trying to fit in a huge puzzle together, and that’s a lovely feeling — whatever it is, they you are on the set, and there’s a day’s work and you’re trying to fulfill it with an enormous number of people, and it’s all camaraderie and a very good feeling. I don’t think just because you’re working for a drama it makes you work harder; it doesn’t work like that. But there are some physical aspects that differ, and then there are roles that demand a different kind of preparation… Did that make sense? Was that English? (laughs)

In a face-off between The Vision and Iron-Man, who do you think will win and why?

Well I could put my hand inside another human being and tear out their heart, so… I’m just saying.

You talked about Vision, saying that he’s still quite learning his way, and wondering where his allegiance would lie, but why is it that he picked up Thor’s hammer in the film? What does that say about his character?

Well let me ask you a question, what does it mean if you can pick up Thor’s hammer?

That you’re worthy to rule Asgard?

(Paul opens his arms wide) I am worthy.

* * *

And we’re pretty sure he would rule the box office again, alongside his other Avengers co-stars. After all, he is worthy. Photos by MIKE REBUYAS.

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