Ray Stevenson ('Kill The Irishman')
'Irish Folktales: The Ray Stevenson Story'
Ray Stevenson first entered into the Hollywood mix as a Medieval warrior in 'King Arthur' (2004). He then went on to star in HBO’s gladiator series 'Rome' (2005-2007), before undertaking the role of Frank Castle, in 2008’s uber-violent 'Punisher: War Zone.'
In 2010, Ray was seen in two very big hit movies: the post-apocalyptic Warner Bros. feature 'Book of Eli,' opposite Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman for directors Albert and Allen Hughes, and the Columbia Pictures action comedy 'The Other Guys,' opposite Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell for director Adam McKay.
Ray just finished shooting one of the leads in Paul W.S. Anderson’s 'The Three Musketeers,' as the Musketeer ‘Porthos’ opposite Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz and Milla Jovovich. The film is based on the famous novel by Alexandre Dumas and is set for release in the fall of 2011.
Prior to that, he shot one of the leads in Marvel Comics’ 'Thor,' playing Volstagg, a character inspired by the Shakespearean character Falstaff and described as being over 1,000 pounds of muscle and the life of the party. This reunited him with the director, Kenneth Branagh, who acted opposite him in 'Theory of Flight' for director Paul Greengrass.
And Ray also has a new movie in theatres right now called 'Kill The Irishman.' In the mob movie/biopic, Ray plays Danny Greene, an Irish-American who evolved from a grunt union worker into a powerful thorn in the sides of Cleveland’s top Italian mobsters during the 1970s. With an eclectic and strong supporting (among them Christopher Walken, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Paul Sorvino) 'Kill The Irishman' is a scrappy little gangster flick.
Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with our good friend Ray Stevenson and asked him all about his new movie, his roles in others, his upcoming role (in Rome) as a proud parent, and, of course ... penguins!
Your latest movie, 'Kill The Irishman' is a crime drama based on the story of Irish mob boss Danny Greene, and is inspired by the book To Kill the Irishman: The War That Crippled the Mafia by Rick Porrello. Prior to filming did you manage to read this book to get a feel for your character, Irish-American mob boss (and FBI informant) Greene, perhaps? "I did manage to read Rick Porrello's book. And see some of the news footage from the day and read up on other sources. The fact is; this was a well documented piece of American history - but as we know, 'history' tends to be written by one or two hands and should be taken in context and should always be viewed with a wider perspective."
"The factual, documented evidence provides a cold skeleton upon which we can pin our story. And this story is anything but cold. I found myself constantly turning back to the text (script) to find my through line in the telling of this mans life. Ultimately I had to leave the historical documents behind and focus on how to portray the 'essence' of this man in his world. I was blessed with a phenomenal script and backed up with incredible enthusiasm to bring this story to the screen."
For your role as Greene, a man at the center of things during the gang war for Cleveland's criminal operations during the late 1970s, did you talk to any of his real life 'associates' before filming - to get a firmer grip on the man himself? "I refer to my first answer. There comes a point where history and memory can confuse or indeed enhance each other. This does not a movie make!"
What was the hardest element of the charismatic villain to capture on screen for you personally - and why? "The most challenging element was to tread a line where I wished to explore the personal journey Danny was on whilst never wishing to 'soft soap' or seek redemption for his personal traits. To me personally, the greatest credit anyone could ever pay is that they believed the character. I really don't care if you liked him or not - did you believe him. If so, my job is done."
Was Greene someone, come the final day of filming, that you felt you could admire, or was he someone that (as a character) you were glad to have finished 'wearing the skin of'? "I have no idea how other actors deal with the roles they play. I tried to feel the way 'Danny' may have admired himself and the way 'he' maybe wished to shed his own skin. My own personal point of view has absolutely no place here. I, like so many others, am full of preconditioned attitudes and influences that could get in the way of presenting a character to the fullest of my ability. I try constantly to remove any personal judgments."
With a star packed cast, such as Christopher Walken, Vincent D'Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Vinnie Jones, and such, who did you bond with the most? "Wow! This is impossible to answer. Obviously, in the telling of the story, Vincent and I formed an amazing bond. He is a beautiful actor and a beautiful man and I sincerely hope we get to spend time together in the future. Christopher Walken is and has always been a beacon for me. To share screen time with him was a dream come true. You can't coast with any of these actors in the movie. They're too good!!"
"Val Kilmer was a revelation. The man is simply off the hook - but in a great way, a way non-actors wont ever understand, he's a truly creative soul and I love him to bits. Vinnie Jones is exactly what you see, no airs and graces. Just pure, unabridged honesty of what he feels and who he's around. I could go on through the whole cast, (these are the ones you mentioned) It is a real testimony to Jonathon's script that he pulled together the talent that he did."
The movie, which was originally optioned in 2001, was filmed here in MI but since filming has taken a couple of years to come to the theatres. What has been the reason for its delay? "I first suggest you seek clarity from the producers on this; but my understanding is that the movie performed so well at Cannes that Anchor Bay were willing to give us a 'Staged Release'. Where a limited screening run may be increased due to the growing popularity of the movie. This all took some time to consolidate and here we are. Thanks to articles like yours, more and more people are finding the movie and spreading the word."
During production of the film, you temporarily re-opened our beloved (retired, and sadly now demolished!) Tiger Stadium for one week. What scenes did you film in there and, if you're a baseball fan in general, could you sense the history of the place? "Alas, yes I was told the stadium is no more. Bitter sweet is the way I feel. People in Europe keep saying that America has no history - well you wont if you keep tearing it down!! It was an incredible experience to film at Tiger Stadium. We were able to populate the scenes with every generation of locals who came to support the movie. It brought a lump to my throat when I saw it last."
Both you and director Jonathan Hensleigh have connections to 'The Punisher' franchise ('Punisher: War Zone' and 'The Punisher' respectively), so did you chat about the possibility of joining forces to bring us 'The Punisher 4', perhaps?! "The honest truth is that we did not. Obviously aware of each others work. It was not conducive nor appropriate to the work on which we were embarked."
A young admirer once penned a ballad in Greene's honor - so, if one day someone did the same for you, what would be your best guess as to what they would title it? "That would spoil the surprise!!!"
a) You were actually born George Raymond Stevenson, so at what stage did you swap the first names around - and why? "My mother always called me Ray - after one of her beloved brothers."
b) You are best known for playing the devil-may-care character Titus Pullo in the BBC/HBO television series Rome. A man that showed a total lack of personal responsibility, but yet discovers hidden ideals and integrity within himself as the series progressed, what did you yourself (as an actor) spiritually take away after two seasons of filming? And are those traits still part of your acting, or every day life today? "Pullo taught me to simply 'Get out of my own way'. He saw the irony of life and the fruitless machinations of those who tried to control thier own destiny. This character was an 'everyman' in the fullest sence of the word. Still able to be awe-struck and full of wonder at the world yet real enough not to fool himself and listen to false profits. There is a bit of Pullo in all of us and I was truly blessed the day he came into my life."
c) You've had movie roles in the aforementioned 'Punisher: War Zone,' in 'The Book of Eli,' in 'The Other Guys,' and of course 'Kill The Irishman,' and with roles upcoming in both 'The Three Musketeers' and 'Thor' which one movie role undertaken has been your most inspired, your most personally satisfying on-screen performance to date - and why? "It may be sad to say and appear a bit of a cop-out, but it's not. But seriously, the last role I played has been the most inspiring to date. However, I am almost confirmed on something else which is taking up increasingly more of my time and interest (I could tell you but I'd have to kill you!)"
d) You are about to welcome the birth of your second child with the lovely Elisabetta (Caraccia), congratulations - and so, as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, have you chosen a name for him/her yet? "I can reveal the name of our second child will be Leonardo George Stevenson. Can't wait - any day now!"
And why Rome? "His Italian mother wished the birth to be in Rome. I have no complaints."
Do you still have a passion as a watercolor artist - and, if so, what was the last painting you created and where does it hang today? "Actually, watercolors were a detatchment for me. I took part in a UK based show for charity. My true passion is with oil painting. One which I intend to spend the rest of my life trying to understand."
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love penguins ... do you? "With all my heart. They demonstate how the absurd can exist within the outrageous."
As always, great chatting with you, take care and be well, my friend - "Thank you very much for your patience. I hope I haven't rambled too much!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
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