Paul Bettany on Playing Warhol, Family Ghosts, and How Therapy ‘Saved’ Him


Jeremy Daniel

Jeremy Daniel

If and whenever you watch Paul Bettany play Andy Warhol on Broadway in The Collaboration—which has simply been filmed for the massive display screen—know that there are different unseen figures, spirits and echoes from the previous, which have helped form his efficiency approach past the feathery silver wig and thin denims.

“I think my dad haunts so many of my roles, particularly since I became the age he was when I first got to know him,” Bettany instructed The Daily Beast in a latest Zoom name. “From my forties into my fifties he haunts so much of the work that I do. I also begin to see him in my face in a way that I never saw him in face in my twenties when I didn’t look anything like him. I see my father when I look into the mirror sometimes.” Bettany smiled. “He’s still wreaking havoc from beyond the grave.”

Best identified for voicing AI J.A.R.V.I.S. and enjoying android superhero Vision within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bettany, 50, final yr earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for his position in WandaVision. He is presently starring as Warhol, reverse Jeremy Pope as Jean-Michel Basquiat, in Anthony McCarten’s play which imagines what occurred when the 2 legendary artists labored collectively to work on a sequence of work within the mid-1980s—in the present day, inevitably, value many tens of millions of {dollars}.

Sphinx and Superstar: What It Was Like to Know the Real Andy Warhol

More than as soon as in our Zoom conversations, Bettany apologized—his inside cringe momentarily creasing his face—for “sounding like a ponce when I talk about acting. It’s so difficult not to sound preposterous.”

Bettany had not been sounding something like preposterous; he had been making an attempt to elucidate how significantly emotional and dramatic moments of his life had seeped into his work. “Often you take little echoes of characters you play. They continue with you, little pieces of them,” Bettany stated. “What you try to do is try to something within that character that resonates with you. For instance, with Andy Warhol, it’s his fear. I was very bullied as a schoolkid, and I remember the world feeling like a frightening place. I try to remember that in me.”

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<p>Paul Bettany, left, and Jeremy Pope in ‘The Collaboration.’</p>
<div class="inline-image__credit">Jeremy Daniel</div>
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Paul Bettany, left, and Jeremy Pope in ‘The Collaboration.’

Jeremy Daniel

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Paul Bettany, left, and Jeremy Pope in ‘The Collaboration.’

Jeremy Daniel

Bettany’s Warhol is a worldwide celebrity fearful by Basquiat’s rising fame in addition to involved for the youthful man’s welfare. As they jibe at one another’s inventive follow and nervily start working collectively, additionally they bond. Piles of cash actually tumble forth from Basquiat’s fridge; an indication finally of what the play is about—the numerous meanings of “value” in the case of artwork.

When Bettany keys into Warhol’s fear, he’s recalling the bullying he skilled at his suburban British faculty on account of different pupils’ discovering that his father, the actor and dancer Thane Bettany, and godfather had been homosexual.

“I was the ‘gay boy’ of the year that was beaten up in the showers and pissed on and stuff like that,” Bettany instructed The Daily Beast. “My father had been a dancer and actor. My mother was a singer. We had gay people all around us. I wouldn’t take part in any of the homophobic banter around me, and the consequence of that, well you can imagine… I sort of refused to bend on that.”

Thane was a lot older than his spouse Anne, whom he married in 1968, changing into a first-time father at 42. “He lived a whole life before marriage,” recalled Paul. “It was very late in life for a man to be marrying in that era. He had a whole life before that, which transpires was a very gay life.”

When Thane lastly got here out to Paul when he was 63, “it was such a relief for everybody—and he seemed relieved. This was a man whose name I had taken off the toilet walls in our local area when I was a child. We knew he was gay. After he came out, he had a nearly 20-year relationship with a man, Andy, till Andy died. Then my father came to see me, and said, ‘I have gone back to my Catholic faith.’ I said, ‘Wait, how does that work with you being gay?’ He said, ‘What are you talking about? It never happened.’”

Thane renounced his homosexuality, and went again into the closet? “Yes. I tried to really dig in with him about it. I asked him, ‘But dad, what about Andy?’ He said, ‘Well that was only physical for a very short time.’ Him going back into the closet was just horrifying. And he stayed there. I was with him when he died. He was dressed, and in his pocket was a vial of Andy’s ashes. My dad himself died a few years later (aged 86 in 2015).” Bettany paused. “So… a complicated man, my father.”

Bettany recollects that when his father’s father came upon Thane had offered his wartime ration tickets on the black market so he may purchase ballet classes, he instructed Thane he had a selection between becoming a member of the Army, Navy, or Royal Air Force. “My dad chose the Navy because he liked the uniforms,” Bettany stated. “When my dad was growing up, they lived on the edge of an RAF airfield which got bombed all the time. They had a bomb shelter built for them, but his father wouldn’t let them use it because they were not scared of the Germans. Imagine being a young gay man with that father.

“Then, when I was getting bullied in school, my dad sent me to sea cadets ‘to make a man’ of me. I forgive my father for all of his complexity. I didn’t ever really get to know him. My father had some carefully curated anecdotes that made up the history of his life. Only by going through papers and photographs and talking to people did I discover the extent of his life as a gay man, and that he had lived as a gay man much longer than a straight man.”

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<p>Paul Bettany in ‘Margin Call.’</p>
<div class="inline-image__credit">Jojo Whilden/Roadside Attractions</div>
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Paul Bettany in ‘Margin Call.’

Jojo Whilden/Roadside Attractions

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Paul Bettany in ‘Margin Call.’

Jojo Whilden/Roadside Attractions

None of those experiences made Bettany homophobic—fairly the other. “Never. I literally didn’t understand homophobia, and never have.” (As properly as Warhol, Bettany has performed one other getting old homosexual man in Uncle Frank.)

Besides the bullying and his father’s sexuality. one other pivotal early expertise was the demise of Bettany’s then-8-year-old brother Matthew after a fall when Bettany was 16. “Oh God, yes, it changed everything,” Bettany recalled. “It blew up my family.”

In the previous Bettany has spoken about utilizing cocaine and alcohol to numb the ache he felt, in spite of everything he had gone by means of so younger. Today, Bettany retains talismans representing his brother which he retains near when he’s performing. “Some people are better at accessing their emotions than me. My wife (movie star Jennifer Connelly) is able to access her emotions incredibly easily without having to imagine other things and can just be in the scene. I have to work at it. I have these talismans that I have with me out of shot. I loathe talking about it because the older I get the more foolish it feels. They help entertain me.” Bettany laughed. “I don’t know. It’s such a weird thing.”

Bettany is in remedy, and has been for years, but has moments when he says he thinks, “I’m 50 years old, moaning on about this fucking person still. I can’t believe it. I think, ‘What is wrong with you? Why am I here with this thing scratching at this wound, trying to make myself feel better filming this movie or TV show?’ Still, I do it because it’s my fucking job. But the older I get the more ridiculous it feels. It all made sense in my twenties, but, you know,” he smiled, “neurosis is only attractive when you’re 20.”

Is remedy nonetheless useful? “Yes, I have been in therapy a lot for a thousand years, and it’s absolutely saved me. Right now, it’s very intermittent because of my work schedule. Right now, I am flying solo.” Bettany set free a cute, eek-terrified gasp.

Has it actually been life-saving? “For all the boring reasons. In the absence of the little baby Jesus I found therapy is only thing that’s had a real impact on me, and the impact really has been in understanding the transference and my own behavior towards other people and how I move in the world, the things I’ve done to other people, or others have done to me, and what triggers those old triggers. While I understand therapy is like having a chronic injury where you need to constantly be doing physical therapy and massage or you lean back into old patterns of behavior, I have also discovered it has really saved me.”

“I was very lost for a number of years”

Growing up, performing was not one thing Bettany was drawn to, however quite music. “I wanted to be a guitar player. When I finish my day job now, I pick up the guitar, but I am a pretty shitty guitar player. I thought I was a musician until I had my middle child. Stellan (19 years old) is a prodigy, like those fish who have more cones in their eyes and can see more color. He experiences music in a different way. I fell into acting. I like telling stories, that’s all, whether it’s me as a writer, director or actor, or frankly me at a dinner table telling an anecdote that my that poor wife has had to listen to God knows how many times in over 20 years of marriage.”

Bettany busked on the streets, went to drama faculty, and made his stage debut in Stephen Daldry’s 1992 West End revival of An Inspector Calls. Stage work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and early display screen appearances (together with Bent, 1997) adopted. He broke by means of in films in Gangster No. 1 (2000), and A Knight’s Tale and A Beautiful Mind (each 2001). “I was very lost for number of years, but there were always something that saved me or people that saved me, like my auntie Jill and my dear friend Shosh—people giving me a vocabulary for things that I had no language to think about,” Bettany stated.

His title position in Gangster No. 1 was “a real calling card” for Bettany. “Things really changed after that. Also, in a really personal way, placing yourself imaginatively in someone else’s position is literally the only edifying bit of doing this job. There are so many unedifying things that come with it—money, ambition, celebrity, and judging yourself only though the praise of others. All of these are terrible, terrible things. The one really good thing is being able to imagine yourself as another person, and the amount of empathy that can engender in you. So yes, there have been pieces of work that I’ve done that have really stayed with me and I hope have made me a better person.”

Bettany was BAFTA-nominated for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), and in addition made memorable impressions in Dogville (2003), Wimbledon (2004), and Margin Call (2011), and wrote, co-produced, and directed Shelter (2014). Last yr he performed Ian Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll—husband to Claire Foy’s Margaret, Duchess of Argyll—in A Very British Scandal.

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<p>Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios’ ‘WandaVision.’</p>
<div class="inline-image__credit">Marvel Studios</div>
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Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany as Vision in Marvel Studios’ ‘WandaVision.’

Marvel Studios

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