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Interview: Mark Addy

13 May 10 interview: Alison Emm

"You wouldn’t recognise the Nottingham that was created for the film - Marks and Spencers is in a completely different place"

Every proper gang needs a chunky lad, and Mark Addy – previously best known to moviegoers for his sizable part in The Full Monty – has taken on the mantle of Friar Tuck in the new Robin Hood film. We had a natter with him about Russell Crowe, Ridley Scott, and what this version brings to the Hood canon…

Tell us about the new Robin Hood…
Well, it’s certainly not Prince of Thieves. In a way you forget that it’s about Robin Hood, because he only really becomes Robin Hood at the end of the movie. Everybody’s idea of Robin Hood is different but you automatically think of outlaws in the forest, robbing the rich to give to the poor. This version is about him getting to that point; he’s an ordinary soldier in the Crusades who decides he’s had enough and just wants to head back home. He gets back there and he’s doing people favours and ends up becoming part of changing the way England is run. It’s a completely different take on the legend - it’s a lot more gritty and realistic.

It looks really violent. Did you get involved in the fight scenes?
Yeah, briefly - it was great. We spent two weeks in Pembrokeshire, and there’s a huge battle sequence at the end which is just extraordinary. To be there to see one hundred and fifty horses all charging from one end of the beach to the other - it was one of the most unbelievable sights.

So how does Friar Tuck fit into this imagining of the tale?
Tuck is the new Friar in twelth century Nottingham and Marian asks him to try and divert some of the church’s grain to the starving people of the town. He’s quite philanthropic, I guess; there’s a lot of death in the film, but he’s all about life: he keeps his bees and they provide honey from which he makes mead and from which he makes money, so he’s a bringer of life and happiness. He’s not a major character in the movie but nonetheless he’s there and a part of the story.

Friar Tuck is either played as an ale-loving layabout or a feisty guy who’s a bit handy – which one are you?
He’s a bit of both, really. He does get to join the Merry Men and help them out in the big battle with the French; he does his bit. He sees that the people are being oppressed and feels that it’s a fight that he can join and help with.

Did you study previous Friar Tucks like Mike McShane and Eugene Pallette?
No. You’ve got to make the character your own and find a way of creating a person that you think is real enough that the audience can believe as well. As far as the costumes and everything, they’re so authentic that it helped me to feel that I was there and a part of it.

You had to wear the robes - did you wear pants or enjoy the breeze?
That would be telling.

What appeals to you personally about the tales of Robin Hood?
Robin Hood is probably the most well-known English folk hero; he’s part of our national identity, so it’s nice to feel that you’re telling a part of that story. It is a fable that’s based, possibly, on a series of characters and events, but the story of Robin Hood can be adapted and changed as we progress as a society. If Ridley Scott asked me to do anything, I’d be there - I can’t lie about that - but it was his re-telling of the story that appealed to me. It’s interesting the way he pitched it: as Robin Hood becoming part of the restructuring of English sovereignty and how people are given more freedom as they’re no longer under the tyrannical yoke of a despotic monarch.

How did you become involved?
I was cast late - after they had started shooting. Ridley had seen Red Riding, the Channel 4 series that I was in last year. He thought it was brilliant and went “Ah, there’s my Friar Tuck”, so I got a phone call the next day. It was completely out of the blue.

What was it like working with Ridley Scott?
Incredible – he’s a genius. He’s in a position to be able to use as many cameras as he needs. Normally you have one camera so you find yourself having to play the same scene twenty, thirty, forty different times to get all the different angles. With Ridley, he covers it from all angles in one go. It takes a long time to set up but it means you only do the scene three or four times, tops, so you can play it for real and fully without having to try and recreate it over and over. It’s terrific for actors, but technically more complicated. It must be a nightmare for a lighting designer, but he’s got John Mathieson who’s worked with him a lot, so he takes it all in his stride.

They didn’t film in Notts - have you ever been?
I was in Nottingham a long time ago at The Playhouse and had a great time. What was that pub - The Old Trip to Jerusalem? I loved that. You wouldn’t recognise the Nottingham that was created for the film - Marks and Spencer's is in a completely different place…

OK, you and Russell have a scrap – who’s coming out on top?
Ooh, that’s tricky: he’s always in the gym so it’s hard to tell. I think I’d give him a run for his money. He’s a good bloke actually; the idea of working with Russell is a lot scarier than the actuality because he’s a sweetheart. He had his band of Merry Men, and we’d all go and get merry after we’d finished filming...

You were in The Full Monty, so when was the last time you lobbed it out in public?
I think it was during the filming of Monty, actually. We were told; “Don’t worry, it’s going to be a closed set.” Oh, right; just us, and 300 extras, and the entire crew, and the second unit. Other than that, nobody there! It’s not something that I’d recommend unless you’re a complete exhibitionist…

Robin Hood movie website

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