Marton Csokas is a 20-year veteran of Hollywood, but 2014 proved to be a banner year for him, having key roles in three films that opened atop the box office.
Csokas has spent the past two years working with Antoine Fuqua on “The Equalizer,” in which he goes head-to-head with Denzel Washington; Darren Aronofsky on “Noah,” in which he plays Russell Crowe‘s father Lamech; and Marc Webb on “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” where he plays Dr. Kafka. Csokas also worked with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller on “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” where he plays Eva Green’s husband.
Represented by WME and Anonymous Content, the New Zealand native is no stranger to success, having been a part of the “Lord of the Rings” franchise (he played Cate Blanchett’s husband Celeborn), the “Star Wars” universe (he voiced Poggle the Lesser in “Attack of the Clones”), the “Bourne” series (he fights Matt Damon in 2004’s “Bourne Supremacy”) and Disney’s billion-dollar fairy tale “Alice in Wonderland,” in which he played the title character’s father.
With “The Equalizer” the No. 1 movie in America this week, Csokas spoke to TheWrap about his impressive 2014 campaign and what he hopes the future will bring.
The Wrap: You’ve been in three No. 1 movies this year. What do you attribute your recent good fortune to?
Marton Csokas: Fortune is the key word there. I’ve been working for 20-something years as an actor and I’ve had the good fortune to work consistently. This year there have been some bigger films, so the flag seems be filled with more colors and waving more ferociously or something. I just feel fortunate to be working as much as I do.
Of all your roles this year, your turn as the villain in “The Equalizer” has been the biggest. How’d you get involved in that project?
I was sent the script while I was working on something else, but I was able to take a couple of days and look at it for myself and find the way to approach it. I put myself on tape, which I quite like because you know you’ve got the security, and they liked what I did. Then I met Antoine [Fuqua] and we danced a bit and messed around a bit. Then I met with Denzel and Antoine and Mary Vernieu, the casting director, and we did a lot of improvisations. I wanted do it like Frank Sinatra — my way — but it’s an audition so you [adjust]. It was strange. I walked out of the door thinking, “There goes that role,” because the vibe was so strange.
I liked the sense of quiet menace you brought to the character. It made him even scarier.
I read “The Wisdom of Psychopaths” by Kevin Dutton and a few other books, like “The Sociopath Next Door” and “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us.” They had some wonderful accounts of sociopaths. There’s a medical checklist you know, like the absence of love and the lack of conscience. The quietude and detachment was quite important and helped me a lot, coupled with my imagination. That was my primary focus, so I suppose that’s where the menace comes from. I aimed for someone who didn’t engage emotionally with people. But of course, there were other agendas from other people. Antoine and I would just play with it. We did a lot of improvising on set. It’s important for a character like that because it’s a broad-stroke film in many respects, so trying to bring the details in is important.
I can’t imagine you had to wear all those Russian tattoos every day, but tell me about the application process.
Teddy, my character, is all buttoned-up [for most of the movie], but when we did get to the big reveal scene, it took two people to do it. When I went to bed, I got sprayed with something to stop them from slipping off.
Much has been made about the violence in “The Equalizer,” which is very different and more realistic than the comic book violence on display in your other films, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” What’s your take on that controversial issue?
Well, context is important. An individual can’t be responsible for the overall content of a film, but from my point of view, contextually, we went for a level of reality in the scenes I was involved with. Like the strangulation scene with [redacted: spoiler]. We tried to keep it realistic.
That was certainly a tough scene to watch.
It’s not as nice to watch and for good reason. Strangulation is never a nice thing to be a part of. And the office scene with Little John, where there’s no guns or torture, just his fists. That was the point of the scene. Here’s this man who looks slick and quiet and relatively sobered, and the animal in him was unleashed. The context is important.
Do you have any plans to return for “The Amazing Spider-Man 3?”
I plan to return but I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. I loved working with Marc Webb and we had a beginning, a middle and an end to Dr. Kafka’s arc. It was hilarious and very much like a dark comedy or Peter Sellars in a Marvel comic book. It was fun and I had a great time but 80 percent of it was left behind. I’d love to get Dr. Kafka out and have a good time with him in a more substantial context.
And what about “Noah?” What was it like working with Darren Aronofsky?
My time was brief. We shot that in Iceland and I had a blast. Darren is very particular in the casting process, so it was quite a long journey. I didn’t know what he was going to be like on set, but I found him very present and easy to work with. I didn’t have anything to do with Russell [Crowe] directly but I studied some of his physical mannerisms, since I was playing his father.
What’s the biggest difference in terms of style between the four directors you’ve worked with this year — Aronofsky, Fuqua, Webb and Robert Rodriguez?
They’re all unique individuals. Robert does everything during production and yet, he’s still laid back. It’s a nice vibe to go onto the set with. Everyone adores him in Austin and when you’re there, you realize you’re part of a larger family.
Antoine and I got along and enabled one another to just imagine. I really liked talking and experimenting with him on set.
Marc likes to play music on set. Our first time in rehearsals was a little tense but we found a good groove and just played. Whether you’re right or wrong is irrelevant, you just want a friend, not an enemy.
Darren is very cerebral and vital and specific. He articulates his ideas and you inhabit the molecular structure of those ideas.
So what are you working on these days?
I’m actually doing some writing of my own. I’m writing a short story right now and hoping some things will happen. There’s some indicators it won’t be long now.
Would you ever consider doing TV or one of these limited series that are becoming more popular in the wake of “True Detective?”
I love the idea of that, with the quality of writing, so I’m all for that. I’m all for film, TV and theater because I’ve had experience with all three.
Is there a dream role or project you’d love to do one day?
Right now, I’d like to find a complex psychological story or a complex love story. Complexity is the order of the day, and that can be found in comedies as well as tragedies. I’m up for things that challenge me as an actor and that can take any genre, really. As long as I’m in the company of good people.
It’s nice to be able to broach different roles. Just because you do one thing very well doesn’t mean you can’t do other things very well. I look forward to playing a broad range of characters and working with a wide canvas of genres and material.