Chris Diamantopoulos is truly the man of a thousand voices.
You might know him as Mickey Mouse. Or Green Lantern. This year alone he has starred in a handful of animated projects, including two amazing Netflix animated series — “Centaurworld” and “Inside Job.” Even when you can see him, he is coming up with amazing vocal flourishes that bring what could otherwise be nondescript characters to life.
Take his role as the villainous Sotto Voce in the very live-action “Red Notice,” Netflix’s big budget global caper, where he gets to menace three of the biggest movie stars in the world – Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot. It’s a role that Diamantopoulos makes his own, partially because of that absolute mastery of voices.
Sotto Voce was originally written as South American, but the actor said he “didn’t feel comfortable doing that,” so he decided to make the character Greek, which Diamantopoulos speaks fluently.
“And I think that engaged the director to have a further conversation with me,” Diamantopoulos told TheWrap.
The film’s writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (who had been a fan of Diamantopoulos’ previous voice work), didn’t want to go with the Greek accent, but it started a discussion and “together, we sort of crafted this ambiguously Baltic quasi-European,” he said.
It wasn’t enough just to come up with a voice for the character. Diamantopoulos had to come up with an entire backstory.
“My character’s father was an illustrious arms dealer. And he had this case of prized weapons that his son was not to touch. And one night he’s having a party with all the bigwigs, and he looked over and he saw his son reaching for his prized possession and ended up in a drug fueled fit,” Diamantopoulos said. “He lunged for his son and grabbed him by his throat. And in their tussle, the son fired the gun, killing the father. And now the son was the new boss, but the father had done his damage and the son’s voice was completely unrecognizable and ruined forever and thus became Sotto Voce.”
Even more incredible than the backstory that Diamantopoulos concocted was the fact that he made it up on the spot.
”This was right out of my ass, man,” Diamantopoulos said. “And it was basically to save my job.” Clearly it worked.
In “Red Notice,” Diamantopoulos’ Sotto Voce oozes menace as he threatens, imprisons, and generally makes life difficult for Johnson, Reynolds, and Gadot. In a way he is a throwback to the sophisticated villainy of the 1980s, when European actors would be imported for the sole purpose of giving an American hero a hard time (hello Hans Gruber).
As it happens, Diamantopoulos and Johnson go way back – they made a movie called “Empire State” back in 2013. While they might be at odds in “Red Notice,” they feel much different behind-the-scenes. “Just as his star has risen, his charisma and his kindness toward his fellow actors and crew members has also risen,” Diamantopoulos said of Johnson.
When it comes to Reynolds and Gadot, Diamantopoulos was just as impressed. “Ryan is one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever met and worked with,” Diamantopoulos said. “And Gal, to her credit, I didn’t realize that she had such a tremendous sense of humor and such a self-effacing way about her. For someone that’s as incandescently beautiful, she doesn’t buy into it.”
It’s clear that Netflix wants the story of “Red Notice” to continue, not only because it’s a big, four-quadrant crowd pleaser but because it keeps them in business with some of cinema’s top talent. The fate of Diamantopoulos’ character remains up in the air and he says that he’d gladly return to the franchise. “All [Thurber] needs to say is where and when, and I’ll be there,” Diamantopoulos said.
And if you really want more of Diamantopoulos being a bad dude, he also plays the heavy in the upcoming Netflix original series “True Story,” opposite Kevin Hart and Wesley Snipes.
Diamantopoulos said that the old adage is true – playing the villain is more fun. “I grew up influenced by Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone,” Diamantopoulos said. “Those were the guys that were chewing it up and having a ball. Do I love playing villains? Absolutely.”
For an actor who most might know as the wholesome voice of Mickey Mouse, Diamantopoulos is certainly having a moment this fall (and having the time of his life) playing less-than-desirable characters. “I’ve done so many different roles here and there and here and there, that I have recently thought maybe it would be fun to do a prototypical leading man, Jimmy Stewart, Clooney-esque character,” Diamantopoulos said. “That could be fun. But for now, I will say playing the villain is f—g awesome.”
And, as it turns out, it’s just as awesome to watch him play the villain.