Playing one of the villains of the Twilight franchise, Sheen is immensely entertaining to watch on screen, and perfectly fits the part of one of the leaders of the powerful Volturi vampire clan - enforcers of all vampire laws. Evil on screen, Sheen's actually one of the most enjoyable actors to interview in person. Sitting down for this one-on-one interview at the LA press day for New Moon, the critically acclaimed actor talked about getting into character and why we still love vampires and werewolves.
Exclusive Michael Sheen InterviewGood job of stealing the film from all your young co-stars.
Michael Sheen: "Chris Weitz was saying that, he said, 'You know at that point in the story it's'...even though I'm in it at the beginning as well...he said, 'If you introduce a new character quite near the end, you better hope that character delivers.' Because the audience doesn't want a new character, particularly at that point. It has to kind of give a new energy."
Well, introducing a new character to audiences in this one is different because Twilight fans know your character, Aro, and have been waiting for you to be in scenes.
Michael Sheen: "That's true, that's true, yes. I know, that's the extraordinary thing about doing this film, is that the audience for the film obviously is the audience of the book as well, and so they know everything about it. So it’s not like anything is kind of new to them, other than the way you're going to represent it. So that's a lot of pressure as well. And when I knew I was going to be doing it, I heard through various means that people were going, 'Oh, I hope he's going to be the right thing,' and all that kind of stuff. So you feel this pressure of people, kids having their own imaginative idea of what this character should look like, or the whole of the Volturi."
Exactly. How tough was that? Did you really feel that extra weight when you were stepping into it?
Michael Sheen: "Yes. I mean, it doesn't mean that I’d do anything different because I always try to be as true to the writer as I possibly can, or the writer’s vision of it and try and connect with it. So it didn’t alter the way I worked on it, but it made me take it very seriously. You know, people say sometimes, 'Oh, you do these other films like Frost/Nixon and The Queen and all that. This must be very different.' And no, I don't take it any less seriously than anything else I've done, you know?"
Michael Sheen: "Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. In some ways the important thing is there are a lot of people who are very connected to this stuff and it means a lot to them, and you take that seriously. You can't take that lightly, it doesn't matter how old they are or whatever, if the story means so much to them. And I completely understand why having read the books. The first book, especially the first two books in a way, but the first book really made me go back to what it was like when I was 12, 13 or whatever and feeling the first kind of flush of really falling in love with someone and how your heart just feels so exposed. And then the second book, feeling what it’s like when that gets kind of crushed. That pain, and there's nothing like it. There's nothing trivial about that."
"These books and these stories kind of, I think, in some ways document that and help people through it as well. They help kids who are going through that stuff themselves to kind of navigate their way through it and feel like they're not on their own, or they're not going through anything weird. It's kind of something that happens and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel or at the end of it. So coming to make the films, I don't in any way take it likely, this stuff. And it means so much to my own daughter. She’s 10 and just seeing the ferocity of her passion for these stories was a good a lesson as anything else to take it seriously."
What was your daughter's reaction when she first found out you were maybe getting attached to this?
Michael Sheen: "Well I had to try and not let her know for a while until it was definite because I didn’t want her to think that I was and then it not happen. But she was my main source of information before I’d read the books myself. I had to kind of get it out of her about the character, who the character was, without letting her know that maybe I was going to be doing it, which was tricky, especially with an incredibly bright nine year old as she was then."
"I said, 'You know, I heard someone talking about these books and is there a character called Aro?' And she's like, 'Yes, he's the head of the Volturi. He can read peoples’ thoughts by just touching them. Are you playing him?' I was, 'No, no, no, no.'"
"And then eventually when it was all done and sorted out I told her, and you could just see this huge mixture of emotions went through her. She cried and then she sort of got angry with me and then she got excited. It was all these different things. Because, of course, it was her thing and then suddenly daddy comes along and he's sort of taken it away from her... Not taken it away from her, but you know what I mean. Like, suddenly he’s got in on the act and it’s her special thing and her private thing. And she's got used to that now, and now she's just really excited about it."
I would imagine this is the role that you play that she can say to her friends, "That's my dad!"
Michael Sheen: "Exactly. I loved doing it, but my original impulse for doing it was for my daughter. I never got to be in the Harry Potter films so I thought, 'Well, here's an opportunity for me to be in this.' So, given that, I was really excited about how it would be for her with me doing it, and so she's very excited."
Has she seen it?
Michael Sheen: "She hasn't seen it yet, no. She'll be seeing it for the first time with me."