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Exclusive Interview with Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen Discusses "The Queen" and "Blood Diamond"

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Exclusive Interview with Michael Sheen

Michael Sheen stars in the movie "The Queen."

© Miramax Films
With a 97% 'fresh' rating on RottenTomatoes, the dramatic film The Queen is definitely a hit with critics across the globe and is all but guaranteed to pick up year-end award nominations. Over the course of the film, Director Stephen Frears (Mrs Henderson Presents) and writer Peter Morgan provide an in-depth look at the maneuverings going on behind the scenes following the tragic death of Princess Diana. Helen Mirren and Michael Sheen square off in The Queen as Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair, respectively, and both actors are earning high marks for their performances.

On the red carpet for the premiere of Stranger Than Fiction, Sheen took the time to talk about two of his very high profile films - The Queen and Blood Diamond:

The Queen is one of the best reviewed movies of the year. Did you expect that?
"Well, I mean I knew it was going to be good because I’d done a film about four years before with the same people – same director, same writer – where I played Blair as well called The Deal which was just shown in Britain on TV. I knew that we got that right so hopefully we’d get this right. But we had no idea that it was going to have the affect it had, certainly in Britain. We thought it’d divide audiences in Britain a lot more and in fact the whole of Britain has gotten behind this movie. It’s the same now in America. People now are loving the film. It’s a pleasant shock, but it’s a shock nonetheless."

What does Tony Blair think? Have you heard anything from his people?
" Well no, not yet, not officially. I get a few strange-looking people passing my house every… No I don’t (laughing). I hope he’d like it. I’m sure he would. I think he comes out of it very sympathetically. It’s about the time when he was at his most popular. It’s nice to remind people there was a time when Tony Blair was popular."

Did you just study tapes on him? You didn’t have any face time with him to get into character.
" No, it’s not something that he or the Royal Family wanted to be officially associated with in any way. So it was just a matter of watching video footage and listening to him and reading about him, and all that kind of stuff. And talking to people about him."

What was the most difficult thing for you to capture about playing Tony Blair?
" Wow. Just to have the kind of gravitas of a Prime Minister the same time as having the kind of youthful energy that he had when he came into power in ’97. So getting the combination of that and hoping the people would accept me as him and accept me as Prime Minister because I think I look about 12 in the film."

Do you think he handled the situation correctly or did the Queen handle it correctly – or was it a combination of the two?
" Well I think they both handled things in the way that they were sort of trained to do it. The Queen is part of a tradition and a way of doing things, and she knew no different at the time. In the same way, Blair came along… I suppose the Royal Family represented a much older, traditional way of looking at Britain. Blair represented a much more American-influenced way of handling things. So the two of them clashed because they both had their very particular ways of doing things."

You could understand how Blair handled it?
"I think so, yeah. I think he started as the story went on…Blair starts to understand why the Queen is reacting the way she does. I think that’s why they managed to resolve it in the end."

You’ve also got Blood Diamond coming up.
"Yeah, yeah, it’s really exciting. I play a British diamond dealer that Leonardo DiCaprio comes to to try and sell some diamonds."

That film’s getting a little weird buzz about it because some are saying it’s going to put down the diamond industry. What’s your take on that issue?
"I don’t think it in any way tries to put down the diamond industry. I think it tries to just make people aware that they need to be aware of where certain things come from – things that they pay for, things that they buy, where the money goes, and the affect it has on people around the world. If there’s nothing shady about peoples’ business, then they’ve got nothing to worry about, have they?"

Exactly. What’s it feel like to be in two movies that have Oscar buzz?
“It’s extraordinary, you know? It’s really exciting. It’s fantastic. (Laughing). Next year I’m going to go for three at the same time instead of two. Why stop at two?”

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