Bowing Down to Paul Bettany

Bowing Down to Paul Bettany (photo)

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British actor Paul Bettany has the dashing looks and commanding presence of a leading man, but his filmography bolsters the case that he’s not a creature of vanity or easy paychecks. Whether comparing his drunken Chaucer in “A Knight’s Tale” to his ruthless thug in “Gangster No. 1,” or his hypocritical do-gooder in Lars von Trier’s arthouse masterpiece “Dogville” to his self-flagellating albino monk in a splashy blockbuster like “The Da Vinci Code,” Bettany continually proves himself an intelligent and versatile performer who’s passionate about new career challenges.

In director Jean-Marc Vallée’s luxurious new biopic “The Young Victoria,” Bettany co-stars as Lord Melbourne, a Prime Minister who became the 18-year-old, freshly ascended Queen Victoria’s self-serving political tutor. Set in 1837, the film portraitizes Victoria (Emily Blunt) as we haven’t seen her: a progressive-minded, spirited beauty in the early days of her reign and her courtship with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). Both a drama of political intrigue and a sweeping romance, it’s yet another film in which Bettany — only given as much screen time as history allowed here — takes his chance to pilfer his every scene. I spoke with the man about playing a political animal, how not to greet Prince Charles, working with his wife Jennifer Connelly (again) in next month’s “Creation,” and why he no longer lives in Brooklyn.

“The Young Victoria” presents its subject as a progressive hedonist trying to go with the flow. Why have we never seen this more charming and vibrant side of Victoria represented before?

Oh, I quite like the old grumpy one. Behind that sterile, matriarchal image — black dress, bun on the top of her head — the very reason she wore black for the rest of her life was in mourning this love that she had for Albert. It’s beautiful, really. Although if you go to London, it’s just littered with monuments that she kept building to him.

The factoid that tugged on my heart is the title card at the end of the film, which said she laid out her late husband’s clothing every day until she lost power at 81.

Well, I bet she didn’t lay it out. I bet she had some underpaid servant to lay it out. [laughs]

12232009_YoungVictoria2.jpgSarah Ferguson, the former Duchess of York, was a producer on the film. Did you have any interactions with her?

Yeah, weirdly. When I met her, I was really busy on set. She was talking to me, and I was trying to make a cup of tea, and I was delayed. Then they called me back on set, and she felt bad about it, so she made me a cup of tea. I thought, “Brilliant. Come the revolution!”

Have you ever met anyone else in the Royal Family?

I met [Prince] Charles at a premiere — I think it was “Master and Commander.” It was really funny because you all stand in a line, and he works his way up. We’ve all been told what to call him, “Your Royal Highness,” or whatever. It was a big night, and I got flustered. I said, “Alright, mate!” He shook my hand, which is the last thing you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to wait for him to offer his hand, you’re supposed to bow, and I didn’t. He looked at me quite frostily, actually. [laughs]

Being British but living stateside, do you find yourself less in the loop or not caring about politics over there since it doesn’t affect you so directly?

Well, thank goodness we’re not involved in British politics. I still read the British papers, but I’ve never been a Royalist, ever. It’s funny, there always seems to be much more of a fascination with the Royal Family over here then there does in England. I think newspapers like the Guardian and the Observer are really extraordinary. I still look to those papers for news on the U.S., especially with regards to foreign policy and what’s going on around the globe with America, outside of America.

In the film, Lord Melbourne isn’t depicted as a villainous schemer so much as another piece in this political chess game. How much sympathy was there in Julian Fellowes’ script, compared to what you wanted to bring to the role?

God, I’m not sure. He was always written as a sort of political animal, slightly Machiavellian as politicians have to be and are. Yet, he had one moment of redemption in that he admits that his guidance might not have always been the best advice. I remember seeing an early cut, and [that scene] was gone. I’ve never, ever commented on a cut, and I went: “Listen, I do think that’s an important moment for Melbourne, that he has the balls to admit to [Victoria] that he has misguided her at times, and apologizes.” I’m glad it went back in — I mean, I assume it’s in there. [laughs]

12242009_bettany66.jpgHave you ever been manipulated so artfully that you couldn’t get too upset when you found out?

Oh, yeah. The very best agents are like that. Half the time, you don’t even find out. With the bad ones, you find out. There are certain people who are that charming that you just forgive them all of that.

Besides any makeup to help you get into character, what’s the trick to pulling off a role much older than you really are?

I wouldn’t know how to answer that question. It’s for other people to decide whether I’ve pulled it off at all. [laughs]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.