Eddie Marsan on Vice, his distrust of Jeremy Corbyn and fighting trolls on Twitter
Ahead of the release of Vice, a genre-spinning biopic of former US Vice-President Dick Cheney, actor Eddie Marsan spoke to JOE about the film, his career and the perpetual headache that is Brexit
What was it like working on Vice with Adam McKay?
EM: It was fantastic, I loved it. It was really fun, lots of fun. I love all that politics stuff so it was really interesting to do as well. Right up my street really.
What was it like playing someone like Paul Wolfowitz?
I asked lots of politicians and journalists I know who have met Paul Wolfowitz or have researched him to pass me on any material that they had. What I gathered from the information they gave me is that Paul Wolfowitz saw himself as a Truman Democrat. Which means he wanted the US to create a kind of Marshall Plan for the Middle East. He wanted to spread democracy through the Middle East.
When I played Paul Wolfowitz I had to try and understand what he was trying to achieve. I couldn't make a a judgment on his behaviour. I had to just play him the way he was. I can't play villains and heroes, that's not the way I work.
What was it like seeing Christian Bale's complete and total transformation into Dick Cheney in person?
I was blown away by Christian. I admired it a great deal because I know how hard he is working. Steve Carrell was also fantastic. Alfred Molina is an old friend of mine as well so we had a great day shooting with him.
Was it the best cast you've ever been a part of?
I think so. Yeah, it was actually. It was. It was one of the best experiences I've had. I loved being in the replica of the White House, that was brilliant.
It was mentioned at my screening of the film that Adam McKay sets are the most fun you can have shooting a movie. Is that true?
Yeah, *laughs* it is. It's very creative, very fluid, very spontaneous. There was so much research and yet because there was so much research we were free to come up with things. He (McKay) will come up with stuff at the last second and you'll do it. It's great fun, it really is.
Are you proud of the message of the film and how it deconstructs the Iraq War, the presidency of George Bush and Dick Cheney's rise to power?
Yeah, I did, because it's asking us to be alert and aware of any abuses of power. Which I think is always a good thing.
Do you think that statement is more apt given the current state of politics in this country?
I can't stand populism to the left or the right. I think populism is the preference of simple lies to complex truths. We have to take the responsibility to deal with the complexities of life and if we're going to have a democracy we're going to have to embrace complexity. So when we vote, we vote with as many different considerations in mind and don't be afraid of it.
Be brave. Always be aware of anybody who gives you a very simplistic view of the world, who gives you a comfortable villain to attack.
Do you think then that the referendum put to the British people on whether to leave the European Union was too simplistic?
Yeah, I think it was presented as a binary choice when the issues it was trying to deal with were very complex. Also I do not think that leaving the EU is the solution to a lot of the problems that people were feeling. Lots of members of my family, you know, people who I grew up with, I understand completely how they feel. They were feeling vulnerable in the face of globalisation and increasing pace of change. But I think that the Brexit vote on leaving the EU was a very manipulative ploy by people who wanted to gain money out of it or gain ideological control.
I think whenever you're faced with an incredible pace of change in an incredibly changing world it's human nature to retreat back to a narrative you take comfort in. And those narratives quite often are personal or political or ideological.
They're not the solution to the problem. The solution to the problem is to engage with the benefits of globalisation and we mitigate the costs to the poorest in society.
You wrote an article for the New European with the headline: 'Jeremy Corbyn is betraying the working class'. Do you think he has betrayed young people as well?
Yeah I do. One of the biggest crimes is that he deliberately used social media and enlisted hundreds of thousands of young people and got them all involved in politics. Which I think is a great thing, I think young people should be involved in politics. But he pursued the policy of disingenuous ambiguity.
So he's basically told all these young people 'come to me, I'm the answer' and all these young people have supported him. But these people want the EU, these young people want the EU's benefits and the freedom of movement and now that there is an opportunity Corbyn has basically kept quiet on it. And for me it's almost like Nick Clegg and tuition fees. It's a terrible betrayal. It's a tuition fees moment, really.
Who do you think should be Labour leader?
I've always said that David Lammy should be the leader of the Labour party.
You're not shy of sharing your political opinions on Twitter. Do you find that kind of engagement invigorating or tiring?
Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I'm busy working and I can't do it. I love a bit of banter, you know. I love a bit of a barney. As long as it's not abusive, I try not to be abusive, I try to be reasonable. And also it's very interesting, if you just try and remain calm with these people, these extremists to the right and to the left, within a couple of tweets they really expose themselves. Suddenly it all unravels.
You left school at 16 to do an apprenticeship as a printer. How did you get into acting?
Somebody asked me to be an extra in a film and I went on a film set for the first time and it suddenly just occurred to me that I wanted to be an actor. Me and my mate were there, dancing in a nightclub, and we were asked to come and be an extra on a film set. That's when I realised "this is what I want to do".
Do you think an Adam McKay breakdown of Brexit would work, stylistically?
Yeah, he has a way of presenting in an accessible way very complex issues. But then again I think some people do that with Brexit. I think Tony Blair does it and you know, I marched against the Iraq War, I was never, and I'm still not, a Tony Blair acolyte. But when that man talks about Brexit, or Lord Adonis talks about Brexit, they make complete sense. They make complete sense to me. I also think that if you listen to the radio sometimes, James O'Brien is brilliant. Shelagh Fogarty on there. There are some people who are really, really good at it
Vice is out in UK cinemas now.