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IAIN GLEN ON MANFRED POWELL
Copyright 2001 www.scotsman.com & John Miller

[ February 7th 2001 ]

Tomb Raider bad boy Iain Glen talks to John Miller on his role as the villainous Manfred Powell in Paramount Pictures upcoming adventure movie Tomb Raider in this article from Scottish newspaper "The Scotsman."

Angelina Jolie walks by swathed in a blue bathrobe, a towel wrapped in a turban round her head and a pink water bottle strapped round her back. Iain Glen, who is more appropriately dressed for the winter chill in black leather jacket, black trousers and glistening boots, smiles and exchanges a few words with his co-star. The smile changes to a throaty chuckle when I ask the 40-year-old actor if he too is destined for some wet and icy action sequences. "No, no. Iím the one who kicks her in there," grins Glen, indicating the gigantic artificial lake, which sits beside us at Pinewood Studios. "I just stay dry and watch her struggle. I donít get cold... itís demeaning." Standing on the biggest sound stage in Europe, surveying thousands of gallons of Pinewood water racing down thousands of feet of Pinewood waterfalls, Iain Glen is in buoyant mood. And who can blame him?

The slim, softly-spoken Scot is in the middle of making the biggest movie of his career: a live-action remake of the computer game, Tomb Raider, starring Jolie as virtual reality icon Lara Croft and 50 million dollars-worth of special effects. Glen plays the villainous Manfred Powell who battles with Lara Croft in a series of adventures that takes them from Siberia to Cambodia. Today, they are filming some of the stuff that gives the film its title, and the same sound stage that has seen James Bond save the world over and over again has been transformed by a team of 160 Pinewood craftsmen into the Far East. Thereís too much detail to take in but a quick look around reveals an 11th-century Cambodian temple, a massive Buddha, statues of monkey warriors and a series of swords embedded in stone.

This is the Temple of Ten Thousand Shadows and the adjoining area with the very impressive artificial lake is the Chamber of Dancing Light, where, looking like a huge, metallic octopus complete with tentacles, a model of the sun and its orbiting planets revolve. Itís stunning and Glen admits that this is filming on a much grander and more epic scale to what he has been used to. "This is a different form, that requires other things from you as an actor," he says, as director Simon West and his team busily prepare for the next shot. "We are surrounded by glorious, awesome sets which take time to build and time to light. So you have to wait a bit. You need to be patient. It may be a lot easier just to have a kitchen sink behind you but these settings will look fantastic." With his hair slicked back and his chic black attire, Glen looks every inch the movie star, but it hasnít always been so. While the likes of Ewan McGregor, Robbie Coltrane and John Hannah have all thrown themselves into high-profile film careers, Glen has always pursued his own agenda: plenty of stage work peppered with the odd TV drama and high-profile Broadway run.

The result is a lower profile than one might expect from one of the countryís finest actors. But thatís not something that bothers him one bit. "There are certain frustrations perhaps about the things that have passed you by which, had you been more commercially known, might not haveÖ but personally I can well do without the Hello! magazine type of thing." Born in Edinburgh, Glen headed north for Aberdeen University and a degree in English Literature before throwing all that away (along with his punk rock band) in favour of acting. At RADA he found himself in the same year as Ralph Fiennes, Alex Kingston and Jane Horrocks. Looking back he recalls how he and Fiennes were involved in some determined cut and thrust during the pursuit of their studies. "I spent three years fighting with Ralph Fiennes for one of those pathetic prizes that RADA was obsessed with giving out best snotty nose prize, best dialect prize, best everything. One of them was best sword fighting.

"Most students spent five days desperately preparing for this part of the course, having forgotten all about it. Not me and Ralph, we had been at it for three years solid and Iím glad to say that we walked away with our prizes. Thank God, otherwise it would have been embarrassing." That RADA rivalry came in useful during the filming of Tomb Raider when Glen had to act out a spot of flamboyant sword action all flashing sabres and nimble footwork. "It was a happy coincidence," he says. "At some point I said to Simon West that I love all that sword fighting stuff. When he discovered that I really could do it he said he would incorporate more of that into the film." Fresh out of RADA, it was not his Errol Flynn impressions that first got Iain noticed, however. It was his breakthrough role in David Haymanís Silent Scream. His gritty portrayal of convict Larry Winters earned him an award at the Berlin Film Festival. More plaudits followed for his RSC performance as Henry V, and an Olivier nomination for his starring role in hit stage musical, Martin Guerre.

These days, of course, Glen is known less for his acting trophies than his trophy co-stars. With a razor-sharp talent to match his cheekbones, the unassuming actor who always avoided the LA commute, has somehow ended up starring opposite some of the most glamorous women in Hollywood. In Gorillas in the Mist Glen appeared alongside Sigourney Weaver. In Sam Mendesí scorching 1999 production of The Blue Room, he stripped off on stage with Nicole Kidman. Now, after some "curiously relaxing" screen tests, Glen is sharing a screen with Angelina Jolie. In real life he is married to actress Susannah Harker whom he met when they starred together in gangland TV drama series The Fear. The couple have a five-year-old son, Finlay, and are based in London.

More recently, Glen tackled the small scale, Glasgow-based black comedy Beautiful Creatures, on which he renewed a friendship from university days when he teamed up with writer Simon Donald. Iain confesses that although he and Simon were mates at Aberdeen University, heíd also tried to steal the writerís girlfriend. "Unsuccessfully," he says with a chuckle. "Simon had taken a year out in Sardinia and I spent that time trying to woo his then girlfriend." Glen is no stranger to the cinemaís action genre. Back in 1989ís Mountains Of The Moon he played John Hanning Speke, the tragic explorer who, with Richard Burton, tried to discover the source of the Nile. But he admits itís been a while. "Thatís why I was so pleased to do Tomb Raider really," he says. "I have been a bit shy of the milieu because I havenít seen scripts that I have been drawn to. But I loved this when I read it. It has great variety, wonderful dialogue and the character is a fully realised role to play. The actionís also incorporated into a story thatís worth telling.

"Itís also been a good few years since I did an adventure picture and now I am going into an area that I have not been in for some time and I like that contrast." When I point out that the release of Tomb Raider this summer will mean that British film audiences will have seen Glen as two consecutive baddies, he gives a Ďso whatí shrug. "I donít mind. There is something seedy and very Scottish about Beautiful Creatures while this villain is a very sophisticated, urbane, intelligent man. There is a great dry wit as he plays psychological mind games with Lara Croft. It is quite an intellectual journey on this one, thereís nothing gross or earthy about it." Warming to the subject, Glen agrees that it is certainly more fun to be given the villainís role. "Iím not sure why, maybe thereís an in-built duality in most villains that you donít often get in straight roles. As an audience you can try and work out their motives. You can also, usually, enjoy their come-uppance. "

"In real life, baddies - whether theyíre politicians, fraudsters or adulterers - often go unpunished. I suspect whatís exposed in the newspapers is the tip of the iceberg. So as a screen villain you have always got a few things to chuck around subtextually." While he can chat happily and enthusiastically about how and why an actor explores the dark side, Iain Glen is on less certain ground when our conversation turns to the computer game that has inspired the making of Tomb Raider. "Before I was asked to do the film I did not know the Tomb Raider game," he admits with a sheepish grin. "I suppose I am out of the age group when it became terribly popular. "But people have come into this film from all sorts of different angles. There are those who are very aware of the game and others, like myself, who arenít. It was good and quite healthy to analyse this script purely from a feature film point of view."

Naturally, of course, Glen has not been able to remain completely ignorant of the workings of the game that has sold millions of copies around the world. After he was cast as Manfred Powell the producers made him a gift of the game. "I dipped into it... but didnít fare very well. My five-year-old did much better but it was interesting to see what makes it so addictive. Itís a very sexy game, I think." Itís almost time for Glen to be nasty again to Angelina Jolie. Before he returns to the camera, I wonder whether he has any idea why so many men are infatuated with a computer graphic like Lara Croft? Some actors might fudge that one or not have a clue, but itís something that Iain Glen has obviously considered and he has an answer ready.

"Men really do like strong women and I think that is part of the attraction of Lara Croft," he says. "She is a very powerful lady. Her physical prowess is plausible. It doesnít go into the realms of deeply silly. But it is funny. How can you have a computer image that is that sexy? I donít know. But it is. I find it sexy."

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