Please develop the connection with Ricky Gervais.
It’s just that he is desperately insecure and insecurity manifests itself in bragging. I like people like that. He now has deep regret and emotional guilt, but he cannot feel any of these things. He therefore only exists on his sociopathic charm and his need for validation. Someone like Hopper [in “Stranger Things”] has guilt, but it’s so internal, while it’s loud all over the place. Smelly and sweaty and fat and hairy. So cranky, as the kids say.
Is it flattering to be told by a director that she sees you as that person?
I have such a strange ego. I’m still flattered, and then I look back years later and I’m like, what were you flattered about? I’m kind of an outcast myself. Growing up, I certainly was. And I always wanted to play because I wanted people to feel less alone. Even when I was playing the bad guys, people would say, “There was a way to humanize the experience so that we understood someone, instead of judging them. So that’s what flatters me – you’re using me as an artist to understand this deeply troubled and confusing individual that a less capable person would laugh at. Maybe I’ll do both. But I hope I can give you some understanding of him.
Have you ever worked with Johansson, Pugh or Rachel Weisz, who embody the other members of your makeshift family?
I had never even met them. But then we had rehearsals for about two weeks, which is rare on a film of this size, and we really took that family dynamic into account right from the start. I felt like Rachel was the woman I was supposed to be with – no offense to Lily Allen, because she’s the one real no one I was meant to be with – but I felt like there was something beautiful about Melina and Red Guardian. Scarlett felt like the oldest child; I started to see her as stiff in a way, and I started to laugh at her stiffness. And Florence really felt like the baby of the family; I just wanted to pamper her and make her laugh.
What did you film first: the prologue scenes where your character is groomed and groomed, or the main sequences where he left in germ?