Paul Bettany interview
Actor Paul Bettany on Shooting 'Dogville' With Lars von Trier
Dogville is set in the 1930s in a small mining village in Colorado... My character thinks he runs the town. He thinks of himself as a writer and philosopher, but he's never written anything and he doesn't think very deeply, actually. He's Lars, basically - but then we all are! Lars being angry with himself for being a fraud. Then Nicole Kidman's character shows up, on the run from gangsters, and the town has to decide whether or not to hide her.
'It's very Brechtian and very manipulative, like Frank Capra meets Lars von Trier: "It's a Shit Life" instead of "It's a Wonderful Life". And it's three hours long.
'After the first hour it's reallly absorbing. But Lars, it's almost like he's angry at his audience, he just gives them nothing. There's no scenery, no sets, no camera moves (it's just a video camera on his shoulder). There's Nicole, Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara, but he picked every take where we're doing nothing, just a monotone. There's so much work to do. And you can't believe the anger with which it unfolds. But what makes the last two hours amazing is the amount of work you put into that first hour.
'Because he shoots on video, if you shoot an 11 hour day and an hour for lunch, he's got ten hours of footage of you doing it every which way, you really have no power over the performance, you're just there to give him colours. It's actually quite freeing, you act for the enjoyment of getting carried away in a story, like a child. He says its like shooting wildlife.
'But you're trying to do ultra-realistic acting with very stilted dialogue which has been translated from Danish into English. It's very manipulative and very Brechtian.
'Lars would tell you he's a charlatan, but he thinks he's a genius. And he is. This is what is annoying about him. He's very cruel to work for, and cruellest to himself, so it's okay. Lars insisted we all stay in the same hotel and he put me in the room next to his. Very weird stuff happened. There would be a knock on my door at three in the morning, and Lars would be there in the corridor wearing nothing but a mobile phone, and he'd say: "Paul, can you lend me a pair of underpants?". I'm like: "Yes, Lars."
'He's a nutcase. A bullied child. Parents gave him no boundaries. Never lied to him, to the point where he'd ask his mum could he die in his sleep and she'd say "Well, it could happen, though it's very unlikely, some children do die in their sleep." And he's terrified.
[Actor] Stellan Skarsgaard puts it best: his films are like dolls' houses, and we're the dolls - then he gets a pair of scissors and just chops our heads off. And gets his joy out of it. As far as he's concerned, every film he's made is a comedy...'