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ATHENS (Reuters Life!) - Actor John Malkovich has played some dark characters over the years but few can be so controversial as the murderer he portrays in a production now touring Europe.
Malkovich is appearing in the chamber opera, "The Infernal Comedy - Confessions of a Serial Killer" as Jack Unterweger, an Austrian serial killer who murdered prostitutes with their bra straps.
Unterweger was jailed in 1974 but the courts released him in 1990, convinced he was a reformed man. He became a celebrated writer and journalist, but went on to kill again several times. He committed suicide after being convicted again in 1994.
Throughout his career, Malkovich seems to have attracted complicated, nasty characters but he says it's because he keeps getting the offers.
"If they choose me to play a gay travel agent who goes around London pretending he is Stanley Kubrick, I don't question that," said Malkovich, sitting in his dressing room before the performance in Athens.
"... and if they choose me to play Klimt or Vicomte de Valmont, I don't know, and I never ask, or to play in Disgrace, or the great Buck Howard, or a million things that I have done -- it's actually a question I never address."
Austrian Michael Sturminger directs the performance, where Malkovich, accompanied by the Wiener Akademie baroque orchestra and sopranos Bernarda Bobro and Aleksandra Zamojska, engages in a monologue-style performance as Unterweger, with a script full of cynical black humor chronicling the life of the killer.
Malkovich said he was interested in a project that included baroque music, but originally the performance was to be only a one day show in Los Angeles. But after it opened in Austria offers came in from European countries and it has been on the road since.
Malkovich is no stranger to the theater. It is where he began his career in 1976 before moving to films, and he has never strayed far for long, despite working on several movies a year at times.
This year Malkovich has worked on comic book western "Jonah Hex," Disney racehorse flick "Secretariat," and assassin thriller "Red" with Bruce Willis, while several other projects are in development.
"I did only theater for many years," he said. "I did my first film when I was 29 and I have been back in the theater either as an actor or director ever since.
"Movies are how I make my living and how I support many of the activities I do."
Sitting at a lonely desk on stage in subdued lighting, Malkovich sports an Austrian-English accent and is carried by the famous arias of the orchestra and soprano voices as he explains the motives of Unterweger in something between a comedy and a tragedy.
"I never get nervous. You have to have adrenalin, that's a different thing, but nerves I don't get, I never did and still don't," he said.
After scores of films, the 57-year-old academy award nominated actor takes a modest approach to his success these days, feeling lucky, he says, to be a working actor.
"I have done a lot in my life because I am blessed with more opportunities and good luck than anybody not only that I have ever met, but really ever heard of, so I am appreciative of that," he said.
"... but that also requires that you take responsibility for it ... that is something I take very seriously and always have and I assume always will.
"And if I don't, then I will stop, I hope."
Reporting by Deborah Kyvrikosaios; Editing by Steve Addison