May 12, 2010 / 1:45 PM / in 8 years

Mark Strong Hollywood's "go-to" villain

CANNES, France (Reuters) - British actor Mark Strong is very good at being very bad.

The 46-year-old, who stars in “Robin Hood” which opens the Cannes film festival on Wednesday, has fast become one of Hollywood’s first-choice villains, putting the menace into method acting in movies like “Syriana” and “Sherlock Holmes.”

“I do love these characters and as an actor you’ve got a hell of a lot to get hold of, and the challenge is not to make them two-dimensional and to find something in there,” Strong told Reuters in a recent interview to promote Robin Hood.

“I’ve played good guys in the past, I’ve played comedy roles in the past, I‘m looking to do that again in the future. But for right now I‘m very happy in this kind of rich vein of villains.”

He added that an actor had less control over his career than many would imagine.

”The career tends to happen to you, because all you can do is really say no to certain things, you can’t actively go: ‘Right, I‘m going to be a leading man now.’

“You have to wait for that to come your way and then choose the right one. So really careers tend to happen to actors rather than the other way around.”

Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood stars Russell Crowe in the title role and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion in a prequel to more familiar big-screen storylines based on the English legend.

Strong appears as Sir Godfrey, the English king’s henchman who seeks to betray his country to the French in the 13th century.

“The interesting twist on this character is that he’s a traitor, he has something to gain from everything, he’s not inherently evil,” said Strong.

“He has the possibility of power should he help the French invade. So creating that guy within the context of the history of the time was the challenge because he didn’t actually exist either in the myths and legends or in fact in reality.”

According to Strong, Scott’s story helps to explain why Robin Hood may have become the mythical outlaw he did.

“What they’ve done with this is fascinating because they have decided to shoot an origins story,” he said.

“By basing it in the reality of the time it is feasible that a young lad would have gone to the crusades and returned as a man and not know where he comes from.”

Early reaction to the movie, which hits theatres on May 14, has been mixed, with 15 of 24 reviews surveyed by the Rotten Tomatoes website giving Robin Hood the thumbs up.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato

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