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Lee Pace has a busy summer: His new series about computer programming in the 1980s, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, just premiered last Sunday, and then he vaults to the big screen on Aug. 1 playing the villain in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
In it, Pace plays Ronan the Accuser, the genocidal leader of the alien Kree race, whom the actor compares to Osama bin Laden. Ronan strikes a deal with the intergalactic dictator Thanos (the purple guy from the post-credits scene in The Avengers) to retrieve a powerful artifact in exchange for wiping out Ronan’s enemies. Director James Gunn told Yahoo Movies UK that Ronan is “a really twisted guy … He believes that strength is virtue and weakness is sin and that’s what he lives by. He’’’s very scary because of that.”
It’s a darker turn for Pace, who’s probably still best known as a likable, aw-shucks TV leading man from Bryan Fuller’s two canceled-too-soon series Pushing Daisies and Wonderfalls. Buthe’s also celebrated huge movie success over the last five years, including parts in The Hobbit, The Twilight Saga, and Lincoln … and then there was that ill-advised time he starred opposite a CGI dog in Marmaduke. He breaks them all down for Yahoo Movies here.
Guardians of the Galaxy is getting a lot of buzz.
Chris Pratt is awesome. He is like a decent, decent man – old-fashioned Hollywood star. He’s easy and honorable and funny. I had the best time… we didn’t have too many scenes together, but when we did, you don’t stop laughing. I mean, I’ve got a little bit of Ned [from Pushing Daisies] in me – I’m awkward. You play a character that long and it draws something out in you – but after doing Guardians of the Galaxy I’m now much more evil than I ever thought I would be. Super, super evil. [Laughs]
There’s been a lot of secrecy surrounding your character. What more can you reveal about Ronan, besides his super evilness?
I’ve never played a character like Ronan before. I like a bombastic villain, and that’s what I had a good time doing. It was the most fun playing this character… I was stronger than I’ve ever been, doing all this training, and the character is just a beast. He’s just so evil. At first when I started working on him, I was thinking, “We’ve seen so many great performances of villains by very talented actors in superhero movies. I’ve got to find something relatable about this guy.” But the more I played him, the more fun I had with just being evil. [Laughs] Evil, evil, evil. He’s an alien – there’s no kind of human rules. There’s nothing to relate to, actually. It just became, like, the more dark I could conceive of him, the more I understood him.
What’s your most evil trait? Is it the eyebrows?
You don’t even see my eyebrows! It’s covered up with that black ceremonial paint. He’s like Osama bin Laden – he’s like a religious fanatic. It’s so cool. When in my life did I think I’d be playing a character like this? When I got the call about this, I was like, “What? OK, OK… I’m in.” I’d auditioned for Star-Lord, and then Chris obviously got the part… and then they called my agent and said, “We have another part for him!” So I quickly put that on tape and Ronan worked out.
The Hobbit was another huge film, where you played elf king Thranduil.
I love being a part of Middle Earth. I read The Hobbit when I was a little kid with my dad. I was 9 or 10, and it was one of the first books that I read. I don’t know if you know this but Bilbo Baggins is buried in Chickasha, Oklahoma. That’s where I was born and where my father grew up and where his parents lived. There was a cemetery nearby with a tombstone that said “Bilbo.” And so my dad told me that’s where Bilbo Baggins was laid to rest. [Laughs] Oh god, I’m probably talking about someone’s poor granddad… but it was Bilbo. And in high school I have such a distinct memory of reading Lord of the Rings and having a new understanding for nature. There are great songs about the beach and the trees in the woods… I never imagined I would be an elf in the movies.
But you haven’t always been so lucky with so many huge movie roles. There are a few question marks on your resume. Or one.
Yeah, the thing that I judged myself the harshest for was a kids’ movie that I did.
Oh just say it! Say it!
Marmaduke! Marmaduke! I did Marmaduke. At the time I gave myself a real hard time for it, but I’m so grateful… whenever kids come up to me, the parents are like, “We watched it everyday for a month.” You don’t get that on Soldiers Girl. A little bit different. [Laughs] But… oh god please don’t take this the wrong way, I have to be grateful for the work that I get. And I am grateful!
What I was really kind of annoyed with myself about was I’d just finished Pushing Daisies and I was really sad that that was over. And I know that I wasn’t responsible for it being over, but I was the lead of that show, and when it falls apart, you do feel a little bit of like, “Aww… I must’ve missed it. Maybe I’m responsible for why people didn’t watch. Maybe if I was in tabloids more, people would be more interested.” These are the kind of things that go through your head.
And so I felt like I was lazily doing a cheap version of Ned. I was doing that “Like me!” dance that a lot of actors do. It’s easy to get caught up in that. “Do you like me? Do you like me like this? What if I do that? What if I wear this?” At the time I was thinking, “I’ve got to take it because I might not be able to do this forever.” You know? But you take it and you learn. I learned a lot on that movie. You always learn something if you pay attention.
Photo Credits: Marvel Studios, Ethan Miller/Getty Images, Warner Bros. Pictures