Scene-Stealer Mark Strong Prefers to Stay Undercover On and Off Screen

You may not know his name, but you definitely know the work of British actor Mark Strong. Not only has he been popping up in a slew of huge movies, he's usually been the best thing in them. From "RockNRolla" to "Kick Ass" to the first "Sherlock Holmes" to "Green Lantern" and now the all-star spy thriller "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," Strong is a force to be reckoned with.

With even more high-profile roles ahead (including the sci-fi epic "John Carter"), the actor tells PopcornBiz why he generally prefers to stay out of the spotlight of fame.

On his long familiarity with the source material for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”:

"You grow up as a schoolboy in England and if you’re reading anything at all, eventually you’re going to come across John LeCarre. I read it in my late teens so I was aware of it. Then I really enjoyed 'Let the Right One In.' I thought Tomas Alfredson was a great director and film is a director’s medium so you want to make sure you’re in safe hands. Then I found out what the cast was, some of them. Most importantly, I just thought Jim Prideaux was a really interesting character to play, in light of what I’ve been doing recently. So all those things meant it was an easy choice."

On acting for the camera:

"I find it more satisfying, because you’re not having to worry about performance. Theatrical performance, for example, in the theater, you need to make people who are sitting 50 yards away, or however far they are at the back of the theater hear and see what you’re doing. I love film because the camera examines you. What this film allowed us to do was to be incredibly subtle with every moment. I didn’t feel I had to transmit anything to make anybody understand anything. I just had to feel it and be it. There is this saying in film: 'Don’t show it, be it.' Some people would argue that’s the difference between good and bad film acting."

On his role as the mysterious Matai Shang in the big screen adaptation of “John Carter”:

"I’m not in it as much as the trailer might perhaps suggest because there’s a lot of us in it and there’s a big storyline between two warring tribes. There’s a big love story going on as well. My bit is one aspect of the film. Enough to be there as a presence. It’s my favorite kind of part. You just pop in and make stuff happen with the few scenes that you have."

On the possibility of reprising his role as Sinestro in a “Green Lantern” sequel:

"I think the studio would like to. It didn’t make the money that they wanted it to make, but I think what they’ve done is they feel they have a property that is interesting enough if they get it right. And now the advertising, the groundwork has been laid with the first one, and I think they genuinely feel – because I think that the second one exists in written form – they have something that could work. Having said all that, I’ve actually heard nothing and I have no idea whether they will go again, but I know there are two schools of thought: One, it didn’t work, it didn’t make the money so we don’t make another one. And the other school of thought is 'Imagine if we made a really, really good second movie – It could fly.' I got into the mythology of Green Lantern. I read all the comic books, or as man as I could, and I slightly got hooked. I got into that character. And if the second movie is exploring Sinestro’s fall, then I’d be very interested, yeah."

On how his increasing popularity messes with his desire to be chameleon-like:

"I think inevitably I can’t hide in the way that I’ve always enjoyed in the past, because part of the joy of this has been cropping up in things that people have no idea it’s me. I really enjoy that. I love it if somebody makes the connection during the film or after the film: 'My God, that’s THAT guy!' I take a kind of perverse pleasure in that."


"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is in theaters now.

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