“When I start to see a path to explore for a character then I really go for it,” says Michael Sheen, who describes his villain in this week’s TRON: Legacy as equal parts Mae West and Ziggy Stardust. “That’s part of what I really enjoy.” For the film’s key digital villain, Castor, the British actor dug deep into the back catalog of the Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie. “I did spend a lot of time watching Bowie,” Sheen continues. “The idea behind this guy is that he’s able to change and assimilate things; he’s very chameleon-like, and that’s what made me think of Bowie.”
For Sheen, a fan of the original TRON since seeing it in theaters in 1982, there’s a certain amusement in the fact that Disney’s massive sci-fi project revolves around the very mellow Jeff Bridges. “There’s a sort of spiritual white Russian inside him all the time,” Sheen laughs. “In the middle of all this technology, you know, this huge, amazing world that’s been created — and there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of anticipation, a big budget, a lot riding on it and all that — at the center of it all is The Dude. It’s this guy going “Hey maaaaan.”
Here then, are Michael Sheen’s Five Favorite Films.
It has a strange beauty about it. It has a deceptively simple story. It has all the classic trademarks of someone who introduces you to a special, magical world, and yet you are able to then see your own world completely differently. There’s always something slightly uncanny about what Powell and Pressburger did — if you think about The Red Shoes or The Tales of Hoffman, and things later like Peeping Tom, films like that. They’re just extraordinary.
It’s a film I’ve watched so many times, and every time I watch it I find something new in it. Again, it’s got kind of a strange beauty about it: it’s disturbing and kind of magical, and mythical and mysterious, and just shot amazingly. And there’s kind of a madness in it, which I really like as well. The original version, because that’s the one I know the best.
It’s a film like the other two, in a way, which has grown as I’ve grown; it’s changed with me. You think of films as being finished, completed things that never change, but actually they do change — because we change. And so a film like Close Encounters, when I first watched it — when I was much younger — it scared me to death, and now it’s a film that I find intensely moving. It’s an almost spiritual film. Spielberg is just, I think, a genius in being able to tell a very simple story and get to something so complex and profound. I think he does in E.T. as well, to a certain extent, but this one I find one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen.
Okay, I will pick a film with Bowie in it. [laughs] I’m going to say The Last Temptation of Christ, where he plays Pilate. All the Romans are English, and all the Jews are American. [laughs] I think it’s just a perfect piece of filmmaking. It’s brave and it’s imaginative and it’s about the most kind of profound things, and yet it’s very human. And the music — Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack is incredible. Again, every time I watch it… it’s the same with a lot of Scorsese’s films — as soon as you turn the channel and come across one, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you sort of can’t stop watching it, because he’s a master story teller. That’s my five for today.
TRON: Legacy is in theaters this week.