You may know him best as Dracula, but Claes Bang's roles are wide and varied. In the upcoming The Burnt Orange Heresy, Bang stars alongside Elizabeth Debicki (Tenet) as failing art critic James, desperate to be back in the spotlight.
Bang joined a video call with Digital Spy from Belfast, where Bang is filming The Northman with Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman, to talk about becoming a sex symbol, that bathtub scene, and how filming has changed during Covid.
A lot of people have you asked about becoming a sex symbol. Has that been a lot of pressure for you?
I mean, it's not something I ever think about in my work at all. But it is true, what you say – it is a question that I get a lot. But it's like, to me, it's a little bit weird, because that's never where I start: I never start thinking about the sexiness of anything.
If that comes out, or if that's a side-effect of something, it's absolutely fine, but that's never where I would start. And it's not something that I'm… I don't know. It's not something that does anything for me, in a way.
It's fine if it has that thing. But I think if I started to… If I started to sort of work from there, I think it'd be almost… There would be no content, somehow. It's… [sighs] I don't know what to say. If some sort of sexiness comes from it or with it, that's fine. But it's never, ever something I think about.
Speaking of it, in The Burnt Orange Heresy, there's the bathtub scene, we were thinking, 'Oh my god, that bathtub looks so tiny.' And it's so interesting what different people pick up on in those moments but it also felt very illustrative of his misfitting-ness in this world and this house. We thought that was so interesting.
That's funny. He's slightly oversized? OK, I get it.
His limbs are spilling out of the tub. It was such an interesting shot.
That's interesting. I've always been too big for almost all the bathtubs that I've been in, so I never think about that. But I can see it's like a giant spider with far too long legs coming out of the bath. But the thing is, I actually privately have… There's also the scene with the bathtub at the end.
When we did shoot that, there's a photo of me and Elizabeth between takes sitting in the bathtub, and she's almost as tall as I am. It's just arms and legs everywhere. It's like two really far-too-big people sitting in a bathtub, waiting for the next take.
What struck us about Elizabeth in Tenet was how much her height was used in a different way. And having now watched her in this with you where you're actually taller than her – not by much, than you are…
I think it's like this: I'm half a centimetre taller. It's nothing. She is really tall. I remember, the first thing I said when I met her – it was very embarrassing, but the first thing I said when I met her was: 'Oh, f**k, finally they found someone who fits my size.' [laughs]
She was like, 'Uh.., thank you for saying that?' That was very stupid. But apart from that…
All those things – about height and who's sitting and who's standing and who's taller – they all relate back to power, which is so much of what this film also felt like. How do you reclaim that power over your life?
Yeah. Yeah. It's… I think that's spot on. That is what this is about. It's about sort of taking that control back, or getting— but can we ever… will it ever be more than… it'll always just be an illusion, won't it?
On really good days, you have a feeling of: 'I'm totally in control of everything, and everything's going really well.' And then the next day, everything totally f**ks up. And you realise: 'I'm in control of absolutely f**k all – nothing.'
So I think that idea that you can control anything will always be an illusion. And in these times, with the COVID thing, I think what is really getting to me here is the alienation of the whole thing. I have no clue who I'm working with. 95% of the people that I go to work with every day, I would walk straight past them in the street – I would not be able to recognise them because when I'm with them and working, they're in masks and visors and hats and scarves.
I have a feeling that I am in the sort of communicating business, in a way, and what we ends up trying to do ends up being something that is supposed to communicate something and convey something.
And that communication starts with the communication that we have with each other on set. So that thing of being not able to do that, it feels really impairing in a way. I can't wait for this to be over. I have to say, I think it's really tough.
The Burnt Orange Heresy is at UK cinemas from October 30
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