INTERVIEW BY Matthew McLachlan & GALAXY
Clive Standen may have played all sorts of rough, tough, mean, and exceedingly badass characters throughout his acting career, but the second you talk to the guy, you see how truly sweet, funny, and annoyingly charming (in the best possible way) he actually is. In fact, it’s almost unfair how great the guy is while also being a 6ft 2in hunk of muscle. There should be a limit to how many abs you’re allowed to have with a great personality like that. #balance. Typically known for his portrayal on The History Channel’s Vikings as the morally flip-flopping, always shirtless, and definitely not a threat to your relationship character of Rollo, Clive has since moved on to star in several brand-new shows such as Mirage, Council of Dads, and more. We were lucky enough to catch up with him on a lazy Saturday to ask him some questions about acting, cartoons, Robin Hood, wasps, his man-crush on Viggo Mortenson, and the graphic novel he’s currently working on:
Even on the boats! It was ridiculous, we’d even have fights on the boats. They’d bring these little lunch bags or snack bags onto the boat because we’d have, you know, maybe thirty rowers and then all the crew and the actors who were on each longboat and they’d bring these little brown paper bags that’d often have a granola bar, an orange or some piece of fruit, and then maybe half a sandwich just to keep you going, but they often became little food fights in the middle of the ocean or the lakes because people would be getting oranges or something thrown at them from across the boat (laughs). Really childish stuff.
Which of your roles was the most difficult for you to capture?
The most challenging kind of transformation for me was a film I did called In Like Flynn in Australia based on a young Errol Flynn. I played this character Charlie who was a cross between Robert Shaw, Donald Pleasance, and a homeless man I grew up with who was quite a character who had a big presence. I was playing a fifty-five-year-old man and I was only thirty-five at the time, set in the 1930s and I had these big mutton-chops and put on loads of weight trying to capture this alcoholic crazy sailor who’s got imaginary friends and all sorts of stuff. The day in and day out of that was tough because I gave him gout in one leg, transformed the voice and it was this weird hybrid of the original “British Empire coming over to Australia” so it’s kinda half British half Australian accent, I mean there was a lot of time involved in getting under the skin of that character, took me a long time. Luckily, I had enough prep time. Very proud of that one. And really anything that scares me a bit, I like to take on the challenge.
Looking back on your career, what would you say was your personal favorite performance?
Well, I’d say without a doubt now it’d be Rollo from Vikings, because I’ve been able to develop him over 60-hours of TV which has been an incredible privilege to do that. He is such a formidable character to get beneath the skin of because he transforms himself nearly season to season, so it’s always been refreshing for me to kind of wipe the slate clean with that character and kinda go in a different way each season. So it was exciting to get to be a part of that journey. Definitely that character.
What’s the most random and funny story from your acting career you can think of?
I know everyone has one. Well, we had many duringthe filming of Vikings. It was a very big, practical jokes kinda set. Travis Fimmel is our lead actor and he’s quite a prankster Just to survive on set of Vikings you’d have to kind of get your prankhat on and everyone had to try and beat the last one. I remember one of the memorable pranks we did was covering all the crew member’s cars from top to toe in Saran wrap all the way around the car and then spray it all with shaving foam, so it was a big white mess. It was there until we finished work. We would take people’s phones and duct tape them to the top of the studio where you’d need a cherry picker or one of those giant cranes to get up there to take it down. You’d have to have eyes in the back of your head, because someone was always trying to prank you or was out to get you. (Laughs) It was all fun and games, though. When you’re on the top of a mountain, in hailstorms, and the freezing cold all day, no one really takes themselves seriously when you’re jost led around with Clive Standen/Vikings/History Channel Taken/NBC/Ask Men pranks and the fun of that.
Is there a role you have not played that you would like to play someday?
In the theatre world there’s the role of Chris in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. Henry V is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid and saw Kenneth Branagh performing it on screen. If they were remaking Highlander I’d love to play Kurgen because I can guarantee that I wouldn’t mess that up while also keeping the legacy of Clancy Brown’s Kurgen alive. So, that would be a good role to play. Even Jack Reacher would be great. I know Tom Cruise played him in the films, but now they’re doing a television series based on the actual books, which I think would be fantastic, I think
that’s a great character to get underneath. And, of course, James Bond is every British man’s dream to play. (laughs) But we’ll see. Oh! And Escape From New York! Snake Pliskin! One of my all-time heroes. Even my dog’s named after him. But I think I’d do a great job of a 2020 version of Snake Pliskin.
What makes you smile and what scares you the most?
My children. Every day. My youngest son’s outlook on life makes me laugh all the time. Let’s see. Dad jokes. Bad puns. Little moments of perfection. Ones that no one else shares that are just for you to see for a second, like the world has opened up just for you. I love those little moments when you catch yourself going, “No one else can see this but me,” and it gives you a little smile on the inside. And what scares me? Wasps. (laughs) I generally don’t like wasps. Spiders are fine, anything that is in the room that usually scares people, I’m fine. As long as I don’t go near it. But little wasps that buzz around your head and you can’t get rid of them and they’re in your ears, that’s the kind of thing that freaks me out. (laughs) If there’s a big spider or a big snake, or a crocodile, as long as it’s over there and I can see it, it doesn’t freak me out. If it’s up to me, I won’t go over and touch it. But wasps are my kryptonite.
Who is your celebrity crush?
Viggo Mortenson as Aragorn. (laughs) I think if I was in the presence of Viggo Mortenson, that’s the one person I wouldn’t know what to say. I would get completely star struck. I think he’s an incredible actor and all the characters he plays. And I’m a massive Lord of the Rings fan. The person who plays Aragorn will always be my hero.
What’s your biggest pet-peeve?
People that are late. So many actors think that the world revolves around them and they’re late for everything. I think it’s such a bad habit to get into. Even doing Comic Cons! When you do them, you’re at the hotel with all these different actors and they tell you to meet down in the foyer at 9.
But they’re actually intending to leave at 10 because there are always those actors who are so late that they tell everyone to meet at 9 because they expect everyone to be an hour late! So, I get there at 9 and realize I’m waiting around for an hour for these actors who couldn’t be bothered to get up in the morning (laughs). I’m even thinking as a fan as well, they’re at those Comic Cons, standing in line for a very, very long time and then not only was that person supposed to turn up at their booth at, like, 10am, they’re strolling up at 11:30 and they’ve got a coffee in their hand. And you see those guys at Comic Con all the time! And everyone’s probably in a queue for one actor and they’ve got a panel to go to a c cuple of hours later and they’ve planned their whole day out, but because some actor wanted extra bacon and eggs or couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed or set his alarm in the morning, those people’s whole Comic Con day is put into disarray. Drives me up the wall.
In one sentence, describe your job.
I get to go to work and do my hobby. It’s the old saying, “it’s not a job if you’re doing what you love.” The other answer is I get to lie for a living. (laughs).
Have you ever had a moment where you were talking to a friend and you thought, “Whoa, i just did the best scene of my life!” but it was in reality?
You have this thing as an actor, you don’t always “get it.” You start at the beginning and get to the middle and the end of a scene and you don’t really know what you did because you were so in the moment that you’re not monitoring yourself, you’re not monitoring your performance, you’re not monitoring the other actor and the nerves, the fear, it’s gone. You get to the end of it and you have no idea what you did! That’s usually your best take. That’s usually your best performance because you just leave yourself alone and are in the moment. It’s very hard to know until it comes out or until you get people turning around to you saying, “That was great!” It’s usually when you get to the end of a scene and you’re feeling like it’s actually a great scene, it probably wasn’t. That’s when you get all these comments and notes. Because you were too hard on yourself, you were monitoring yourself, you weren’t quite entirely present. So, it’s a very hard question to answer because I often feel that the best performance I do is when I get that moment where I wasn’t monitoring myself, I have no idea what came out of my mouth, what I did, because I was just listening and I was entirely present. Especially in theatre when you get off stage, people say, “That was an incredible performance!” and you’re like, “Was it?! I have no idea what I did! (laughs) I was just riffing!” But that’s the best feeling in the world.
Did you ever read comics growing up?
Oh, yeah! I love comic books. My favorite, actually, because I’m not sure if it was ever made it to America, but there was an old comic called Toxic when I grew up with a guy called Marshal Law, who was a superhero who killed superheroes. After the Vietnam War, there were lots of super-soldiers given powers and lots of the veterans were now going around using those powers to rob banks and become supervillains. As soldiers they had a lot of genetic testing done, so, for instance, Johnny Flame was in so much pain all the time because he was literally on fire. So, these people were nasty, horrible superheroes, and Marshal Law was employed by the government to wipe out all superheroes. Kind of the anti-superhero song, so I used to love that comic book. I’ve always thought Marshal Law would make a really good film! My brother is four years older and he was always on the forefront of all these things, so I’d always get his hand-me-downs and was always a few years behind, but that was one of them.
What cartoon do you still like to watch if you still watch any?
(laughs) Well, I’ve got 3 kids, so I haven’t stopped watching cartoons. There are certain cartoons that when your kids want to watch them, you’re like, “Oh, not again. I can’t watch that. I can’t watch Frozen for the fifteenth time.” But Finding Nemo I can watch over and over again. SpongeBob SquarePants. The Simpsons. My young son is into all of these animes like Bleach and things like that. But I like the old-fashioned cartoons. Tom and Jerry still makes me laugh. (laughs)
We heard that you’re currently writing a graphic novel!
I am, yeah! I’m working with a wonderful producer, Barry Levine, who produced Oblivion with Tom Cruise and we’re making the graphic novel in the hopes of turning it into a brand-new TV show. It’s set 4 years from now, with a war in America, and there are seventeen states left that remain and it’s very… complicated (laughs). But, yeah, we’re hoping to turn it into a TV show. It’s called American Carnage.
You actually grew up and worked in Sherwood Forest! Is that in Nottingham? Is that a true area?
Sherwood Forest is all the land surrounding Nottingham, which is exactly where Robin Hood came from. In the center of Sherwood Forest, there’s a ginormous tree that now needs ballasts to hold up the branches it’s that big. It’s called Major Oak which is where they believe the real Robin hood probably slept. But, yeah, I lived about fifteen miles from Sherwood Forest and I remember Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was at the cinema and I was about fourteen years old and they wanted to do the tales of Robin Hood to capitalize on the money the film was making, so they were casting for different roles and I was really young so they were looking for Little John’s son and that was my job. It was like a live reenactment where tourists would be taken on adventure walks and I would be in a tree saying, “Quick! Get off the road, the Sheriff’s men are coming! The Sheriff’s men are coming!” And then men would gallop by and grab me, throw me on the back of their horse, and gallop off. And then Robin Hood would turn up and say, “Where’d they take him?” And Little John would say, “Where’s my son?!” The tour would end up around Major Oak and there’d be a massive skirmish and Robin and his men would fight the sheriff and his men to get me back. We’d have jousting, we’d hit cabbages with swords, all sorts of stuff (laughs). But I was doing that when I was fourteen years old. Because it was more fun than working in a clothes shop or a McDonald’s or something like that. It was cash in hand, and I had no idea I wanted to be an actor at that point, I just really loved dressing up and having fun! Getting paid to have fun for a living! Which is still what I do! (laughs)
Did you go through any special training for that? Were you an athlete?
Back then, these guys would make their own armor underneath their costumes and we’d just smack each other with metal swords, like, real steel swords! (laughs) Which were just blunt but there were still all sorts of injuries. If there was a health and safety officer, we would’ve been closed down overnight, but back then, we’d camp in the forest, get up, put on a big show for the tourists, and get paid cash in hand by the Sherwood Forest boys. Back in those days, you didn’t seem to care so much about health and safety (laughs).
Who was your favorite Robin Hood leading star?
Oh, it has to be Errol Flynn! I mean the swashbuckling! (laughs) I will always be a fan of Errol Flynn. That’s actually another character I’d like to play is Errol Flynn in the later years of his life.
I mean, no one turned up to his funeral and he was such an amazing guy and in Hollywood they laid out all these chairs thinking this major movie star was going to have all these fans turn up to his funeral and no one did. I mean, it was such sad end. It was a little bit like Elvis Presley dying on the toilet.
What are your top movies you would like to maybe star in.
7. Escape From New York
6. Short Circuit
4. Jack Reacher
3. A serious pirate film, it would be wonderful.
2. Alien or another Aliens. Something set before Aliens and Alien 3.
1. James Bond
What’re some of the things you like to do in your spare time?
My passion really is scuba diving, I love the ocean. Any time I can get a little time off or I can go somewhere, I love to get in the ocean and just be underwater and see as much as I can. Anywhere I can go where there’s whales, dolphins, and sharks I’m generally a happy person.
What do you feel about celebrities who date fans? (laughs) I don’t know! I’ve never met anyone who has, but to each their own, love is love, I suppose! At the end of the day we’re all human beings, no matter what we do for a living. I always think as well, people always ask, “What do you do for a living?” and that’s one of the first things you ask when you meet a new person and I always thought it would be better to start a conversation with, “Are you happy?” Ya know? “What makes you happy?” And that’s the most important thing. And if two people love each other, that’s all the matters.