Off Script: Mark Strong Talks Shaves, Steaks and New York City Strolls for 'A View From the Bridge'
"There’s part of me that wonders whether you're 'out of sight, out of mind' when it comes to voting," says the Tony nominee. "I hope they’d vote for it without needing to see me at some cocktail party."
Mark Strong is incredibly excited to return to New York City. The seasoned character actor received a Tony nomination for playing the dangerously single-minded Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone in Ivo van Hove's acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge, the same role for which he won an Olivier Award in London. THR’s review of the limited run, which wrapped in February, said, “This ensemble superbly captures that complexity of people isolated by their own anxieties while being pulled into a calamity that will scar them all. The fulcrum of that seething mass is Strong, who gives a performance of such coiled menace and blistering rage you wonder how he has anything left to carry him home at the end of the play.”
"I haven’t been able to take part in any of the Tony celebrations because I’ve been filming, so it’s slightly tragic that I haven’t been able to enjoy the full experience," he tells The Hollywood Reporter after another day on the Kingsman: The Golden Circle set. "With the play having finished a long time ago, there’s part of me that wonders, whether you’re 'out of sight, out of mind' when it comes to voting. I don’t really know how it works, whether you have to be there, pressing the flesh and saying hi to people to remind them. In a way, it doesn’t really matter. I’d like the performance to stand for itself, and if people felt that moved or impressed by it, I hope they’d vote for it without needing to see me at some cocktail party.”
Strong, 52, goes Off Script to explain why he changed his underwear during the show every night, how his toughest scene left him speechless and why the play fascinated so many Hollywood names like Mark Ruffalo, Joel Coen and Jake Gyllenhaal.
What did you admire most about your character, Eddie Carbone?
That’s a tricky one because what I admired may not have been the thing the audience admired. I admired the fact that he thought he was doing the right thing. He genuinely believed he was protecting Catherine, but of course, in protecting her his way, it was the worst possible thing he could’ve done for her. I admired his honesty and his desire to be a good guy, but unfortunately, that went wrong and he ended up being the bad guy.
What new habits did you adopt for this role?
Shaving my face and my head every day. There was something about getting clean in that way to be able to go on and play this guy.
Mark Strong and the ensemble cast of 'A View From the Bridge.' Photo credit: Joan Marcus
What did you give up to play this role?
Movies. I hadn’t been onstage for twelve years, so I had to make a commitment to do a play for about 36 weeks [over the course of two years]. And sadly, though they’ve forgiven me for it, I gave up putting my kids to bed every night, but I was there for them every morning.
What time did you wake up on a show day?
I was up at 7, make them breakfast and put them on the yellow school bus. Then I’d go for a run or play in a soccer league. I’m not good at going back to sleep once I’ve woken up; I haven’t had a lie-in pretty much since my kids were born.
What was something special in your dressing room?
Danny, my dresser and a very lovely man, brought in an old-school antique lamp from the ‘30s with an intricate pottery base and put a gorgeous shade on it to cast a softer light. It made the whole atmosphere much less harsh before going onstage.
Any pre-show rituals?
I didn’t take the subway to the show; I used to walk up 7th Ave and just soak up the city on my way to the theater. I’d think, “I’m going to play Eddie Carbone in A View From the Bridge on Broadway,” which, for a Brit, is a very special thing to be privileged to do. I loved that I was playing an iconic New York character on a New York stage. When we played it in England, it seemed exotic because it takes place on the other side of the Atlantic. But in New York, the audience knew the world this guy came from.
Did you eat dinner before or after a performance?
Beforehand. If it was a two-day show, I’d go across the road to Bond 45 and treat myself to a lovely steak. People often like to go for a meal after the show, but I always find that tricky; I’ve got too much energy to sit in a restaurant. I used to walk home from the theater.
What did you do when weren’t onstage during the show?
Since the first scene had me shower in a rather traditional pair of white undergarments, I would run upstairs at the first moment I got and change my knickers and put black ones on so that the poor costume people wouldn’t have to rinse blood out of my undergarments every night and try to make them white again.
What was your toughest scene?
It’s not a scene I was, strictly speaking, in. It’s the one in the lawyer’s office, when Marco is being persuaded by the lawyer not to take vengeance after his life has been destroyed by Eddie. Although the character wasn’t in that scene, I was sitting there in the back of the stage listening to him as an actor. It was always very hard to hear how much Eddie’s behavior had affected the other people in the play, and it’s in that moment that I used to sit there and fall apart inside.
That’s what enabled me to play the final scene: a guy in the midst of the grand self-delusion. He thinks that by roaring his way out of the problem, he can vindicate himself and his actions. But he knows what he’s done, he’s terrified of what people will think of him, and he knows it’s too late.
Did you have trouble sleeping afterward?
Not before 1 a.m.
What did you do on your day off?
Explore. Coney Island, upstate, all over the place, everywhere there was to visit in and around Manhattan. It’s such an amazing city with so much to do.
Favorite backstage guest?
Bradley Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal and Susan Sarandon came back because I think they were blown away by the style of the production. Mark Ruffalo and I chatted long into the evening. And Joel Coen — we nearly did No Country for Old Men together and I had worked with his wife, Frances McDormand. He was fascinated by how clear the play becomes when you eliminate all the props and the set. The truth about theater is, we know it’s not real, but we’re doing it to engender emotions in people.
Best stage door reaction?
I particularly remember one woman for whom this play was her first ever, and she had no idea what she was in for. She had been locked back in her heels, and it made her want to see more theater. You can’t ask for more than that.