Independent Bettany is banking on Blood

Mark Strong as Robert Seymour and Paul Bettany as Joe Fairburn in Blood. PA Photo/Charlie Gray/Entertainment One.
Mark Strong as Robert Seymour and Paul Bettany as Joe Fairburn in Blood. PA Photo/Charlie Gray/Entertainment One.
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Paul Bettany wouldn’t be the first actor to sound a note of bitterness about the current state of his profession.

But unlike many of his contemporaries who seem content to soldier on, however jaded they might be feeling, Bettany has decided to take action.

“As Gandhi said, I’ve decided I’m going to be the change I want to see in the world,” he says.

“A big ask, I know,” Bettany adds, laughing, his tall, slim frame awkwardly perched on a hard-backed chair.

“But I want to start writing, directing and making movies like John Cassavetes [the Rosemary’s Baby actor who turned his hand to directing independent movies], who just did what he wanted to do,” adds Bettany, 41, who’s promoting the small independent movie Blood.

A graduate of the Drama School in London, Bettany landed his first film role in 1997’s Bent opposite Sir Ian McKellen before winning critical acclaim for his first lead in Gangster No 1.

He went on to star in A Knight’s Tale with the late Heath Ledger, Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World with Russell Crowe and The Da Vinci Code alongside Tom Hanks.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been the odd howler along the way. Not even the sight of Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp could save The Tourist.

But it’s 2001’s A Beautiful Mind that he talks wistfully about when reflecting on his career.

Not only did he meet his future wife, Jennifer Connelly, on set but the success of that movie, about a brilliant but mentally troubled mathematician, seems to mark an artistic heyday.

“It grossed over 100 million dollars at the cinema. That’s not going to happen any more,” says Bettany, who bemoans the commercially-driven movies that now dominate the cinematic landscape.

This may be a tad hypocritical coming from the man who has voiced Jarvis (Iron Man’s advanced computer system) in all three of the movies starring Robert Downey Jr and The Avengers spin-off.

But while the pay packets for those studio-financed films have evidently proven persuasive, blockbusters aren’t where his heart lies.

“There is less and less interesting work out there,” Bettany says, sighing. “Look at The Godfather, which was the summer blockbuster [in 1972]. It would never happen in a million years any more.

“The fact it’s not [like] the Seventies is really frustrating. However, even more frustrating is listening to myself moan about it.”

And for that reason he’s taken it upon himself to hunt out work that truly interests him – like Blood, a British psychological thriller about two detective brothers, Joe (Bettany) and Chrissie (Stephen Graham).

For years they have lived in the shadow of their father Lenny (Brian Cox), a figurehead of the community but an uncompromising man who ran the police department with an iron fist and bullied his two sons.

With Lenny showing signs of early dementia, the brothers take it upon themselves to find the killer when a local girl is murdered.

He likens the film ‘to a mix of urban British thriller and Greek tragedy’ and credits the director Nick Murphy (Occupation, The Awakening) for steering a beautifully written story.