CHARACTER WHISPERER. Jonny Pasvolsky got the chance to play the role of Emil Strago in “Mortdecai” that he so believed in. The ambitious Australian actor chats with DA MAN
Sweater by Ben Sherman
Jonny Pasvolsky is fortunate enough to do what he loves the most in acting: physical training. He plays in a rollicking action comedy of the silliest ilk, “Mortdecai,” which is littered with eccentric characters. With the main roles being obsessed on a painting that is worth a hell of a lot of money, he and the rest of the cast got involved in a bunch of rib-tickling action scenes. The movie was, Pasvolsky warmly commented, an offer he couldn’t resist and one that he wished to repeat all over again, given the involvement of director and seasoned screenwriter David Koepp and award-winning thespian Johnny Depp.
On a separate, Pasvolsky has also acted in quite a few Australian TV series. Recently Pasvolsky has been expanding his boundaries from acting in Hollywood to scriptwriting. This goes to show how “The Moodys” actor is so passionate about his craft and never wants to stop learning and practicing.
DA MAN: Hi Jonny! You’re acting in “Mortdecai” alongside Johnny Depp. What can we expect from the movie?
Jonny Pasvolsky: Expect a fight in a car of the oddest kind; Johnny Depp and I go head to head in a sword fight. And look out for a little personal Ode to Don Johnson, but you have to see the movie to know what that’s about.
DA: The movie is based on “The Mortdecai Trilogy” novels. How different is the movie from the novels?
JP: I think what’s most present in the film, apart from the adventures of Charlie Mortdecai, is the essence of the books, primarily the first and fourth book. The quality and style of comedy is so particular in Kyril’s work, and I think Eric Aronson did an incredible job of bringing it to life in the screenplay.
“When I read the script, I had such a strong response to it that I almost instantly heard Emil’s voice—how he talked”
DA: You play world criminal Emil Strago in “Mortdecai.” Who is Emil Strago in your own view?
JP: He’s just a man trying to make his mark on the world. Any world that he can find that will have him, even if it’s an enemy, recognizes his existence and tries to kill him. He’s a revolutionary looking for a revolution. The contradiction is that he actually loves so many things about the world that he is trying to destroy. He does a truly mediocre job of mastering the English language but does a great job of trying to destroy Charlie Mortdecai, in his almost OCD-ish pursuit of this mysterious painting.
DA: Was it difficult to act as Emil Strago? Did it involve a lot of physical work?
JP: I didn’t find it difficult to play Emil. When I read the script, I had such a strong response to it that I almost instantly heard Emil’s voice—how he talked. He was such a physical animal moving through the story that it begged for a very physical approach. David Koepp asked me to run across the location at one stage, and he became quite taken with the way Emil ran, so I ended up doing a lot of running. When I arrived in London, we began training for quite a large sword fight that Johnny Depp and I would be doing. We also had a very detailed fight in a car with Johnny, Paul Bettany and myself. There were some fun moments being strapped to the bonnet of a Rolls Royce traveling at high speed.
DA: Are there any funny behind-the-scene story you could share with us?
JP: We did a scene when Johnny and I came very close, face to face, mustache to mustache. David got us to play with the scene quite a bit, so we played. The only problem was it was very hard to keep a straight face. Johnny is incredibly funny and the slightest movement would set me off laughing. We did get it together eventually, only to have David crack up from behind the camera. He has a kind of high-pitched laugh which I found very funny. I blew a few takes, but David blew just as many!
DA: The movie has a star-studded cast including Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor. What was it like working with them?
JP: To be embraced so openly by them all, both in the work and off camera, made it an incredibly special experience for me. They were all consummate professionals and their level of play was the most exciting thing. It quickly became obvious to me that they are such highly respected actors for good reason, so it was important for me to bring my best work to the table. They did everything to encourage and support me in that pursuit.
Shirt by Zanerobe
DA: With most of your acting jobs based in Australia, how did you manage to snag a role in the US-based “Mortdecai”?
JP: My manager sent me the script and I self-taped in Sydney. The whole process took about a month and a half before I got the green light from the studio.
DA: Are you intending to move to the US and take on more projects in Hollywood?
JP: I will be working in Australia and the US in the next few years. At the moment I am based in Los Angeles.
DA: You also play Matt Capello in Australian TV series “The Moodys.” Could you tell us the basic plot of the series and why Matt Capello is such an interesting character to watch?
JP: “The Moodys” is about the members of a typical Australian family and the “unique” ways they deal with the problems in their lives. Matt Capello is an ego-driven real estate agent who works with one of the sisters and sleeps with her at the office Christmas party. When she tells him she’s pregnant, he takes a fair bit of convincing before he does the “right” thing by her. He then gets absorbed by the family, warts, whispers and all, becoming the fish out of water in the Moodys’ backyard.
DA: You’ve also acted in a number of Australian TV series such as “McLeod’s Daughters” and “Home and Away” over the years. What’s the biggest lesson you could sum up from working on TV productions?
JP: The quality of writing is everything. Be rigorous in your fight for it.
“No matter how dark or desperate the role, I’m always looking for the humor in that person”
DA: What’s your ideal acting role?
JP: I like characters with obsessions, with extreme needs but who lack the ability to satiate those needs. Whether it is dramatic or comedic. No matter how dark or desperate the role, I’m always looking for the humor in that person. That for me is the key to finding the human being in a character. Robert De Niro in “Midnight Run” and John Turturro in “Do The Right Thing” are some favorites.
DA: Do you have any new project you can share with us?
JP: I have a script I wrote that is looking for financing as we speak.
DA: What’s the best thing of being an actor?
JP: When you find that script or character that you so believe in, and getting to play that role. Emil Strago in “Mortdecai” was one of those moments.
DA: If you’re not an actor, what would you be or do?
JP: I came second in the Beverly Hills’ PickleFest earlier this year, so I’m considering starting a pickle factory. Then I’ll be Jonny Pickles!
DA: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard recently?
JP: I read somewhere that Steve Carell said, “Take your stupid seriously.” I have many improvisational characters that I use to create a lot of material. Stupid ones! When I read this, I printed it in big letters and put it up on the wall in my office. That, and I would die to work with Steve Carell.
Photography Jon Norris
Styling Eva Chafeh
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