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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Exclusive Alfred Molina interview

by Andy Gibbons

He’s been a staple of summer blockbusters for a few years and now perennial baddie (but they thoroughly, toughly affable) Brit actor Alfred Molina is back playing a sinister wizard in Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. And we caught up with him for a chat to find out about the film, the special effects and the secret of Jerry Bruckheimer’s considerable success.

Tell us a bit about your character and how he fits into the scheme of things in the movie.

I play Maxim Horvath, who is a Morganian (an evil sorcerer) who, as opposed to Balthazar Blake, played by Nicolas Cage, who is a Merlinian (a good sorcerer) and the back story is that we were protégées or apprentices to Merlin and the other apprentice was a girl called Veronica [who] we fell out over her; this was a thousand years ago. Then Nic Cage’s character took the road of good and my character took the road of evil so it’s basically a classic tale of the struggle for world domination between Nic Cage and Alfred Molina.

It’s another summer blockbuster for you and yet another villain – what is it about you and the bad guy?

Well we’re a perfect fit, a match made in heaven (laughs). I love playing bad guys. If I go down occupying a tiny little footnote in the history of films as a bad guy, that’ll suit me. I belong to a rather honourable traditional of British actors who’ve gone to Hollywood to play the villain; it goes right back to Basil Rathbone and Brian Aherne and all those guys and it’s a very nice gig. I was talking to Bob Hoskins the other day who said ‘Playing the bad guy is great because you work half the amount of time as the leading man, they treat you like the crown jewels and if the movie stinks, nobody blames you.’

And the bad guy in this certainly gets the best costumes…

Fabulous costumes. I was teasing (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer about it, I said ‘This is bit of a step up from all that crap you gave me to wear in Prince Of Persia’. They were like someone’s dirty pyjamas (laughs).

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has lots of CGI and effects but it right you went old school for the scene in which your fingers are on fire?

Yeah, and that was a really old trick. When I read it in the script I thought ‘Oh, they’ll CGI that’ but this special effects guy comes up and they made this glove from this very, very thin rubber which they moulded to my hand and then they put flame retardant tape on the fingers. Then they rubbed the fingers with this kind of paraffin gel and said ‘Ok, this is how it works. On action we will light up your hand, it will burn and you will have between 10 to 15 seconds before it starts to get really warm. Carry on as long as possible but when it starts to get uncomfortable dip you hand in this other solution which will put it old.’ And that was it, it worked great and it looks great. But it a very strange sensation looking at your hand and watching it alight.

You pretty much went from one Bruckheimer film in Prince Of Persia straight in this, another film of his…

Yeah, that was just fortuitous; it certainly wasn’t planned but it was a very happy accident. We were just coming towards the end of filming Prince Of Persia when one of the producers who was on both movies said ‘We’re doing this movie and we’re drawing up a list of actors – would you consider doing another film with us?’ It wasn’t an offer – they made that very clear – but I said yes and it all worked out.

Bruckheimer seems to have a bit of a midas touch when it comes to movies. Why do you think he keeps churning out hit after hit after hit?

I’m not quite sure what it is really. I could give you a bullsh*t answer but the truth is I think it’s some kind of alchemy, some sort of sixth sense. I think he’s got some feel for what’s popular and I think part of it is that he’s a movie fan himself and he follows his instincts. At some level I think he’s able to ask himself the questions ‘What do I want to go and see?’ and he follows that instinct. He understands where he’s going with it and what’s required.

You share a lot of screen time with Toby Kebbell in the film. As an up-and-comer, how do you rate him?

Oh he’s a wonderful actor Toby; he’s one of my favourite actors of his generation. The first time I saw him was in Control which I loved and then I saw Rocknrolla and then my daughter told me about Dead Man’s Shoes. He’s a wonderful actor and we had a great time working together on Prince Of Persia and then when he came on board to do Sorcerer I was thrilled because we had even more to do together.

There’s a lovely nod to your scene in Raiders Of the Lost Ark in the movie. Did you know it was planned?

I didn’t. I knew there were going to be a couple of quotes from other movies – there’s a lovely direct quote from Star Wars which Toby has which always goes down brilliantly and then Jay’s little quote from Raiders; I laughed out loud when I saw that. And I was sitting just in front of the director at the screening so I just turned around and went (puts thumbs up and grins) ’Thank you’.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is in cinemas from August 11th.


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