WHEN it comes to British villains in Hollywood you don’t get much badder than Jason Isaacs.
Not only has he tried to kill Peter Pan and Harry Potter, but the Liverpool born actor has also played an IRA warlord, a gay gangster and a sadistic baby-killing church-burning army officer.
But in an exclusive interview Jason told us he is such a wimp in real-life that disappointed fans won’t even ask for an autograph.
The star has also experienced the darker side of fame, telling us about the stalker who has made his life hell for the last eight years.
And he revealed why he’s still not married to his partner of 17 years Emma Hewitt`, who he calls his wife, and how their two-year-old daughter Lily has ruined his celebrity lifestyle.
So read on to find out all about the man inside Captain Hook and Lucius Malfoy’s costumes, including why he can’t get enough of on-screen kisses.
What makes villainous roles so appealing for you?
The best roles in Hollywood movies are always the bad guy, as heroes are pretty bland characters.
When you read a script the hero doesn’t have anything about him other than the fact that all the women watching the film should want to sleep with him.
They don’t normally get to do much acting. They’re just the rock steady sex-bomb at the heart of the story, whereas the bad guys usually have extreme characters and situations.
I don’t take acting very seriously, and you can take it even less seriously when you’re licking your genocidal lips.
Also I don’t have a choice about the roles I play, as I don’t think women watch my films desperate to rip my clothes off! People would rather see me thrown into a pit full of snakes.
I have played a few roles at the very opposite end of the spectrum though – usually priests or very moral soldiers.
We all know how evil you are on screen, but what are you like in real life?
I’m a real pushover and a wimp. I think the tough stuff on screen is just wishful thinking.
I had a guy doing building work at my house once and I phoned his wife to settle the bill and she said: “Did he ask you for an autograph?”
I was rather shocked as I didn’t realise he even knew I was an actor, but she said: “He’s a big fan of yours. He’s got all your stuff on video and pictures of you on the wall.”
I said: “That’s weird, why wouldn’t he mention it?” And she replied: “Oh well, it’s probably because… I better not say.”
After I said it wouldn’t hurt my feelings she told me: “Well it’s because he was disappointed meeting you, as you were a bit of a wimp.”
Have you found it’s true that every girl loves the bad boy – especially those with British accents?
I do get some strange responses, I’ve been sent lots of bizarre obscene photographs. People fantasise about bad characters to an amazing degree.
I remember doing an episode of the TV show Civvies where I beat my wife, and I got letters from women saying, “she should never have spoken to you like that. I love a man who is firm”. I wrote back with the phone numbers of battered women’s charities.
But the women that love bad boys are very disappointed when I turn out to be caring and considerate in the flesh – they hope that I’m going to drag them by their hair into a cave.
How did you meet Emma, how long have you been together and what does she do?
Emma was a documentary maker, but she’s now proudly announced that she’s never going to work again as long as she lives so I better make a decent living.
We met at drama school, and have been together for 17 years. We’re not actually married, although we call each other husband and wife otherwise people get rather peculiar. It seems a bit weird to call someone your girlfriend when you have a child.
I have proposed and, bizarrely, Emma accepted, but every time we think about arranging a wedding I get a job.
So we will get married one day, probably when Lily comes back from school and says: “You two have to get married, you’re really embarrassing me.”
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How has fatherhood changed you?
I wish I’d started a family earlier, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done by far.
I don’t know what the f*** I was doing in my 30s – I was always chasing a better party, a more extravagant restaurant or a longer drive on the golf course.
But now I’ve got Lily I don’t go out, I’m the opposite of a vampire because I’m only seen during the day.
You’ve had a very difficult time with an obsessive female fan? Can you tell us what happened?
I’ve had a stalker for the last eight years, and I’ve had her taken to court a number of times to enforce restraining orders. When they wear off, she starts getting in contact again immediately, threateningly, obsessively and constantly.
Friends make jokes about it, but then I explain what it is like having someone standing outside your door banging in the early hours of the morning and suddenly a chill goes over the room.
It’s not that much fun having a stalker. It’s very disturbing for us and I hope she gets some psychiatric help, but she was meant to have that last time.
The best advice the police can give is “move houses, change all your phone numbers and switch jobs”. But none of that applies to an actor. I toyed with the idea of doing theatre, but then she’d just come to the theatre.
I’ve been in America and Australia for a year and a half and when I left England she had another restraining order put on her. But quite what will happen in the long run I don’t know.
It’s a long way for her to come, but then we were a two-hour train ride from where she lived in England before.
What was really strange was I’d be away from home for six months or a year filming and then it would start again the day I got back. So I thought: “Wow, is she just standing in my street every day watching?”
We didn’t know who she was for the first few years, until the police caught her. Now it’s weird knowing her name, address and life story. You begin to think, “maybe I should start stalking you”. But then you start becoming as mad as they are.
Is it strange going on the Internet and seeing hundreds of fan sites dedicated to you?
Definitely. If I was as successful as my presence on the Internet suggests then I’d be a cross between Tom Cruise and Marilyn Monroe. There is even a doll available of me in drag in the film Sweet November.
I get some of the nicest fan mail you could imagine. Also when I’m up for an award, my fans all vote online and then they’ll boast to each other about how many thousands of times they’ve clicked my name. Their thumbs must be bleeding!
My fans really are fantastic. They knit things for me and send presents to Emma and Lily.
I feel guilty because I don’t get around to answering fan mail or do more than just send photographs, especially since the stalking thing happened.
I’m loath to send personalised replies because if one in 10,000 turns into a loony then you’re better off not answering at all. It’s such a shame because the other 9,999 are really lovely people.
In America a lot of stars don’t answer any fan mail ever as a matter of policy for that reason.
But once every few years I get somebody in to help me clear the backlog, so most of the people who get a reply have either completely forgotten who I am or are in geriatric homes.
Peter Pan was a huge box office hit and looks set to be a smash on DVD too. Why do you think it is such an enduring story?
Because everybody is scared of getting old. When you’re a kid, on the one hand you’re desperate to be older, but on the other you’re terrified of it.
Then when you do get older you aren’t really sure how to behave, because you don’t actually feel old.
I think the story works because it doesn’t patronise kids, it was written in an era when they didn’t think that you should be gentle with them. So it’s really quite vicious and dark and the children in it are selfish and villainous.
Peter Pan himself is quite a mischievous character, in fact when the book was first written there was no Captain Hook – Peter Pan was the bad guy and the good guy.
Also the story has always worked for every age group.
When I saw the movie with a group of people, the three and four-year-olds loved the pretty pictures and the fairies, the seven-year-olds really liked the sword-fighting and the flying and the 12-year-olds were completely into the romance between Peter and Wendy.
Then there were the grown-ups who were crying with nostalgia and loss of youth – and the kids didn’t know what the hell was going on with their parents!
Did you enjoy working with Jeremy Sumpter – the young actor who played Peter Pan?
Yes, he’s great although he did nearly kill me. He would always ask to use metal swords, as they were much lighter than the ‘safe’ swords wrapped in rubber I insisted on using.
I would win the day, then instantly afterwards there would be some terrible accident where if we’d used metal swords one of us would have ended up decapitated or blinded.
Jeremy is a very sweet boy and he’d be really distraught and apologetic… until the next morning. Then it would be as if it never happened and he’d want to use metal swords again.
One time he knocked me out cold! He did a double-pirouette and a double-backhand with the sword and hit me right in the face. My feet left the ground, I flew backwards towards the other side of the ship and my face immediately blew up like a pumpkin.
We couldn’t film for the rest of the day, and the poor kid was in worse emotional pain than I was physical pain. It wasn’t his fault – things go wrong in fights all the time – but he felt so incredibly guilty.
Then the next morning we had to continue where we left off and he immediately went into his “come-on, let’s use metal swords” routine.
Was it difficult working with a cast of children? Was it down to you to keep them entertained?
Things take a lot longer with children as they don’t have the same skills at faking it, but it means when they get it right they’re absolutely fantastic.
One of the tricky things on Peter Pan was that labour laws meant the children could only work for limited hours.
When it came to flying – which is really painful – I was up in the air hanging around while Jeremy would take a break and be replaced by his double. So I’d be up there all day suspended by my undies with a giant wedgie, while Jeremy was off playing basketball.
When I was at drama school I used to be an entertainer at children’s parties, and I put that to good use on set. It’s a pretty serious endeavour making a giant movie like this and things can get tense, so I felt it was my responsibility to make sure the kids had a really good time.
I became the set clown. Anything I could fall over, I fell over and anybody that could be made fun of I made fun of. Especially the more serious people, who I made up obscene nicknames for.
There was a huge very scary pirate, built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who I called “man breasts”.
I’d try and find a way to fit a different word for breasts into every single sentence I said out loud hoping he wouldn’t notice, while the kids cried with laughter.
He never found out, I wouldn’t be talking to you if he had!
Do you worry young kids hate you now you’ve tried to kill Peter Pan and Harry Potter? And if you could take one of them out who would it be?
No, kids love the bad guy, that’s who they want to be. They want the Captain Hook costume and to dress up as pirates. Also I played Wendy’s sweet dad Mr Darling – and I look more like him than Hook.
If I had the choice I think I’d kill Harry Potter, because Lucius Malfoy is desperate to see the end of him.
Captain Hook doesn’t really want to kill Peter Pan, because he doesn’t have a clue what would happen to him. They live and feed off each other. You have to ask yourself this question – what was his name before he lost his hand? Answers on a postcard please.
How does Captain Hook compare to film’s other famous baddies? Who are your all-time favourite villains?
Captain Hook really isn’t that evil, I feel sorry for him – he’s such a loser! Before the story even begins he’s already lost his hand, so he’s clearly not that much cop in the sword-fighting stakes. And the only people he manages to kill are his own pirates.
I’ve been really lucky to play some great bad guys. The one that scared me most when I was a kid was the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That’s why I tried to give Lucius Malfoy a whining tone, because that voice resonated throughout my childhood.
I was also scared of The Wicked Witch Of The West, but now my two-year-old daughter watches The Wizard Of Oz and is completely unperturbed by her, she thinks she’s funny. So now my daughter knows how much of a wimp I am.
Has Lily seen any of your films yet? Is she scared of you?
We were in a shopping centre when she was about 19 months and Peter Pan was playing. We saw the scene where the kids were flying and she loved it and started shouting, “look – boys and girls flying in the air!”
Then Captain Hook came on, and I thought “I better get out as this will be scary for her”. But it came on for a second and she shouted, “look – daddy dressed up!”
I’m not worried that Lily will be scared of me, but that her and Emma will think I’m pathetic and be embarrassed of my rather stupid job.
Your breakthrough role in America was as a British officer in Mel Gibson’s The Patriot where you killed babies and burned down churches. Did you ever worry about giving us Brits a bad name?
Oh hell no. It was rather weird for me as when I started doing interviews for the film in America people asked me the same question, “do you think this is going to make you unpopular in Britain?”
At the time I thought “don’t be silly”, as it’s never been an offence to burn the flag in England and we know full well some of the things our Empire did and I think a lot of people are rather ashamed of it.
And in a film about the American War Of Independence who are going to be the bad guys, if it’s not the Brits? It’s not a story about Columbian drug lords!
But I was wrong and I hit a complete sh**-storm when I came back.
It was more bizarre as the character I was playing was loosely based on a real-life English soldier whose nickname was The Butcher and became famous for slaughtering all of his prisoners. So it’s not like I was playing Ghandi and doing all those things.
Were you a fan of the Harry Potter books before you took on the role of Malfoy?
No, in fact I thought it was rather weird. I couldn’t really understand why so many adults seemed to be reading children’s books.
I actually did the role for Lily and my godchildren. Lily wasn’t quite speaking at that time, she was still in Emma’s tummy, but my seven godchildren pushed me into it.
I was thinking of not doing the role, but when word got out they all phoned me up absolutely furious and spitting blood.
The threat they used against me was, “Lily will never forgive you when she grows up”.
So I read the first four books and they are phenomenal. I stayed up for two nights running and read them all from cover to cover. It was like eating four enormous bars of chocolate and then looking down at the wrappers and thinking, “how the hell did that happen?”
Now each time a new book comes out we all can’t wait to get our hands on it. We pretend it’s because we want to see where the story is going but what we’re really thinking is “am I in it?”
Your character isn’t in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, but are you coming back for the fourth or fifth films?
I make a tiny cameo appearance in the fourth film, to remind people that I still exist as I have a bit more to do in the fifth one.
To be honest I thought I wouldn’t get to be in the fourth film at all, but it will be nice to get the wig out of mothballs and start the slow warm-up for number five where I have some rather juicy and lovely stuff.
I’m looking forward to it, as long as everyone else agrees to do it. For all I know the kids could be married with children by then.
Was there any competition between you and Alan Rickman on the set of Harry Potter over who is the most evil?
Oh no, I would always lie down and lick the bottom of his boots. I think he’s absolutely sensational. But Professor Snape is not as evil as Malfoy is.
Do you, Alan and all the other British actors stick together in Hollywood?
No, not really. The last thing you want to do when you arrive in Hollywood is hook up with someone who takes you for a warm beer and to watch Premiership football at four in the morning.
I never get to see my best friends anymore – we’re spread all over the world doing different things – so thank god for the Internet and instant messaging.
According to one of your fan sites you’ve died on-screen 14 times including twice in the TV show Taggart. Do you have a favourite death?
I liked Event Horizon, every time I worked with the director Paul Anderson he’d always try and find a great way to kill me. To be completely gutted and have your organs pulled out – as happened to me in Event Horizon – is rather marvellous.
They did much more gruesome close-up shots of it that weren’t included in the film, because people gagged watching them at the test screening and were so revolted by it they were distracted for the rest of the movie.
I also had a great death in a British TV series called Dangerous Lady. It was a gangster show where I played a gay crime lord and Susan Lynch played my sister.
I died with her crying over me and her tears splashing down on my face as I exhaled my last breath. Her performance was so fantastic it made dying almost beautiful.
That Taggart episode was a big turning point in my career as I got to play identical twins, one good and one bad, and before then I’d only played good guys.
You’ve had plenty of on-screen kisses too, what’s your favourite?
Oh blimey! They’re all free kisses and for a man who has been in a relationship for 17 years they’re marvellous! I love them all, even snogging Daniel Craig in the play Angels In America was a free kiss
I’ve just filmed some episodes of The West Wing, where I’m a little bit of totty for Donna – so I’ve been snogging Janel Moloney.
The show is sensational, it’s the best programme on American telly. In the show Donna and Josh are the great unconsummated love story, but I suddenly stick my oar in.
It could be my most unpopular role yet! Even when I was kissing her I could imagine myself watching it screaming “noooo!”