Michael Sheen on going from Lycan to Vampire in 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon'
Acclaimed Twitter-friendly actor plays Aro, the evil leader of the Volturi
By Gregory Ellwood
Yes, it's true. It's entirely possible Michael Sheen hasn't given every secret about his role as Aro in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" away on Twitter.
During our visit to the Vancouver set of "New Moon" last May, Sheen took a brief break to talk to the small cadre of journalists peeping around the soundstage including this intrepid writer. Last seen in a double bill of the Oscar-nominated "Frost/Nixon" and the genre flick "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," Frost was in full Volturi regalia in what we discovered was only his second day of shooting. Saying it was great to be "thrown in the deep end" by arriving during the middle of production, Sheen had already shot a number of key scenes.
"The first day of filming we did the 18th century stuff and then one of the modern scenes," Sheen says. "It was a lot to deal with; the wig, and contact lenses all day and the make-up, but it was fantastic. These sets are amazing. And the look of everyone is so strong so it was great to just kind of get right into it straight away. "
Other actors purposely don't read the original source material for their big screen creations because they don't want to veer from the direction the screenwriter and director have laid out. I asked Sheen where he stood on the issue.
"Oh no, if I’m doing something that’s based on a book, then I’ll definitely read the book," Sheen says. "I look for anything that will give a little clue or something, a little help, a little hint… just things like that. Like one word that Stephenie uses in the book will kind of tee off my imagination."
Sheen has a much different approach to playing Aro than the human-friendly Cullens and credits the author for his inspiration.
"I love the thing in the books that Stephenie [Meyer] wrote about how these vampires are all – well, the Cullen family – really beautiful, and that’s what lures people into their web," Sheen admits. "And yet, Aro is not like that. She describes Aro as being not the same sort of thing. I like the idea that it’s his voice that lulls people in or his sort of demeanor rather than the way he looks, because he looks quite weird and scary. But yes, I’ve tried to go down that route [to]make him very mesmerizing to people, that his voice is gentle and soft. And yet, there’s something kind of unhinged about him."
On this day, Sheen is in the middle of a dramatic scene where he meets Bella (Kristen Stewart) for the first time. He says Stephenie told him she loved writing this moment in the book and he's personally read the passage over and over again because of the detail she provides about Aro within it.
"She describes his voice as being quite feathery – that’s what gave me the idea of making it very soft, and light. I think she describes it as being like a sigh, his voice," Sheen says. "And that he’s a bit like a concerned grandfather at times, with Edward. I like the idea of him being, even though he’s this kind of deadly, really dangerous character, there’s something quite sentimental about him, quite soft, and yet the next moment he could eat you."
Sheen is no stranger to genre pictures having made some nice bank appearing in all three "Underworld" pictures, but not as a vampire, but as a, ahem, werewolf (Lycan, whatever).
"It’s nice – now I can, you know, bring out the other side of me. The vampiric side, rather than the werewolf side. I feel a bit like a traitor, that I’ve swapped sides," Sheen jokes. "No, it’s nice. I’m glad. The vampires get to wear much cooler clothes, in 'Underworld' and in this, so now I get to have a nice bit of tailoring instead of, you know, raggedy leather. The best thing about playing a werewolf is, you don’t have to worry about getting dirty; if it’s lunchtime, I can have a lie down and it doesn’t matter, because you know, I’m supposed to look rough. But as for this, I’m supposed to look perfectly tailored and groomed and clean all the time, so I can’t sit down or do anything, because I’ve got all this white make-up on. I’m wearing black clothes. So, I’ve got to be really careful that I don’t get covered in stuff."
And with that, it was time to start shooting again and Sheen was whisked back to the set.