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and, of course, it took me maybe 15 seconds to decide! Because you’re constricted by some of the political roles I’ve done, where you really must not overplay your hand. But this is great fun, because it’s actually really challenging to be big as an actor. You really expose yourself when you try and go to up the volume and up the size of your performance, and this was a real opportunity to do that. An Indian actor—a Bollywood actor, in fact—but he was in a movie that I loved more than any other called Shakespeare-Wallah, which was made by Merchant-Ivory back in the day. So that was how I got into acting, in the sense that it was my first real foray into the business… He was coming up with these kinds of ideas at the same time the brilliant people at Game Of Thrones were coming up with their ideas, and there was a kind of corollary between the two. Obviously, Game Of Thrones just went and did it, and David was, like, “Okay, and then this is going to happen.” He was kind of improvising much more, and it got very complicated. They were really intense social plays from the late ’70s. Like, I did this thing called Inescapable a couple of years ago about Syria with Marisa Tomei, and we had such an opportunity to deal with the Syrian thing, but for some reason we just couldn’t turn that ship around and give it the weight that it deserved.
AVC: Do you remember the name of that children’s show? Whenever I get an opportunity to do that, I ambitiously try to do so… So my eyes lit up when I saw this name as the writer, and he didn’t disappoint. Now, to be fair to the director, Ruba Nadda, who I love and who is incredibly talented, the Syrian thing was unfolding as we were doing it, so to react to that would’ve been conjectural and probably really wrong-headed.
AVC: I’ll do that, because that’s too funny a coincidence not to mention. AVC: To fast-forward three and a half decades to Tut, who is Amun? The Nile was everything, and these guys would sometimes get up to trickery to make sure that things happened the way they wanted them to. They’d do all that stuff, and they’d also entertain the masses. [Laughs.] And no particular theater, except for religion, so all the festivals and all the rituals surrounding religion would’ve been a source of edification and entertainment for them. AVC: In terms of doing period pieces like this, do you enjoy them as a challenge, or do you quickly grow weary of the costuming? And I’m very happy not to be credited, because in a weird way it lives in a kind of gray area in my history. My agent, in desperation to get me out of the arid desert that is post-Star Trek work, just made her good friend and talented director Martin Campbell… She said, “You’re taking this kid and you’re putting him in your movie.” And Martin went, “Sure. And I remember that Martin Campbell and myself sat at a table at some party at the end of this movie, this long, drawn-out movie which was a million miles away from everywhere for six months, and just leaning over our Vodka Absoluts or whatever they were and going, “Both our marriages failed because of this movie.” Because his failed, too! [Laughs.] Anyway, he’s crossing himself and saying prayers, and with these things, it was actually quite traumatic going to work every morning! You don’t even have to know him personally to know that he knows how to look after himself in the wild. So I think I regret that not nailing it as much as it should have done.
AS: Oh, it would be hilarious if you mentioned that! [Laughs.] In the sense that I was a relatively lost soul at that point in my life. I like you, maybe I owe you, and I might want another of your actors one day. So we had a wonderful sort of symbiotic thing that happened between us during that film, and he used to refer to me as the soul of his movie. AVC: But at least if Mendelsohn had been right, Glenn would’ve been ready. There were pages left unwritten in that book, and they were right in the middle of the book, where you just don’t need them.
Ron Moore, Rene Echevarria, Ira Behr, Michael Piller… And there were others, those are just the ones off the top of my head. I wasn’t part of the decision about when to change me, but I was part of the devious plan as far as the aim of the arc of the character.
But they said, “Well, what if we do a character that we know isn’t going to go down very well? But they decided that that was how they were going to do it, so they did it, and—weirdly, as if by magic and nearly overnight—my character started to improve in the polls.
These things went on forever, and people had to tune in again and again and again to find out what happened to these characters. And I think that now, because it’s more fashionable, Deep Space Nine has become a lot more popular and a lot more interesting to a lot more people. And whenever the lines came up, I just screwed them up. I remember being in a desert in a trailer for most of my existence. I think it was the first Hollywood movie post-9/11 that went, “Hang on, guys: there’s two sides of this coin. Because they wanted me then to go on to do more seasons.
But I was doing a play in London and I couldn’t audition. The first one, I think, was in the ’70s, and it was just amazing. [Laughs.]AVC: What inspired you to pursue directing? Movies, you can’t really come back and reexamine those in the same way, but I’d like to do that, too! AS: It would be unfair to come up with a story about him, because he was just such a sweet man. We wouldn’t meet at Christmas and stuff, but we would go on vacations together, and I got to know his wives and kids and all that. It must’ve been incredibly disappointing, because I was in it for five minutes all season. [Laughs.] And he’s really nice: a family man, a normal guy who, if he stops for more than five seconds on the street, he gets swarmed. AVC: You provided the voice of Isaac Newton in an episode of Fox’s Cosmos. AVC: Was that as a result of the Seth Mac Farlane connection from having done a couple of voices on Family Guy a few years earlier? I was Seth Mac Farlane’s, um, go-to “British fag accent” guy.
I was taken to it by my parents, and I had a magical time. It was for the BBC, and I didn’t have to speak, so it wasn’t really a thing, but it was for a segment in a children’s show, and they just wanted someone who looked like Tut. I had been kicking and screaming to be a director for the best part of my life. ” So I ended up falling into other projects because of that. I’d love to go, “I’ve got an opportunity to remake Citizen Kane. ” And that sort of investigative element really excited me as a kid, and still does! I have so many stories about that experience that I don’t even know where to start. Written and directed by Neil Marshall, filmed in South Africa with Bob Hoskins! And also the first time I’d ever been in a movie with Malcolm [Mc Dowell], my uncle. [Laughs.] It was part of a long list of deaths that I’ve had. And I’ll probably be in it for five minutes more this season! I knew it was going to be a smooth operation, and it was. You know, they’re the kind of producers who are so successful that they can afford to be really chill and really nice and go out to dinner with you and make sure that you’re eating properly and do all that sort of stuff. And I’d worked exclusively with Nikolaj [Coster-Waldau], who plays [Jaime Lannister], the guy with the brass hand. [Laughs.] I’m sure there’s a more politically correct way of putting it, but that is kind of what I did.
I’d never acted before, but one of my parents’ friends was doing it, and they were, like, “Can we borrow Siddig to be Tutankhamen for us? I got to sit next to him over breakfast, and he would talk to me in his big, expansive Indian accent, and he was just overgenerous, offering me tea and coffee, making sure I got more eggs. It was just one day, but I earned £65, and I was over the moon. [Laughs.]AVC: At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue it as a career? I was directing onstage when I was 23 or 24, I did about five shows and never earned a penny, and I was thoroughly enjoying my romantic garret existence. And I literally was a word-of-mouth actor: I very rarely had an agent putting me up in the early days, so it would be someone seeing me in a show and asking me if I could do another show, and that culminated in doing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I’m probably more into being a producer now than I am a director, but I just love searching for meaning, and doing it over the whole process, throughout the whole script, was very satisfying on a holistic level. You know, you tend to be okay at things you really love… [Laughs.] I got successful enough to have a little company, and we filled the theater that we had in London, and we were doing great. I loved the investigative, historical element of asking, “What’s going on here? I met Goyer in London someplace, and we talked for, like, an hour and hit it off and bitched about all the people we knew in Hollywood, and I just loved his mind. So that was what was exciting: just being part of a figment of his imagination was interesting to me. I’d just become divorced; I lost my mom; I’d moved to England to look after my mourning stepfather; I couldn’t get run over in Hollywood by anybody to get work. I had the stigma of Star Trek over me at that point, which seems to exist and you really have to figure out ways of getting out of that. [Bursts into laughter.]AVC: Yeah, that sounds about like how Danny Huston described his role. That was possibly the lamest movie I’ve ever been in. That’s true: That was the first time we ever worked together. I think I must be one of the record holders for an actor who dies on film. It’d go on for, like, 25 minutes, because I’ve died nearly 20 times, which is actually really hard to do, given that most actors spend their careers trying not to die on-screen. So I’m hoping I live forever, because I’ve tried it all. Nevertheless, I was very well heralded, and everybody knew I was coming, to put it mildly. Because whenever he needed someone in the background who wasn’t distinct, who wasn’t really a main character or anything, but he was, like, “I need someone to say something really uncool and British and make him sound as if he has very limp wrists and screams like a girl,” they would come to me for that. [Snorts.] So, yeah, Seth came to me to do the Cosmos character, and I kind of pulled out the same accent again!
Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. He just had this way about him, and he was so much bigger on screen than he was in real life, which is a talent. AVC: In regard to your uncle, did you spend your youth watching him and just thinking, “This is what I want to be”? and one called Aces High, which really appealed to me as a kid, and O Lucky Man! I didn’t get to see A Clockwork Orange, because it was banned in British cinemas.
The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them to talk about. I didn’t see it until much later, and I don’t think it travels through time as well as some of the other ones.