He's played everyone from Tony Blair to the White Rabbit in Alice In Wonderland, but can the uber-talented Michael Sheen mix up a mean martini as a digital barman? Our favourite Welshman stars as robotic cocktail shaker Arthur, who serves as companion to marooned lovers Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in sci-fi adventure Passengers, arriving on Virgin Movies from Monday 8th May. A galactic voyage to a new world takes a deadly turn for space travellers Aurora and Jim when their hibernation pods mysteriously wake them 90 years before they reach their destination. Why were they woken early, and more importantly, where are Arthur's legs?
We propped up the bar (just a coke for us, please) and got the lowdown from Michael about getting inside the robot mind, and what it was like working opposite notorious pranksters Jennifer and Chris.
If you were to move to a distant planet like Homestead II, what would you miss most about Earth?
Michael Sheen: I suppose it would be my family and my friends and my loved ones; and everything that I do and know, which is pretty much everything. So I would miss everything about Earth, which is why I would never go.
Did you approach playing a robot differently than you would playing a human?
As an actor, you approach every scene in terms of thinking about what it is your character wants: so that doesn’t change, whether you’re human or non-human. And you have to think about what your inner obstacle is and what your outer obstacle is, so that all stays the same as well. With Arthur, I had to think about what he was created for and it was to be the perfect bartender, which means anticipating the needs of everyone he [serves]. And his inner obstacle is the fact that Jim (Chris Pratt), whom he’s trying to anticipate the needs of, needs a human being. And Arthur is not a human being. So that is his inner obstacle but it’s also his outer obstacle because Jim wants to be with a human being and he realises the limitations of Arthur in that respect. So I just had to keep sticking to that, like I would with anything else.
What technical glitches did you give Arthur?
There are moments when Arthur is put in a position where he simply has no past experience [to draw from] to answer Jim. In those moments, I just tried to imagine that Arthur is going through his memory banks and analysing certain things and not finding anything to help him…. so I tried to create a slightly blank, vacant look for him. And it was fun to kind of see when Arthur’s confused and how that comes out physically. So it was really interesting to explore all of those kinds of glitches.
What are the best characteristics of your Passengers costars, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt?
[With] Jen and Chris, it was a sense of humour. We just laughed all the time. It was constant joking around and playing around. And that really helps when it’s very long hours and kind of intense work and there are just a few of you there
Who was the biggest prankster on set?
AI think Chris was probably the biggest prankster. [Pause] Well, no, Jen was as well. They’re both merry pranksters, so they might have to tie.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given as an actor?
Never stand up when you can sit down, never sit down when you can lie down, and never lie down when you can be asleep.
Have you ever tried being in an anti-gravity simulation room?
I haven’t, no, but I’d love to. It does look like it would be both fun and vomitous, which is always a fun combination.
Passengers is available now on digital download and on 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray 3D™, Blu-ray™ & DVD from 8 May.