Article - 1993
Submitted by Cheryl

This man makes husbands jealous

With his sandy blond hair, heavy-lidded eyes, flared nostrils and chiselled features, Charles Dance has the classical good looks men envy and women adore. Yet the 6ft 3in star lusted after by female audiences everywhere – as well as co-stars such as Greta Scacchi in the Kenyan society scandal film White Mischief – hopes that three very different types of movies coming out in the next few months will destroy once and for all his image as the thinking woman's crumpet.

“That kind of thing is amusing for a while,” says Dance, “but I'm 47 now and the crumpet is getting a little burnt on both sides. lt's bad enough living up to your own expectations without having to live up to other people's – worrying about whether your hair is thinning, your eyes are bloodshot or you've got a zit on your face.”

The pin-up label has stuck to him ever since his memorable portrayal of Guy Perron in TV's hugely successful Indian Raj saga The Jewel in the Crown, after which everybody kept wanting to put him in a crumpled white linen suit for sex-in-the-heat-and-dust dramas.

But Dance, who plays a villain in Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest blockbuster, Last Action Hero (opening here on the 30th), insists his looks have been a mixed blessing. “There is sometimes extraordinary jealousy, not from other actors but from certain film-makers in this country who are dismissive, saying: ‘Oh, yes, Charles Dance – bloody matinee idol!’ ”

All this should change, starting with the Schwarzenegger movie, with its budget of $90 million and a list of guest stars who include Clint Eastwood, Sir lan McKellen, Tina Turner, Tony Curtis, Jean- Claude Van Damme, Chevy Chase, Timothy Dalton, Little Richard, Adam Ant and Tori Spelling.

Yet former RSC actor Dance, whose credits also include Aliens III and TV's controversial First Born, admits “I did get a bit grand” when approached about the film. He confesses: “I had this preconception about Arnold as a Mr Universe who had become the most bankable commodity in Hollywood without ever having trained as an actor while thousands of wonderful, wonderful actors are struggling to get a break. And there was this feeling of who does he think he is!

“But it's ridiculous to be sniffy about him and really he's terrific. He doesn't profess to be a great actor but he is an extremely astute businessman who concerns himself with the whole process of making the film, marketing the film and looking after people on the set.

“He's not at all egotistical, in so far as he realises the value of populating his films with good actors because he knows it can only make him and the product look better. The fact that he can get people like Sir lan McKellen to do cameo bits for the film says a lot about him.

“He is totally charming and very straight and creates an enjoyable working atmosphere. I found him delightful and basically I ended up having so much fun.”

Last Action Hero, in which he plays a less-than-seriously nasty piece of work with a beard and an exploding glass eye that doubles as a hand-grenade, is very different to previous Schwarzenegger films. “It's not at all like Terminator or Total Recall,” says Dance. “It's about a kid – played by Austin O'Brien – who, with the aid of a magic ticket, finds himself transported out of his cinema seat into the middle of an action movie starring his favourite screen hero. Kids – and their parents – will love it.”

Its release next month will be followed later in the year by two more films in which he hides his screen-idol looks behind a beard.

Stephen Poliakoff's Century, in which Dance co-stars with Clive Chancer Owen, Miranda Richardson and Robert Stephens, is set in 1899 and allows the audience to enjoy the wisdom of hindsight as it focuses on a group of people and their hopes and fears for the coming century.

Kabloonak tells the story of legendary documentary film-maker Robert Flaherty and his classic, Nanook of the North, which covered a year in the life of an Eskimo. Shot in the Arctic, it involved living for three months on an ice-breaker anchored in the Bering Sea, where the wind-chill factor sometime reduced the temperature to 67 degrees below zero.

Shot back-to-back, the three films meant Dance spent only six weeks of the last year at home in the West Country with wife Jo and children Oliver, 18, and Rebecca, 12. “I'm going to take some time off this summer,” he vows.

Long-term he looks forward to the time when he can play older roles – even 60-year-olds. “There are wonderful parts – and you don't have to worry about the grey in your hair,” says one of the screen's truly reluctant heart-throbs.

© 1993 Michael Cable. Photograph © Brian Aris

Back to The Archive