James Marsden: I Want To Be A Superhero Again
The actor talks Singapore food, regaining superpowers and filming nude for “Westworld”
Voted one of the handsomest men alive, James Marsden can make a boring grey couch look good. He sits on one across from us, looking eager and sprightly for a Wednesday morning.
After completing his run as Cyclops, aka Scott Summers, in the X-Men trilogy, Marsden is back to electrify fans with his boyish charm. He returns as the handsome Teddy Flood, a cowboy with a quick draw, in HBO’s latest series, “Westworld”.
The show follows the inhabitants of a small frontier Western town, which is in fact an artificially constructed park where visitors can indulge in all sorts of sins – from decadent to depraved.
In Singapore for the first time, Marsden speaks to us about his experience with weird dreams, superhero work and filming what has been referred to as “the next ‘Game of Thrones’”.
Hi James! How has your first visit to Singapore been?
It’s been a remarkable experience so far. I’m eating my way through this country. I’ve had the most amazing food in my life, some of which scare me – was it durian? [Laughs] And I had some amazing chicken rice yesterday and I’m looking forward to having some laksa. I’ve eaten more than I needed to!
There’s a great sense of pride that everyone has here and I wish there was a little more of that back where I’m from.
How much of the plot twists in “Westworld” did you know beforehand?
We rarely had much more information than the audience has until we get the script to shoot the scene. Sometimes we’d get it just a few days before. We didn’t know where our character arcs were going through the season – so it was a fun mystery for us as well.
But I had no problem with it. I wanted to go along filming like I was an audience member; I wanted the mysteries to reveal themselves on their own time.
How did you feel when filming the scenes inspired by old Western films?
I’ve been a fan of cinema and Westerns for a long time, so to be riding a horse in Utah, chasing the fair maiden with these beautiful butes in the background, feeling like I was in a John Ford film – it was a special experience. It had a dream-like quality to it and it enriches the show. Hopefully, we get to do a lot more of that in Season 2.
Talking about dream-like – do you have any bizarre dreams?
Boy, I can’t really remember them. I try to forget the ones that are really twisted. I had a dream last night and Hugh Jackman was in it. [Laughs] It wasn’t anything nefarious, but, um, I think I was helping him build a house or something. [Laughs]
How did you feel about filming nude in a scene with Anthony Hopkins?
Yeah, talk about surreal and dream-like – [I was thinking to myself] “What am I doing for a living? This is crazy.” I got to work opposite one of the greatest thespians of our time, and there I was sitting in my birthday suit. [Laughs]
There was a part of me that was nervous about that and a part of me that absolutely loved that. For me, the more bizarre it gets in a film or TV show, the more interesting it is.
And [Hopkins] was great – he would tell jokes and make me laugh in between takes. He would launch into Marlon Brando impersonations and talk about his art and symphonies that he writes, and when they say “action”, he’ll just be one of the scariest people you’ve ever watched. [Laughs]
Did you have a childhood theme park fantasy?
When I was a kid, I had the idea of a magical being coming to my bedroom and flying me off to Neverland, or to some crazy island with pirates and mermaids. But I was more into having magic or superpowers. [Laughs]
But now you got me thinking about how that would be like for me as an adult.
Well, you got to play Cyclops in X-Men. Any plans to return to the world of superheroes?
X-Men was a very special thing for me to be a part of and we got to be very close as a family. It’s been about six years for me and I would not be opposed to doing that again. It was a childhood fantasy come true and it’s still very popular – I didn’t think it would go on this long!
We are infatuated with Marvel and DC. The material is so rich, and I’d love to find something else to do – if I’m allowed to play another character.
Which other superhero would you most like to play?
When I was a kid, I always thought I’d be a good Spiderman, because I always thought I was really skinny and I liked to climb things. But that role’s been taken. I could play Spiderman when he’s, like, 50. [Laughs] I’ll teach the young Spiderman and not have to jump around so much.
At one point, a lot of fans were saying that I’d make a good Hal Jordan [Green Lantern]. If you know a character I could take, let me know. I’ll go after it.
If you could visit Westworld as yourself, what would you do?
I would want to go with people I think I know really well, like my friends, and watch how they behave. The one thing about Westworld is you can be whoever you want to be, without consequences or rules.
I’d want to see my friends reveal their true characters. I would be like, “Ooh, I thought I knew you, but you’re much darker than I thought! Maybe we can’t be friends anymore.”
How do you think “Westworld” will affect the public perception of virtual reality?
We’re starting to see fully immersive virtual reality gaming, and I think it’s not out of the question that someday, something like Westworld will exist. My concern is whether or not it’s good for us! [Laughs] I have kids and they do play video games and we have to monitor that. You don’t want to desensitise yourself or, more importantly, the children.
What do you think of fans seeing “Westworld” as the next “Game of Thrones”, success-wise?
I can see why a lot of people are drawing that comparison. But I don’t think too much about comparing them. I don’t think about becoming the ‘successor’ to “Game of Thrones” – we just want to do a good show and I think people are going to get behind our ideas and concept.
I’m a big fan of “Game of Thrones” and hopefully “Westworld” joins right up there with it.