Mark Strong is used to being the bad guy. In 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes,” he played the nefarious Lord Blackwood, a ritual killer who somehow survives his own execution only to plan a hostile takeover of the British Empire.
In last year’s “Kick-Ass,” he starred as a ruthless gangster intent on murdering a teenage superhero wannabe.
In “Green Lantern,” due Friday, he is Sinestro, the purple-skinned alien leader of the Lanterns, a society of fearless warriors guarding the universe from parasites like Parallax, who devours planets whole.
Sinestro ultimately turns rogue himself, at least in the pages of DC Comics, and Strong, 47, eagerly anticipates the chance to recreate that transition someday on screen.
But for now, the London-born actor is happy to portray Sinestro as a rigid, micromanaging hero whose distaste for the first human Lantern, played by an impeccably sculpted Ryan Reynolds, nearly blinds him to their shared pursuit of peace and justice.
Playing a good guy, particularly one whose biases threaten to trump his better judgment, isn’t exactly a new experience for Strong, and he doesn’t see it as a departure.
“I like playing on dark impulses,” he says. “I don’t think humans, or even an alien like Sinestro, are inherently evil, but there is some motivation that drives them to that. I want to know why.”
Starring in “Lantern” marked Strong’s first fully immersive journey into the world of CGI and, with all due respect to “Kick-Ass,” his first role in a brand-name, would-be superhero franchise.
Wearing a skintight bodysuit and “disco boots” to make him seem taller, strapped with sensors to capture his every movement, and asked to create an entirely imagined vision of the universe his alien general inhabits, he found playing Sinestro a discipline like any other. If anything, he likens it to live theater, where he must look past the audience to maintain his character’s reality.
Strong knew little about “Green Lantern” prior to taking the part. He remembers Marvel and DC comics as an “exotic” indulgence when he was growing up in Britain, which might explain why he hasn’t rushed out to see the many movies they’ve inspired.
Not that comic books had no place in Strong’s childhood.
“I got one called ‘Whizzer and Chips,’ and another called ‘The Beano,’ with Dennis the Menace and his dog Gnasher,” he says, referring to the British Dennis, who debuted five days after his American counterpart in 1951.
“They were comic strips for kids, like Charlie Brown, silly characters who had nothing in common with the vivid worlds DC and Marvel created. I don’t think you’ll be seeing them in movies anytime soon.”
IF YOU GO
- Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Temuera Morrison, Mark Strong
- Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
- Directed by Martin Campbell
- Rated PG-13
- Running time 1 hour 45 minutes