Rory Kinnear may be better known for his work in the James Bond franchise, where he played Secret Service agent Bill Tanner, but in the new A24 horror movie Men, Kinnear goes completely against type and transforms into a most terrifying performer. We spoke to Kinnear about his approach to the roles he plays in Men, whether he will return for future James Bond movies, and what it was like to work with Alex Garland.
Men is a mind-blowing, wild ride and Rory Kinnear is a massive contributing factor to the film’s many successes. We heaped praise on Kinnear in our Men review, for the way he transforms into the various different characters that terrorise Jessie Buckley’s protagonist in the movie.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Rory Kinnear to discuss the transformative nature of his many roles in Men, the collaborative process of working with filmmaker Alex Garland and co-star Jessie Buckley, what the future holds for his James Bond character, and why he chose to take on this ambitious project.
The Digital Fix: So, I watched Men last night…
Rory Kinnear: Sleep well?
Nope! So, well done! Your performances in that film are so diverse and incredibly impressive. Genuinely jaw-dropping stuff from you. How did you approach all the different characters and get into the mindset of each one?
I guess we don’t get to experience their backstory and their own biographies really, and I knew that if I was to play them all I would have to make them as distinct and as credible as possible. I didn’t want to just go to extremes for the sake of showing off, or a display of versatility, like a variety act.
I wanted it to serve a purpose and I knew Alex had chosen this with a seriousness of intent; it meant something, you know? I thought it would exist stronger if all of these characters felt like they emerged from the countryside that Alex was going to put into the foreground, too. I suppose it was the same process as with any film, but I just had to do it eight or nine times for this project rather than just the once.
It was working with hair and makeup and costume too, to make each character distinctive. I had written a little biography for each character, as a jumping-off point for those departments to start their creative process. We had a good back and forth, and were able to find when something lands with you, where it sits with you.
Obviously it was very exciting and great fun to do as an actor, but I also wanted to make sure that each character played the scene as truthfully as possible, largely with Jessie, to serve the film.
That’s a very thorough approach, I like it. And, do you have a favourite character from the film?
Well, it was probably all under the veil of how people reacted to them. People treated me incredibly differently depending on who I emerged as each morning. I think largely everyone seemed to like and have a better time when Geoffrey was around, and I probably played him more than any other. So, I began to have a soft spot for him, but one doesn’t treat any of one’s children differently, of course.
I would say Geoffrey was probably the nicest of your characters, overall.
Yes, he is the most benign presence I think.
Can you also tell me a little bit about your process of working with Alex Garland on this one?
He really investigates all the suggestions you make, and considers their impacts within the wider scope of the film. He might say no to a particular idea, but it never stops you from wanting to make another suggestion. I think he takes great pride in having that final say, but only in the sense that he takes pride in curating other people’s suggestions.
I got the feeling there were no limits in making this film anyway, so that’s good! I wanted to also touch on the characters you play in this film again, because these are such transformative roles, and very against type for you too I would say. Is that something you were actively looking for at this stage in your career?
Not particularly, to be honest. I mean, I like acting, so that helps. I guess you want to just work with people you find interesting, and who you admire and respect. But yeah to do all those parts, it did pique my interest, I’ll admit. But at the end of the day the appeal was to work in a genre I’ve not really worked in before, and to work with a filmmaker who has a very distinctive flavour, if you will.
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Whatever role I choose, I always hope there is something distinctive about it. People might not always like it, but it’s trying to do something that hasn’t been done before, that has a singularity of purpose.
I think Men certainly has that! Now, talking of your other work, the James Bond franchise has come to a pause, for now, shall we say. Would you be interested in continuing in that world, even with different actors playing certain characters?
Yeah, it’s great fun to be a part of and great fun to see the scale of operations. But also to see the way Barbara and Michael managed to create a sense of family around all the people who had done multiple of these films, both on camera and off.
I can totally understand if they want to reset the whole thing for next time, but also totally understand if they wanted some sense of continuity. I’ve never known film to film if I would pop up again, so this doesn’t feel any different to the others really.
You may even be cast as a Bond villain after they see Men…
Or, I believe there is a gap in the role of 007 himself!
Well, there we go, you heard it here first!
Men is screening right now in theatres in the US, and is hitting UK cinemas on June 1, 2022.