Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Jason Isaacs

Aired February 23, 2010 - 00:00:00   ET




JASON ISAACS, ACTOR: Mr. Potter, Lucius Malfoy, we meet at last.


BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That was the moment British actor, Jason Isaacs, first sent a chill down the spines of thousands of children worldwide, playing the sinister Lucius Malfoy in the biggest film franchise of all time, Harry Potter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- more than a murderer.


ANDERSON: With that role, he's taken his place amongst movie royalty on the silver screen and on the red carpet. But it's by no means his first taste of box office blockbusters. Isaacs played possibly the smartest man on the planet, NASA scientist Roland Quincy, in "Armageddon."


ISAACS: Would you like a lesson, sir, in the rules of war?


ANDERSON: And won acclaim for a standout performance as a sadistic redcoat in "The Patriot."


ANDERSON: A role that set the tone for the deliciously evil death eater that's made him a household name.


ISAACS: Now, that is my true (INAUDIBLE).


ANDERSON: Masks, meteors, Mel Gibson and a whole lot of movie magic, Jason Isaacs is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: Well, hundreds of you sent in your questions to Jason Isaacs, many of you wanting to know more about the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Well, I caught up with your Connector of the Day here in London and asked him firstly about one of his other projects, the Jameson Done in 60 Seconds Awards. He's a judge of that.

Take a listen to this.


ISAACS: It's a chance for people to make a film that can last no longer than 60 seconds, which is a send-up parody -- a loving parody of one of their blockbusters. And what's been amazing is how talented the people are. I thought it was some kind of, you know, an amateur, a slightly patronizing thing to let people muck about with a camcorder. But there's some brilliant entries this year and they just get better and better.

ANDERSON: What's the point of it, do you think?

ISAACS: Well, the point of it is that when this technology came along, people said it was going to democratize filmmaking. You know, everyone now has a camera and actually, you can make it on your phone. Everyone's got editing software on their laptop.

But there aren't really many places to show these films. If people want to make a real short film, a 15 or 20 minute film, you can probably get a whole film crew and a whole budget.

But these things, anybody can do and all you need is imagination and wit.

ANDERSON: Viewer questions.

Brandon (ph) says: "You've played a lot of bad guys in movies, like in "The Patriot," Harry Potter and "Peter Pan." Do you prefer to play the bad guy or the good guys in the movies? Which do you find easier?," he says.

ISAACS: I like having the good writing. When it's the bad writing, that's when you earn the money. All those films you mentioned were fantastic scripts. I just like being believable and not have people throw vegetables at the screen.

ANDERSON: A good answer.

Kaylee Mofit (ph) asks: "Are there any parts in the Harry Potter series that you look back on and think, wow, I really did a brilliant job there or I really captured the mood there or even I didn't do that very well?"

ISAACS: That -- the latter more often. I thought she would say (INAUDIBLE) Harry Potter (INAUDIBLE) you'd rather play. I did when I went to the audition for Lucius Malfoy, I actually went to audition for Lucius Malfoy and Gilderoy Lockhart, which is the part that Ken Branagh ended up playing. And I felt briefly disappointed when Ken had gotten it. Of course, five films further on, I'm feeling rather smug.

ANDERSON: Brilliant.

What about parts you liked and parts you didn't?

What did you enjoy most?

ISAACS: Of the Harry Potter films?


ISAACS: The best bits -- and I know this is not a very kind thing to say for the viewers -- the best bits are off camera, because I get to sit with this British theatrical royalty and just be a mouse like in the corner and listen to them swap stories about what, you know, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy and Gary Oldman...

ANDERSON: You're being too modest.

ISAACS: -- and (INAUDIBLE) the late Richard Harris.

ANDERSON: You're being too modest.

ISAACS: They've got better stories than me.

ANDERSON: Ramsey (ph) has written and she asks: "How and what do you do to prepare yourself for the shooting of Harry Potter as your character? And is there any exercise you do in order to get into the zone, as it were?"

ISAACS: Get in touch with my inner wizard?


ISAACS: I -- well, you know, I watch a lot of wizard documentaries that have a lot of original archive footage of wizards at work. And, no, I just turn up and lie down on the trailer and wait for them to call me and eat chocolate. That's basically all I do.

ANDERSON: You've been doing it for some time now.

So does it get any -- I mean is it much, much easier these days to get into character?

ISAACS: Well, there's -- you know, all I have to do on Harry Potter is put that waiting on. I don't want to make it sound too easy because they might start asking for some of the money back, but I just...


ISAACS: -- I put the wig on and the first thing that happened on the first film was when I -- the wig, it's all straight. Lucius Malfoy's hair was straight. It's now a little bit bedraggled, because his character is. But in order to keep the hair straight, I have to tilt my head back or else it crumples. As soon as you tilt your head back, you're looking down your nose at somebody and there goes the entire character.

ANDERSON: Talk about the cast, because -- because you're right, I mean this is about as good as it gets when it comes to British theatrical acting, isn't it?

ISAACS: Well, what normally happens as an actor -- what my process is, if there is such a thing -- a pretentious word -- is that I try and make something real and human. I find what -- what somebody is thinking, wanting, dreaming, hoping, fearing. And -- and then you can get to the Harry Potter set and then all bets are off. Everybody is just trying to chew up the scenery.

You -- you're only on the screen for minutes in every film and everybody wants to make an impact and, you know, it's big scale entertainment and these are bold colors we're etching in.

ANDERSON: I wanted to ask you whether people really enjoyed working on it and would you honestly say that this was a cast that worked well together?

ISAACS: There's something about the films, particularly now, for the last six, seven years or however long it's been. We know -- everybody on the set knows that these stories are loved. That doesn't mean you don't have to work hard to make them good.

But there's none of the anxiety you experience on -- on every other project that ever happens, which is how is this going to be received?

You're already at a very successful party. It's like knocking on the door of the party. It's already arrived. You don't need to worry if anyone is going to turn (INAUDIBLE).

ANDERSON: Donny Harris says: "Hey, Jason, I've loved your Potter work."

ISAACS: Hey, Donny.

ANDERSON: "You're deliciously devious," he says. "I'm curious if being involved as an actor has ruined any hope of you being a viewing fan of the Harry Potter films?"

ISAACS: I'm a huge fan of the films. In fact, I wasn't into it the number three and number six. And I went to the premier for number six and I was, like everybody else, desperate to find out what was going to happen.

But even when you are in the films, you don't see -- first of all, any of the effects that they do. And you don't see all the scenes you're not in. And I -- I love watching them, I'm sure, every bit as much as the viewers.

ANDERSON: Well, you get miserable when you only see three of the six. I mean I -- I mean (INAUDIBLE)...

ISAACS: Oh, yes. Just bitter. I just kept on waiting and hoping -- I kept on finding moments where I thought that maybe for the DVD release, they should stick Lucius Malfoy in there. And, also, you should see the -- I don't see the final cut, so...


ISAACS: -- there's a number of times during the movies that I've shot a scene that's a particular favorite of mine and then I go to the, you know, premier, there's millions of people there and then the thing comes up and it's gone and I try not to be found weeping when the lights come up.

ANDERSON: Sydney (ph) asks: "How does it feel to know that you're part of one of the most epic movie series ever made?"

And that really is echoed by many of the -- the viewer questions that we're getting today.

ISAACS: It's -- I know this is going to sound like an odd thing to say, but most of the time that I work, I don't really care about the public. I don't care how the thing is received. But the bit that I really enjoy is the process. Harry Potter is the only time that the real joy of the work has come afterward, because you see the thrill they get. Not -- never mind how the books themselves have created literacy and, you know, they have done some marvels for people who never read before, adults and children.

But the films give such pleasure all over the world. And just meeting me -- me, doing nothing, bringing nothing to the party, laying nothing on the table, me just standing breathing in a room can make people happy because they've seen those films. And that's a real privilege that's come to me.

ANDERSON: We have a question from the Philippines here. Justine (ph) said (INAUDIBLE) from Justine: "I'm 19 years old. I'm a big Potter fan and I really love your portrayal of Lucius Malfoy. And if you were Lucius Malfoy just for a day, what would you do?"

ISAACS: I think I'd probably just kill all the muggles. That's all he dreams of, Lucius Malfoy. And that's why, you know, as much as we all laugh about -- and I laugh about playing the wizard and how over the top it is, really (INAUDIBLE) find kind of bigots and racists and -- and people feel the same kind of hatred he has. And he just thinks the world would be a better place if all the muggles were dead.

ANDERSON: What would you do to Lucius Malfoy if you were to actually meet him?

ISAACS: I have a feeling there's something Samson-like going on with the hair. I'd probably shave his head.

ANDERSON: Wuzi (ph) asks: "Now that Harry Potter is almost over, what do you have planned for the future? Do you have any new movie roles?"

ISAACS: I do have, oddly enough, plans for my future, not just sitting watching myself on DVD. I'm in a new film called "Green Zone" that Paul Greengrass directed, starring Matt Damon. It comes out in a few week's time. It's a fantastic blockbuster thriller. If you liked any of the Bond films, I'm sure you're going to love this -- or possibly love it more because I'm in it.


ANDERSON: Our man actually modest (INAUDIBLE) after all.

Jason Isaacs for you -- a charming, charming Connector of the Day.

And tomorrow's Connector is Burberry's Christopher Bailey. Be sure to turn in for our chat with this creative genius who is taking a 154-year-old label into the future. And if you'd like to ask him a question, go to, post your questions. I'll put some of the best ones to him tomorrow.