In the end, bad-guy actor Isaacs finally gets
(KRT) - This Christmas, you'll see actor Jason Isaacs swaggering about as Captain Hook in the newest film version of "Peter Pan," but you may remember him better from "The Patriot" as the villain you really, really loved to hate. Among other Redcoat Nazisms, he locked a great many women and children in a church and then burned them to death by setting it afire.
Indeed, he was so vile and cruel as British Col. William Tavington in that Mel Gibson Revolutionary War epic that many thought he defamed the real British colonel on whom his character was based, Banastre Tarleton, whom many historians consider the worst villain of that war.
"I couldn't understand the fuss that was made over Tavington," he said in a recent telephone interview. "He was called Tavington, and not Tarleton, so he wasn't meant to be historically accurate anyway. Also, there are all kinds of terrible atrocities that are easy to unearth if people bothered to do a cursory search of the Internet instead of just attacking the movie. Tarleton was famous for slaughtering his prisoners. They called it Tarleton's quarter: killing his prisoners."
All that settled, the Liverpool-born, university-educated, classically trained Isaacs explained that he was happy to come to America and play villains, starting with a part he was offered as "second villain from the left" (Lord Felton) in 1996's "Dragonheart."
"I was doing a Shakespeare workshop in London with Ian McKellan. I was debating whether or not to do ("Dragonheart") and Ian at that point hadn't done films. He said, `Oh, God, if I could do it all over again, I'd bloody do films from the start. I'm flat broke. I'd just grab it, if I was you, love.' And I did, and I've worked in films ever since."
He has followed a parade of great English actors who've come to the U.S. to make bucks as dastards, including Lord Laurence Olivier ("Marathon Man"), Alan Rickman ("Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves") and Jeremy Irons ("Die Hard With a Vengeance)."They're great parts," Isaacs said. "They're really the best parts. If you're lucky and you play it right and don't take too many of them, there's a longevity in it. Those poor romantic lead buggers. I can't imagine what it would be like to have to carry every film you're in. I get to come along and chew up the scenery."
But not always. He's now starring with "CSI: Miami's" Sofia Milos as a "poor romantic lead bugger" in the independent film "Passionada," opening Friday at art theaters across the country.
Set in the Portuguese-American cultural center that is New Bedford, Mass., "Passionada" is about a fisherman's widow (Milos) who reluctantly falls in love with a charming liar (Isaacs) - only to discover he's a card shark.
Not a complete break with villainy, but a love story with a happy ending nevertheless.