Luke Evans as Richard Wilder in the film 'High-Rise'. Evans describes his character as a ‘primal alpha male'.

Coming Into His Own

25th March 2016

Luke Evans arriving for the ‘Fast And Furious 6’ Premiere, at Empire Leicester Square, London, on 7 May 2013 © Featureflash Photo Agency • pic: Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

With two new blockbuster roles on the horizon, including turns in Ben Wheatley’s ‘High-Rise’ and the highly-anticipated live-action remake of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Luke Evans is finally establishing himself as an actor who is highly capable of taking on anything – even playing a villain whilst singing Disney classics. Jake Taylor meets him to find out more...

Luke Evans’ next two films provide a fantastic insight into his life as an actor – even though nobody’s seen them yet. On the one hand there is High-Rise, the long awaited film adaptation of JG Ballard’s novel; it’s a dark, dystopian tale, full of bloodlust and savagery, and the perfect place for Evans to showcase his acting chops alongside stars like Tom Hiddleston and Sienna Miller. On the other hand, Evans is also set to star as Gaston in the new, live-action version of Disney’s 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast – a move which harks back to his early career treading the boards with a series of West End hits, including Miss Saigon and Rent.

Having made his first major film appearance, lasting all of eight minutes, alongside Liam Neeson and Sam Worthington in 2010’s Clash of the Titans, Evans has gone on to star in over 25 films, including The Three Musketeers and Peter Jackson’s multi-million dollar Hobbit trilogy. However, it was his turn as the villainous Owen Shaw, opposite Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker in Fast and Furious 6, that finally proved Evans’ credentials and most likely influenced his newest roles, both of which revel in their unbridled antagonism.

“With something like High-Rise, that’s so raw and loyal to Ballard’s work, it’s a rarity and something to be cherished,” says Evans of his latest character, the rabble-rousing Richard Wilder. “I was confronted by the script, by the tone. This challenged my abilities, to portray someone who is so unlike me. Then I quickly realised… you don’t get these opportunities often and it was a ‘yes’ straightaway.”

Relishing the chance to “push his boundaries further than ever before”, Evans describes the character of Wilder as a “primal alpha male”. Confined to the lower-class echelons of Ballard’s tower block, with those lucky enough to inhabit the upper levels looking down upon him, Wilder is not only “a hell-raiser, a nut job and a dangerous character”, but there is also “a lot more than what meets the eye”. It seems like Evans finally has the chance to showcase his true range of talent, as he claims that “as mad as [Wilder] ends up, there’s a lot of sanity and truth to his ideals”.

If High-Rise is shaping up to be this year’s biggest book-to-film adaptation so far – Evans says that it’s “complex, daring, avant garde, visceral and psychedelic” – then Beauty and the Beast fills an entirely different cinematic role as a new take on a true Disney classic.

“I’ve seen footage, part of the film, with lots still to do, but it was magical,” says the 36-year-old of his chance to star in such a potentially career-defining film. “It’s a movie for all those who adored the Disney classic, who, like me, know it word for word, song for song. I’m getting to play one of the most famous Disney bad guys ever, and it’s a dream come true.”

Of course, with Evans’ background in musical theatre, the portrayal of Gaston as a handsome, singing rogue is a return to his roots. “I trained up doing live singing, eight shows a week for a year, so it’s pretty natural,” explains Evans, adding that he had spent “ten years singing on stage and then the next eight years trying to find something like this”.

Despite the chance to display his vocal talents alongside Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson, it doesn’t seem like Evans’ success will go to his head. The reason for his continuing humility?…

“I’m Welsh,” he laughs. “That’s it. I live in London and I will never leave. When I come home from wherever I am in the world, I live a normal life. It’s not difficult to keep it real; a lot of people think it is but it’s not. As long as you keep your head clear, then you’re good to go.”

The same attitude affects his opinion on the growing prevalence in Hollywood of using unnatural methods to preserve natural beauty. In spite of the fact that last year Evans was voted one of GQ’s 50 best dressed British men, his sex symbol status is unlikely to have a negative impact on his career.

“If you’re going to focus on the looks as the main component, go into modelling,” says the star, “For acting, it’s a trivial part of the process.” As for Botox? “Look at me!” laughs Evans, “I’ve been wrinkling up for ten years now. It would look a bit strange if everything was suddenly smoothed out!”

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