Patrick St. Esprit has made a career largely out of playing the bad guy.
But the recognizable character actor, who has had a recurring role on TV’s “Sons of Anarchy” since the first season, out-baddies himself in “Catching Fire,” making his mark — quite literally — in Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games” sequel.
“When I was younger, a lot of my guest spots on television were playing bad guys,” St. Esprit, 59, told Variety. “I found that they served me really well. (Being bad) gave me more opportunities to explore a character.”
In “Catching Fire,” which ignited the box office this weekend with a $300 million-plus worldwide opening, St. Esprit delivers a memorable scene – one that even made the film’s trailer – in which he plays the barbarous Commander Thread, who flogs a dissenting Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth.
Spattered in blood, St. Esprit’s sadistic villain is persuaded to stop the flogging by none other than the Girl on Fire herself, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), along with fellow Hunger Games victors, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson). In fact, the graphic nature of the scene, including Gale’s horrifically scarred back (rendered by Oscar-winning makeup artist Ve Neill), was toned down some to avoid a more restrictive rating.
St. Esprit, who in person is perfectly warm and friendly, said his intensity garnered praise from castmates and the film’s director, Francis Lawrence.
Even producer Nina Jacobson, who was a fan of St. Esprit in “Sons of Anarchy,” raved about the actor’s scene. “I was totally psyched to have him in the movie,” Jacobson said.
St. Esprit said his role on “Sons of Anarchy” as an avenging father-businessman has gained him special notoriety. But it was his role in Paul Greengrass’ 2006 “United 93” that first brought him to the attention of “Hunger Games” casting director Debra Zane, who has called on St. Esprit for past auditions.
But it’s the “Hunger Games” role that St. Esprit said he hopes will lead to more offers.
“I said to my wife, ‘Boy, I’d really love to be in a movie like that,’” St. Esprit recalled. “All I can do is hope that it opens up more doors.”
As for playing a villain, St. Esprit said any notice is good notice. “Every once in a while, I think there’s a level of seriousness to (people’s reactions),” he said, “but I take that as a great compliment.”