×

‘The Golden Age’ of William Houston

London stage sensation embraces dark side

LONDON — Most actors thrive on praise, and British stage actor William Houston is currently receiving the kind of effusive acclaim that his peers would kill for. Last month, Blighty newspaper The Independent gushed, “It’s hard to imagine a more thrillingly dangerous performer,” referring to the actor’s memorable “chain of chillingly ferocious psychopaths and tyrants.”

“It’s lovely to hear that people think highly of me,” says the 38-yeard old Irishman, whose decade-plus career includes stints with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theater. His dual role as Prince Hal and King Henry at the RSC garnered Houston a nomination for the 2001 Evening Standard Theater Award for best actor, while his turn as puritanical despot Pentheus in Peter Hall’s “The Bacchai” garnered raves.

Houston credits his Irish background with his affinity for dark characters. “I was brought up during ‘the Troubles’ and I learned to deal with that kind of ‘normal’ life,” he says, “so I was very used to the horrors of that time. It’s great to play those roles because it’s basically free therapy.”

Popular on Variety

While Houston has dabbled in TV, he is now making a concerted move toward film, opening with Nicolas Roeg’s “Puffball,” the director’s first theatrical feature in more than a decade. “It’s very naturalistic,” Houston says. “I am playing a farmer, and it was shot only 20 miles from where I grew up. If there was going to be any film that I could use to relax into this, having done so much theater, this is it, so I was very lucky.”

“Puffball” will be followed by more familiar territory, Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” sequel, “The Golden Age,” in which Houston stars opposite Cate Blanchett as a Spanish ambassador. “It’s a classical piece,” he explains, “and it’s easy for me to cross over: I’m used to the costumes, the swords, the boots, the beard…!”

But it was still a challenge: “The Spanish accent was very difficult indeed.”

While Houston is not leaving theater behind, film work will ensure that he’ll “certainly go AWOL for a while” adding, “film can be quite theatrical. You can get away with a lot more.”

For his future screen endeavors, he’ll abide by one rule: “The important thing is to be prepared and not be too specific with my choices because one could be disappointed. If the story grabs me, then I’ll go hell for leather.”

Claim to fame: “Playing Prince Hal and King Henry for the RSC. That was a year and a half being in character 24 hours a day. It took me about a year to come out of character.”

Career mantra: “Go like blazes — because life is short.”

Role model: “My real hero is Christopher Walken.”

What’s next: “I’ve got some plays planned — there’s the possibility of playing Hamlet and Shakespeare himself.”

More Film

  • Liam Neeson Widows

    Film News Roundup: Liam Neeson's Comedy 'Made in Italy' Sells to IFC

    In today’s film news roundup, IFC buys a Liam Neeson comedy and STX takes territories on Karen Gillan and Lena Headey’s “Gunpowder Milkshake.” ACQUISITIONS IFC Films is acquiring U.S. rights to James D’Arcy’s feature directorial debut, “Made In Italy,” starring Liam Neeson and Micheál Richardson. “Made In Italy” will receive a traditional theatrical release in [...]

  • Baby Peggy

    Diana Serra Cary, Child Star Known as Baby Peggy, Dies at 101

    Diana Serra Cary, the child silent film star known by the nickname Baby Peggy, died on Monday in Gustine, Calif. She was 101. Born on October 29, 1918 as Peggy Jean Montgomery, Cary began her career in the film industry at the early age of 19 months. During a visit with her mother and a [...]

  • Riz Ahmed

    Riz Ahmed on Creating ‘A Really Personal Piece of Work’ with ‘Mogul Mowgli’

    The idea for “Mogul Mowgli” first began in 2017 when British actor, rapper and activist Riz Ahmed met Bassam Tariq, a producer and independent filmmaker, between trips to New York. Almost three years later, the pair is debuting “Mogul Mowgli” in Berlin’s Panorama. The film, which Tariq directed and co-wrote with Ahmed, who also stars, [...]

  • David Permut

    'Hacksaw Ridge' Producer Developing Colombo Crime Family Son's Story (EXCLUSIVE)

    David Permut, the Oscar-nominated producer of “Hacksaw Ridge,” has acquired the life rights to the story of John Franzese Jr., the son of the Colombo crime family’s second-in-command, Sonny Franzese. The elder Franzese passed away on Sunday at the age of 103. Franzese Jr. became active in the family business during the 1980s, leading to [...]

  • Annabella Sciorra

    Annabella Sciorra on Weinstein Verdict: 'We Can Never Regret Breaking the Silence'

    Annabella Sciorra hailed the guilty verdict against ex-mogul Harvey Weinstein, which included a “criminal sexual act” and third-degree rape, on Monday. Weinstein was also acquitted on two counts of predatory sexual assault that centered on Sciorra’s testimony — indicating that the jurors did not believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Weinstein had raped and assaulted [...]

  • Gabrielle Carteris participates in Fox's "BH90210"

    SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris on Weinstein Verdict: 'You Can't Hide Any Longer'

    SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris has hailed the verdicts in the Harvey Weinstein case, with the disgraced ex-mogul found guilty of committing a criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. “Justice was served today and Harvey Weinstein was held accountable for his crimes,” Carteris said. “But it is only a beginning. We look forward to the Weinstein [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content