MAT:And have you ever felt like you’ve been typecast?
TR:Earlier in my career, I felt frustrated to have been offered endless stereotypical parts from Hollywood mainly. I wanted to work over there but not at any price so I turned them down a lot of times. What's happening all over the world at the moment is a good thing, it’s late but it’s a good thing. I think that they should open up the range of roles to actors of different origin, meaning culture, race and religion is all very relevant now. It would bring hope to people just to tell what you see from your window.
MAT:Both The Serpentand The Mauritanianare pretty intense portrayals, what drew you to both of them?
TR:I like challenges, I like to be challenged and that’s what I’m seeking for as an actor, something I haven’t done or something I haven’t seen, lets try it to get out of your comfort zone.
MAT:And both are based on real-life stories, which must make the task of playing them even more difficult?
TR:It’s more scary man! It’s more scary because you’ve got a responsibility. I mean there's two ways to portray real life people. If they are celebrities you have to mime them in a way because everybody knows them. When it comes to people who are not famous and alive there's a responsibility in a way to not disappoint them. For Charles [whose story is infamous], you want to know what happened to him psychologically and physically and it’s interesting in terms of anthropology, studying the human mind and psyche like that and as an actor to play this, I couldn’t find anyone more distant from my nature than him.
MAT:What made you want to play Sobhraj in the first place?
TR:When I was fourteen, I bumped into my brother’s room and there was this book, Richard Neville’s The Life and Times of Charles Sobhraj. I read it and I got crazy because I wanted to be an actor and each time I would read it, it looked and sounded like a movie so I was like yeah I’d like to play him sometimes. Then in 2001 or so William Friedkin was prepping a movie about him with Benicio del Toro so I forgot about that and then I got an email 20 years later saying yep you got that offer, so it’s a bit different. But apart from him, it’s fascination and repulsion that are generally not conceivable that become automatically attractive to try and challenge yourself.
MAT:What is it about watching true crime that entices an audience so much?
TR:When you see true events or a true story, you're hooked and I think that you can get easily curious and fascinated when you know that this person can exist or has existed because you find a relationship and a link to reality that makes it more attractive.
MAT:How do you decompress while playing the role of a real-life serial killer?
TR:Oh man, I would go to work out. I worked out a lot just to let it go. I’m so restless and I have to be very tense and contain things inside so everything goes through my eyes only. I would work out and the good thing about shooting in Thailand is you can go on holiday and go on an island and have fun, that's the way I escaped.
MAT:With a film like The Mauritanian,how do you prepare to play a man who spent more than a decade incarcerated when he was innocent?
TR:It was tough. I did my homework, I read his book, I listened to audio about him and watched videos to understand his psychology but at a certain point there’s something that you cannot know without experiencing it physically, so to reach those dark places I needed some realistic conditions physically to just taste it. My job is to make it bigger, to magnify it, for example I wanted the team to shackle me with real shackles, not fake ones, so I could feel what Mohamedou has been through. The bruises I got, I kept them for weeks and I got shackled for real for only two days. For the torture scenes, one thing they would do was throw their detainee in a very cold cell so I asked the team to make it as cold as possible and spray me with water so I could feel what’s the real state physically and I got waterboarded for real, we had a sign in case.