Artful Dodger
‘Pillars of the Earth’ Star Rufus Sewell Fights Typecasting

Boston Herald, 18 July 2010
By Amy Amatangelo
Thanks, Stama

Rufus Sewell builds his career on selective unemployment.

That’s another way of saying he’s choosy about the roles he takes.

The British native headlines the Starz miniseries “The Pillars of the Earth,” premiering Friday at 10 p.m.

“The big worry of my career has always been not being typecast,” Sewell told the Herald in a telephone interview from Rome, where he is filming a project for PBS and the BBC.

Sewell is perhaps best known for playing villains in such movies as “A Knight’s Tale” and “The Illusionist.”

“Because it has seemed to me whenever I’ve had a success, I’ve always been offered the same kind of role. It’s been a real struggle to work and not play dastardly upper-class villains in period stuff. Because if I wanted to just do the work that was offered to me, then that would be the bulk of my career. So it’s always been a struggle and balancing out deliberate unemployment with the idea of what better thing might be around the corner.”

This time the better thing around the corner was playing Tom Builder in the eight-part miniseries.

“I wasn’t sent the script with a view to playing Tom Builder,” he said. “I found the part quite moving when I read it, and I kind of stuck my neck out and asked if they would consider me for that part.”

In the premiere, multiple tragedies befall Tom, a mason and master builder charged with rebuilding Kingsbridge Castle in 12th century England.

“He’s strong, but at the same time weak with his terrible flaws, and he’s someone who is just trying through his limitations to get by. Life happens to him in its extremes. He has a poetic soul. He wants to make something that he believes is beautiful and that kind of drives him,” said Sewell, who will be seen next year on the big screen opposite Angelina Jolie in “The Tourist.”

To prepare for the “Pillars” role, Sewell and some of his co-stars trained in the art of stone masonry.

“We were pretty inept,” he said and then laughed. “I wouldn’t get me to make a castle for you, but it was certainly fun and it was good bonding.”

Although the story takes place more than 800 years ago, he said it wasn’t difficult to put himself in Tom Builder’s world.

“Technology is a means to do the same old rubbish we would have done (since) the Stone Age. People’s instincts don’t change,” he said. “It’s about loyalty, it’s about hunger, it’s about protection and attraction. I think these (technological) things we think represent us, you take them away and people haven’t changed at all.”

Two years ago, Sewell starred in the drama “Eleventh Hour,” which lasted one season on CBS. Would he ever do another TV series?

“I don’t think I’ll ever do anything like that again,” he said. “It was interesting. I think I learned an enormous amount from it. But I did learn that I wouldn’t put myself in the position of doing something for one of those big companies just because, for me, the excitement of the future is very important, including all the things that can go wrong, and that kind of potential job security scares the bejesus out of me.”

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