When you hear the name Ray Stevenson, your mind may wander and think, “I know that guy, he’s the one in the..what is it?”It’s time to get familiar with the man’s work. Ray Stevenson is a face of film and an actor to look up, dig into and appreciate. He likes what he does. “I’m a lifer. I’m going to do this for as long as I can because I absolutely love it.” You don’t hear many actors speak with the ambition that Ray does.
Working for 22 years in Hollywood and making 46 different projects separated through TV and film, the 51 year old tall dark yet vulnerable screen presence has done it all. He’s fought alongside Clive Owen’s King Arthur, dished his take on Frank Castle’s Punisher, locked horns with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in G.I. Joe:Retaliation, and matched minds with Showtime’s Dexter and played Marcus in this year’s Insurgent.
Stevenson’s latest film, the adventurous Big Game, where he co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson, was a particularly special experience and I had a chance to speak with Ray about the shoot, Jackson and what the film’s experience brought him.
On Sam L. Jackson-“It was fantastic. He’s one of the most interesting and creative wonderful actors to work with. He’s one of the best working actors on this planet. I had the opportunity to meet him in London and tell him how blown away I was by his work in Django(Unchained, directed by Quentin Tarantino). He’s that good. The difference in his roles is amazing. Special human being.
Does Sam have some fun or is he serious? Not on this movie. If there was something happening on set, he’ll make you get it together. He’ll loves what he is doing. His film sense is amazing. Working with him face to face is an experience. He is a giving actor and it was great seeing him work with the young actor Onni Tommila as well.
On the differences between big budget films and smaller budget films like Big Game-It has to work like a well oiled machine. It will run away if it is not prepped to the highest degree. The pre-shoots and storyboards are important and if not done right, the entire production can be rough. It comes down to the people involved making it a convenient shoot and just rolling with it.
On shooting in the great outdoors and its effect on the story-We shot in a wonderful place called Bevaria, in Germany. It’s got an old school feel about it and also epic scope about it. At the heart of the film is a story about a child’s rite of passage. A very inventive way to shoot and lovely location.
Stevenson’s biggest legion of fans in America know him as Titus Pullo in HBO’s short lived yet brilliant series, Rome. Playing the playful yet ferocious warrior giant ally to Kevin McKidd’s Vorenus, Stevenson forged a cornerstone character. The effect the character had on Stevenson is apparent and is still something he literally carries around with him. “I still wear the 13th legion ring around, the one that Pullo wore in the show. It brought me my recognition in the states and connected me to so many fans across the country. It’s something that should have went on and on, for at least seven seasons. However, there was a change in HBO’s programming management and it was cut short. While we dropped the ball in not keeping it going, it is a treasured experience I will always hold dear.”
When asked about a possible movie version of Rome, Stevenson was clear. “Wow, I’d love it. I’d love to go off and do a story about Pullo and Vorenus.”
On his upcoming slate, Stevenson is bringing the heat in different venues. He’s finishing a TV mini series called Saints and Strangers, about the first year of Pilgrims in America. He co-stars in the reboot of The Transporter series with the new Frank Martin, Ed Skrein(stepping in for Jason Statham), Transporter Refueled. He plays Martin’s father, a man with a shadowy past to MI-6. He plays Blackbeard on the Starz series, Black Sails this fall. When it comes to film, Stevenson is indeed a lifer. Someone who will work until it stops coming and judging by Ray’s unique set of skills, that time won’t be coming anytime soon.
While Big Game will be known as a Samuel L. Jackson experience, it will be hard to keep your eyes off the menacing Stevenson.