It is the day after 3 november and Paul Bettany sounds weary over the phone. “I’m just a little shell-shocked.” His words have that leaden air of someone who is exhausted. Like most Americans, Bettany stayed up all evening and into the wee hours of the morning, just waiting on the results of a continuous election.
“[Joe] Biden is still predicted with a 90 percent chance of winning. But yet again, the polls got it wrong, the media got it wrong… I just don’t know how democracy survives if there are two sets of facts. How do you vote if both sides have been fed by their own media outlets?”
Bettany is political and is aware that his celebrity might get in the way of said politics but he couldn’t just be quiet on social issues. So, four years ago, when Donald Trump was inaugurated, the British actor filed for US citizenship. He had already lived in New York for about 16 years then and wanted to dig in to save the republic. “I’ve lived here for a long time and I understood the political processes, what the electoral college is, which is the remnant of slavery, and that is still deciding our elections, instead of the popular vote.
“And so, I’ve decided to vote. I decided to get involved.” Then a weary beat. “What I didn’t realise is that I should have also moved to Florida [to make some sort of difference].” Bettany catches himself. “I mean, this isn’t the conversation you were probably expecting.”
It wasn’t. But I wasn’t surprised either. We were supposed to be talking about Bettany’s latest project, WandaVision, but given the climate (Nevada still hasn’t finished tallying the votes), politics will seep in and momentarily take control of the conversation.
In this year’s election, President Trump faces off with former Vice-President Biden and the numbers aren’t looking too good: the purported ‘blue landslide’ that was supposed to occur didn’t. And even if the Democrats squeak by with a win for the presidency, they still do not get a majority in the Senate, which makes it harder for a Democrat president to get anything done in the White House. In a world where Trump, an erstwhile businessman and a reality show host, is the 45th president of the United States (though ‘united’ might be a bit of a stretch at the moment) of America; this is the world that Bettany must contend with.
In a different world, Bettany might not have been Vision.
He was the voice of Tony Stark’s AI. As JARVIS. His voice is a spring-heeled walk across syllables—light and precise—the dependable Girl Friday who handles Stark’s affairs with aplomb. As the story goes, Jon Favreau, who appeared with Bettany on Wimbledon, was the director of Iron Man and said they needed “the voice of a personality-less robot” and thought of him. Bettany found that funny and agreed. He voiced JARVIS in the Iron Man trilogy and first Avengers film before transitioning to an acting position as Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Speaking with BBC Radio 1, Bettany confesses that a producer told him his career was over, which resulted in a shouting match. When Bettany stepped outside, he was gripped with this fear that maybe there was some truth to it, that maybe he is done. As he sat on the sidewalk in Sunset Boulevard, trying to compose himself, he got a call from Joss Whedon, who was going to direct the sequel to The Avengers, asking him if he wanted to be Vision.
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