A Better World
Esquire Singapore|December 2020
A lovelorn tennis player, a gangster striving to be numero uno, a vampire slayer, Geoffrey Chaucer, and lately, a superhero robot… Paul Bettany plays these roles and more. In a career that allows you to be someone else, Bettany talks to Wayne Cheong in an aspect of so many Americans: anxious voter.
Wayne Cheong

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.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM ESQUIRE SINGAPOREView All

WATERWORLD

In a world of environmental disaster, political turmoil, economic crisis, social upheaval and public health emergency, is the logical next step for humanity the construction of floating maritime communities? Or is so-called seasteading just an extravagant passion project for paranoid tech bros and alt-utopian dreamers?

10+ mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

CANCELLED

The prolific public embrace of ‘cancelling’ disgraced or accused celebrities means the erasure of certain parts of our shared cultural history. But how, Huw Walmsley-Evans wonders, can we separate the art from the artist?

10+ mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

Present In The Past

Award-winning Singaporean writer O Thiam Chin’s latest novel, The Dogs, chronicles history will always stay with us even as time passes.

4 mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

Fitness App That Puts You Front And Centre For A Story

Here’s a fitness app that puts you front and centre for a story.

1 min read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

The Body Perfect

The theatre might have been closed for the better part of the past year, but that hasn’t stopped Etienne Ferrère from refining his craft. The Singapore Dance Theatre principal artist shares what goes into making ballet look effortless.

4 mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

In For The Long Run

In a market saturated by neon-hued synthetic activewear, Boston-based running brand Tracksmith aims to restore grace and timelessness to an ageold sport, writes Mitchell Oakley Smith.

4 mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

The Big Time

The digital watch turns 50.

10+ mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

Making Money Moves

Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure does help to alleviate stress and uplift moods, even if it may be deemed temporary. But is retail therapy just a fancy excuse to shop, or does it actually work?

9 mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

Posthumous Fashion-ism

The works and names of late artists live on and gain multiple reincarnations via a medium that has often been derided as ‘not art’, writes Asri Jasman.

6 mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021

The Life Of Brian

It wasn’t long ago that Rich Brian was just a tween creating skit videos in the suburbs of Indonesia. Five years later, with two albums under his belt, Brian puts out 1999, a deeply personal EP. It’d appear that he has finally grown up and if so, is it a good thing?

10+ mins read
Esquire Singapore
January 2021