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It's a kind of magic

November 20 2002
The Sun-Herald

Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

For Jason Isaacs, playing wicked wizard Lucius Malfoy in the latest Harry Potter film sure beats doing a proper job, Victoria Young writes.

Jason Isaacs still can't believe he dons velvet capes, flowing blond wigs and waves wands for a living. Neither can his old law-school buddies who are now taking their children to see Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets in London movie theatres.

Their former classmate at Bristol University plays the evil wizard Lucius Malfoy, the father of Draco, Harry's arch enemy at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, in the second of the Harry Potter series.

"He's a terrible racist, he's a bigot, he wishes the world was free of Muggles," Isaacs says of Malfoy. "He believes in the pure blood of wizards and he's a really nasty dad as well. He's altogether a pretty unpleasant piece of work."

But a fantastic role to act, Isaacs assures. "The fun is playing a character that's well-written," he says. "You don't need to look very far in today's world to find modern parallels. Switch on the telly and there's people getting elected to governments all over Europe on the same kind of platform that Lucius is standing on.

"To put on hair down to your waist and floor-length velvet capes, wave a wand around and do scenes with an imaginary character it doesn't get more fun than that."

The first movie, Harry Potter And The Philosospher's Stone, released last year, has become the second-highest grossing movie of all time (behind Titanic). For the second instalment of the series, based on the books by JK Rowling, Isaacs has joined a stellar line-up of British actors, including John Cleese as Nearly Headless Nick, Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart), the late Richard Harris (Professor Albus Dumbledore) and Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall).

Prepared to leave the movie in the hands of the film-makers, Rowling kept her distance from the set.

"I hear that she's got a day job and, like the rest of the world, I'm holding my breath for book five," says Isaacs, who will appear in the fourth movie of the series (No3 has already been made) and has his fingers crossed his character continues in the fifth.

"Also, I think she just trusts them [the film-makers]; that more than anyone else they've got the flavour of what she's after. I'm looking forward to putting my gown on again for book four. Like the rest of the cast I want book five to come out because I'm a fan, but I also want to see if I'm alive. I want to see if I've got a job in 2005."

Based in London, Isaacs is currently living on the Gold Coast while he plays Captain Hook and Mr Darling in director PJ Hogan's (Muriel's Wedding) movie version of Peter Pan.

With wife Emma and seven-month-old daughter Lily, ("her first words will hopefully be spoken with an Australian accent") Isaacs, 39, will stay in Australia until April. "We're loath to go home, we're having such a good time here," Isaacs said. "I want to get an Australian agent and see if I can get another film."

Isaacs discovered his love of acting at university, where he directed and acted in more than 20 plays in Bristol and each summer at the Edinburgh Festival.

"I did a three-year law degree but all the time I was constantly off somewhere in a room screaming and shouting and taking my clothes off," he reveals. "It was where I found my friends and found my feet, and my girlfriends as well. I just got totally addicted to it. People say, 'Well, why did you stop doing law?' Well, do you know any lawyers? [This is] a lot more fun."

He later studied acting at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, the alma mater of Laurence Olivier and the Redgraves.

At the end of the three-year course, "I was desperate to earn some money. I'd been a student for six years. My parents were desperate for me to earn some money as well."

He went on to work extensively in British theatre and his movie credits include roles in Windtalkers, Black Hawk Down, The Patriot and Armageddon.

His set to star in the romantic comedy Passionada and co-stars with Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Tuxedo. And there's another movie which recently surfaced in a most unlikely place.

"I tried to join Blockbusters at Mermaid Beach and I walked in and it said you need utility bills, an Australian passport, DNA samples, a note from your mum, all this stuff I didn't have. I said, 'Look I haven't got any of these things, I'm wondering if I can join?"' Isaacs says.

"And the woman at the counter said, 'I know you, you're in some film I've just seen you singing and dancing in'. I went, 'Really?'

"There's a film called The Last Minute that I made two years ago. I don't think it's ever coming out but thank God it's coming out on video because it got me a membership at Blockbuster."

Well-written characters, such as those in Harry Potter, are the most fun to play, Isaacs says.

"I tell you what's really hard is badly written characters," he explains. "It's a nightmare. Then you really earn your money. When they're well written there's nothing to it.

"I don't want to do myself out of a job but pretty much anyone in the street could do it. If the story's well put together, you've got a good director and a good cast around you, it's a piece of cake and when it's not, it's a nightmare. But I'd still rather be doing it than a proper job."

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets opens on November 28.


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