Five Favorite Films with Paul Bettany

The Margin Call star talks Occupy Wall Street and busking before acting.

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From vengeance-obsessed priests to tennis pros, from English naturalists to sentient computers, Paul Bettany has played a wide range of characters in his big-screen career. In his latest, Margin Call, Bettany plays a high-rolling investment banker whose company is on the verge of collapse -- an internal crisis that just might take the whole economy down with it. In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Bettany shared his favorite films, and also discussed Occupy Wall Street, why he (sort of) empathizes with bankers, and the difference between busking and filmmaking.

In the Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993; 95% Tomatometer)

There's so much to like about it. Really brilliant script. I think it's an amazingly directed movie. It's the real trick of that movie, to come out feeling that you're Irish and hate the English, especially when you're English, which I am. [laughs] It is one of the most exquisite performances of all time. I saw it when I was a student of acting, and there was lots of people to admire; there was Robert De Niro, and there was Al Pacino, and here was an English person, making such a complete and visceral transformation in character that you just went, "Oh my God, we're allowed to do that sort of thing, too?" That felt really empowering.

Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945; 86% Tomatometer)

Brief Encounter, I think, is just an exquisite movie. I think I see it at least once a year. It's a Noel Coward and David Lean movie, and it's so ahead of its time in so many ways. Visually, it's ahead of its time. Oh my God, it's like a piece of music. That sequence of lines in it, when they're out in the countryside, and he says, "Are you cold, darling?" And she says, "No, not really." He says, "Are you happy?" And she says, "No, not really." It's f---ing heartbreaking. I mean, it pulls every string; it's beautiful. And it's also a movie that's... the first movie I can think of -- maybe I'm wrong -- where a woman has an affair and is the hero of the piece, and isn't vilified by the piece. The husband is not evil; you know, the husband is kind of wonderful , and at the end he says, "You've been so very far away, and I'm glad you've come home," and all of that. It's just beautiful.

Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980; 98% Tomatometer)

Raging Bull. I defy anybody to point out one thing that's wrong with it. It's just perfect. There's nothing in that movie that could be cut out that would make it better. It just feels so lean and perfect. Every moment doesn't lose sight of what it's about, you know? Every shot is animal. It's amazing. Although I think it's really hard to do jealousy, because jealousy's a bit like seasickness in that it's awful if it's happening to you but f---ing funny to watch. You know, somebody puking off the side of a boat or somebody being jealous, you look like such a moron, but if it's happening to you, and you're jealous, it's f---ing appalling. Somehow, in that movie, what it pulls off is, it's never funny. It's just f---ing awful, he's just an animal, and it's the threat of violence the whole time. It's amazing and beautiful.

Prick Up Your Ears (Stephen Frears, 1987; 100% Tomatometer)

Prick up Your Ears, Gary Oldman. Great movie. That is another extraordinary performance that feels so total and complete, you know?

It's A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946; 95% Tomatometer)

I love that movie. Again, what's wrong with that movie? Not a f---ing lot, right? Really lean piece of socialist storytelling that's just gorgeous.

Next, Bettany talks about Occupy Wall Street, why he (sort of) empathizes with bankers, and the difference between busking and filmmaking.