Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Anthony Warren: A Master of Accents and Much More

Credit: Will Tudor
Actor Anthony Warren shot by Will Tudor

UK actor Anthony Warren from the films "The Contract," "Control" and "The Marksman," is one actor with a rare gift for embodying diverse characters with complex accents.

Veteran actor Anthony Warren has been making an indelible impression on stage and screen audiences for two decades. In his roles on television and in film and theater, he has displayed an unrivaled ability to embody a vast array of characters. Most impressively, he does so with such authenticity and dedication that his roles invariably take on a life of their own and become flesh and blood in their own right.

A worldly man with a gift for performance, Warren’s rich multicultural heritage is a big part of the reason he is such a versatile actor. His parents, originally from Jamaica, moved to the U.K. in search of a better life. Born in London, Warren was first drawn to acting as a child. Growing up in the British metropolis that Shakespeare once called home, he has been strongly influenced by both the city’s long tradition of stagecraft as well as his family’s Jamaican culture. Well-known for playing everything from an American soldier to an Indian Brahman (a Hindu religious leader), few actors can claim as broad a range of roles as Warren.

In 2004, Warren showed off his metamorphic talent when he played a prison nurse in the intense psychological thriller “Control.” Golden Globe-nominated actor Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas,” “Something Wild”) stars as a convicted murderer who is given a choice: either be executed by lethal injection, or be a test subject for an experimental chemical designed to cure his psychopathy. In addition to Liotta, Warren acted alongside an all-star cast which also included two-time Academy Award-nominee Willem Dafoe (“Platoon,” “Shadow of the Vampire,” “Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Michelle Rodriguez (“The Fast & The Furious,” “Avatar”).

The very fact that he was chosen for the role says a lot about his abilities as an actor. His character, Brock, was an American, and the script called for a Southern accent. Watching the film, audiences might never know that Warren is a Londoner from a Jamaican family, and not a Georgia-native actor. This is especially true during a scene where Brock is speaking with the film’s antagonist, Lee Ray Oliver (Liotta).

“My most memorable moment during filming occurred while waiting to rehearse a dialogue scene with Ray [Liotta]. We decided on a line read between us on set,” Warren recalled. “We ended up, naturally, blocking the scene without direction. The multiple-award-winning director, Tim Hunter, gave us a big ‘thank you’ for saving time.”

Warren once again proved his mastery of accents in 2006 when he played an American mercenary named Royko in “The Contract” from two-time Academy Award-nominated director Bruce Beresford (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “Tender Mercies”). The action-packed crime drama stars Golden Globe- and BAFTA-nominated actor John Cusack (“High Fidelity,” “Being John Malkovich”) as a father intent on bringing down Carden, a ruthless assassin played by Academy Award winner and American icon Morgan Freeman (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Invictus”).

Though Warren’s ability to portray American characters is well established, by no means is that where he draws the line. In director Albie James’ play “Killing Passion,” Warren’s talents were pushed to their very limits. Based on a story from “Mahabharata,” an ancient Indian Sanskrit epic, the play was one of the most challenging performances of Warren’s career — and easily one of his best. Reflecting on the role, Warren proudly detailed the intense lengths he went to in order to perfectly embody Shridaman, a legendary Hindu religious leader in ancient Indian folklore and the lead character of “Killing Passion.”

“I had to lose drastic weight and develop a movement that displayed physical ineptitude. It was a four-and-a-half hour piece that required an array of emotions. It was and still is, mentally and physically, the most demanding piece of work – be it film, stage, radio or TV – that I’ve ever done,” Warren said proudly. “Initially opening at the Lyric Studio in Hammersmith, we toured nationally with over sixty performances around different regions of England and Wales.”

While many actors learn in their careers to imitate an accent or two, few – if any – can say they’ve portrayed a range of characters even remotely as diverse as Anthony Warren has. Rather than falling victim to typecasting, Warren continues to break the mold time and again. His incredible talent for disappearing into his roles sets him apart from virtually every other actor today. With an unequaled degree of skill and dedication, Warren does not simply “play” characters — he brings them to life, and he becomes them.

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