You may think you don’t know Mark Strong but I guarantee you’ve seen him in half a dozen movies, at least. Remember Downey, Jr’s nemesis in Sherlock Holmes or the guy who put the squeeze on Gerard Butler in RocknRolla or the impeccably dressed sexy Syrian agent in Body of Lies? That’s right, those were all Mark. That’s how Strong has slowly become a favorite of mine, being the scene stealer and standout in these films and may more over the past few years. His strong screen presence and versatility make him one of the most enjoyable and outstanding character actors working today.
Mark was born Marco Giuseppe Salussolia in London, August 30, 1963 to an Italian father and an Austrian mother. Mark never knew his father. He walked out before Mark was born. Since, the two men have never had contact. When he younger, Mark’s mother changed his name to help him fit in better. At age six, Mark was sent to a school for difficult children. He has been quoted as saying that he was homesick at first, was seen as somewhat of an “oddity” at the school as he was bussed out to the campus everyday but genuinely doesn’t remember his experience at the school being a bad time. Mark feels in a lot of ways his background was an advantage because being an only child from a poor family, he was alone a lot and this allowed him to not only figure out what he thought was important but also what he wants from the people around him.
Because of his mother’s influence, Mark is fluent in German and spent a year in Munich studying Constitutional Law. Like fellow One2Watch4, Gerard Butler, Mark decided law wasn’t the direction he wanted to go in and decided, instead, to become an actor. He attended Bristol Old Vic Theatre School where he was an apprentice for eight years. He got his first break in 1990 at the National Theatre where he was cast in dual roles in Richard III with Ian McKellan as the troubled monarch. That was the beginning of an impressive stage resume, which included roles in Death of a Salesman, The Iceman Cometh, Speed the Plow and a nomination for an Olivier Award in 2003 for his performance in Twelfth Night. Equally impressive was Mark’s TV work. Appearances in two series of Prime Suspect, a turn as Mr. Knightley in the 1997 ITV production of Emma (with Kate Beckinsale as Emma) and even a 2004 Best Actor BAFTA TV nomination for his work in The Long Firm lined Mark up for stardom in films.
Pretty early in his career Mark knew he had no desire to be a star, to have the attention that is given to celebrities when they become famous. Rather he wanted to work with actors, directors and writers who interest him. And if that meant taking smaller parts or roles in movies that are not destined to make him tons of money, then that’s the course his career would take. And while exceptionally handsome, Mark at first was very self-conscious about losing his hair. He has since decided it makes him look more authentic for certain characters, especially villains. To that end Mark has done very well, working in exciting movies with great directors like Mathew Vaughn (Stardust and Kick Ass), Guy Ritchie (Revolver, RocknRolla and Sherlock Holmes), Danny Boyle (Sunshine) , Ridley Scott (Body of Lies and Robin Hood) and most recently Peter Weir (The Way Back).
2011 is shaping up to launch Mark into the collective conscious. Coming up he has The Guard (2011) with Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle, The Eagle with Channing Tatum (now on DVD), Black Gold, with Antonio Banderas and Green Lantern, easily his most “commercial” film to date, with Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard. Add to that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with an all-cast cast and sci-fi extravaganza John Carter coming in 2012, it’s a safe bet that Mark’s days of people not knowing exactly who is are coming to an end.
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