Much has been discussed about the cancellation of Daredevil, a popular product of the once-rosy relationship between Netflix and Disney that has borne the brunt of their messy public breakup. As Disney prepares its own streaming service, Netflix canceled at least some of its multiple Marvel superhero series seemingly out of sheer spite (and/or professional prowess) as the two entities prepare to become rivals in the streaming space.
But for Daredevil star Charlie Cox, the cancellation of a series he’s given so much to — and gained so much from — is a lot more personal than the boardroom squabbles of media moguls. Cox became a bona fide star over his three seasons on Daredevil, showing acumen as an actor both physically and mentally as he embodied the role of the tortured “Man Without Fear.” In real life, of course, Cox is nothing like his best-known character, trading Daredevil’s brooding pain for lighthearted humor, a gracious demeanor, and the kind of charm only a warm British accent can impart.
We spoke with Cox about his still-fresh breakup with Daredevil, what he’s learned from playing a visually challenged superhero, and what it’s like to be on set with British screen royalty in his new film, King of Thieves, which pairs him with, among others, the great Michael Caine.
Digital Trends: In your latest role in the new heist film King of Thieves (landing on VOD January 25), you play a character who’s a little bit different than your usual roles. As the youngest of the group by far, he’s sort of the odd man out, but he’s also, without giving anything away, meeker than characters we’re used to seeing from you. Was it fun playing a different kind of character?
Charlie Cox: Yeah, you know it was really, really fun, and this was a great challenge for me. Very different from Daredevil, the character I’ve been playing on television recently. You know the challenge, I think, for me was figuring out how to explain why this one guy who was so much younger than the other people who were involved in the heist, why he himself was involved. What was it about him that allowed him to be part of that group or … why did he go to them and involve them in what was essentially his idea? … So that was really the challenge for me as an actor, to explain all of that stuff without actually saying it.
And it’s a true story, right?
It’s a true story. You know the character of Basil, the one I played, is the one character that we actually know very little about. So … we had the most artistic license with him, and we had to invent some things in order to make sense of the moviemaking. So that was quite enjoyable you know … the other characters we know a lot about.
You were also working with an impressive collection of U.K. screen royalty: Michael Gambon (aka Dumbledore from Harry Potter), Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Moulin Rouge), and Michael Caine, among others. Who was your favorite to work with?
You know I love, I love them all and I feel very, very grateful that I was given that opportunity to work with these guys. … most people would dream of just having one opportunity to work with just one of them, so to have been given the opportunity to work with all of them in one film is kind of beyond anyone’s dream, especially a young actor of, you know, English descent. So yeah, I don’t think that I’ll list a favorite. [laughs]
Well let me ask you specifically then because I was most curious: What was it like working with Michael Caine?
It was just such a treat, and he was so kind and friendly and unbelievably, you know, really, really great sense of humor. You know he’s actually older than the character he plays, even older than [Caine’s character] Brian Reader in real life. … He was so friendly to me and he was so encouraging and obviously we have a lot of scenes together. … He’s a great example of what big stars can be like, you know?
Absolutely. That’s how he seems to me. I don’t suppose you pulled out your Michael Caine impression? I feel like everyone has a Michael Caine impression.
[laughs] I did not, but one of the reasons I didn’t is because another chap on the film is a very well-known actor in the U.K. called Paul Whitehouse … he’s actually famous for doing a Michael Caine on television. And so, at one point we did manage to convince him to do his Michael Caine for Michael Caine.
I wish I could have been there for that. Switching gears, I know you’ve been asked plenty of Daredevil questions since the cancellation, but we’ve had a lot of hypothesis on the podcast here as to why it was canceled when it was so popular. Do you have any thoughts beyond the Disney/Netflix rift? Did you guys see it coming at all or was it just a surprise?
I definitely didn’t see it coming. It was definitely a surprise for me. I don’t know anything more than what has been said about it. … I’m sure with all of these things there’s always … you know there’s always stuff going on behind the scenes, there’s always politics and that’s kind of just life. That’s how it works. So, I understand it, but I don’t know. I don’t have any great insight into why it’s been canceled more than anyone else really, unfortunately. I just kind of, I’m saddened, like a lot of people, and you know vaguely live in hope that maybe something can happen in the future with it, but I have no idea how possible or feasible that would be.
Well speaking of that, you know [Disney’s forthcoming streaming service] Disney Plus is on the hunt for new content. There are a few Marvel Cinematic Universe shows in the works, including a Loki series and a Scarlet Witch series. Do you think there’s any chance you could play Daredevil again for a Disney property?
I mean sure — if they want me to, if they ask. Again, I don’t know [what] all the rules are, having just, you know, just been canceled by Netflix, I don’t know what the rules are going forward. But it would be great, wouldn’t it? If at some point in the future we could if you can excuse the pun, pick up the batons one more time … I would jump at that opportunity.
Yeah, it could be really interesting as to how they would incorporate him into the other characters too. They could bring in so many of the cinematic universe characters with your character if they wanted to do it. They could possibly mix Daredevil with other characters like Spider-Man, etc. That could be very interesting.
Right. Yes. Yes. Again, I don’t know what the rules are, but that would be, as you say, that would be very cool. They could figure it out.
So now that you’ve stepped away, what was the best part about playing such a unique and conflicted character. Is it nice to not have to pretend to pretend to be blind anymore?
Oh, that’s very funny actually. You know not many people put it that way, but you’re exactly right. The great challenge of playing Daredevil often is not playing blind, but it’s playing blind but also pretending to be blind, ya know? [laughs] It’s like a double whammy.
There were so many challenges with that role. There’s so many great opportunities. Obviously, the visually impaired aspect is a huge challenge and that was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed working on that. You know, on top of that I was playing an American for the first time, and so that required a lot of work on my accent.
The martial arts and the training was enjoyable and also challenging, as well as just regular gym work, just trying to put on … 20-something pounds of muscle in order to play a superhero. But you know I love all that, I love those opportunities, I love the challenge, and I feel very grateful — I felt very grateful to have a job that required me to really kind of go dig deep and push myself as an actor.
Obviously there’s the acting side but there’s also, as you said, the physical side. What do you take away from that? Does it change your life at all now that you kind of become that kind of a person?
Yeah, I imagine that there’s elements to that. I mean … before I got the job, I never really had a gym membership or spent any time in a gym or anything like that. So … no, I don’t I don’t imagine I’ll slip back into my old ways and never go to the gym again. At least I hope I won’t. [laughs]
There have been a few different people out there who have played multiple superheroes. Knowing what you do now, would you play another superhero if asked?
You know it’s so hard for me to imagine that right now. It just feels so fresh, and I think even saying that I would feels like a little bit of a betrayal. Right now, I’m not thinking about that and I’m … just wondering, and seeing, and hoping if there’s any chance that this show could have another life … elsewhere. I don’t know where. But in years to come, when enough time has passed, if the opportunity was presented, I would certainly like to consider it. I mean it would be very cool. I loved it. I loved this one. So why wouldn’t I love the next one?
Absolutely. So, speaking of all those talented actors on King of Thieves, Boardwalk Empire was a favorite of mine. It seemed like a good way to introduce you to a lot of American audiences, so I’m just wondering what you took away from working with all those great actors and being on a period show like that.
Yeah, I mean that was such a great job to bring me over to America, you know? Obviously, it was very high profile, people knew about it. The character [Owen Sleater] kind of evolved, I felt, into such an interesting character and I got so lucky with my storyline. You know the one thing about that show was there were so many actors in it and so many characters, so many storylines, and it felt quite easy to be lost on it … whereas I got very lucky.
My storylines seemed to exist predominately with the two leads of the show, Kelly Macdonald and Steve Buscemi, and so I think that was just luck, really. But it was a tremendous, tremendous experience, and I got to live and work in New York and work with some of the great American actors – and British actors in that show as well … . That character kind of ended up being instrumental in getting me Daredevil, which, within a year or so later, brought me back to the same city for another five years. So that job has sort of been the catalyst for … living and working in New York for almost a decade.
So, what’s on the horizon for you now? Are you still in New York?
I’m still in New York. The next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to go to London and do a play in the West End there with Tom Hiddleston, actually, and a wonderful actress called Zawe Ashton, that’s called Betrayal and that runs from March to June. So I’m getting ready for that. And then beyond that, I have no plans. Wait and see.
What about HBO? Since you’ve been such a big part of Netflix recently, are there some leads at the rival network?
Not that I know of. I mean, I would love to work with HBO again. I’ve had an unbelievable experience with them and so … that would be ideal for me, but I’ll have to wait and see if there’s a part that they want me for. [laughs]
Are there any other roles you’ve thought about playing that you haven’t been able to experience yet?
I’ve never really created a character that I want to play. … I’ve never really kind of attempted to get a project off the ground so that I could play a particular character … maybe I should, I don’t know. I tend to kind of wait and see what comes to me or what I can audition for, and then see if it’s a character I want to play. I don’t know if that’s just laziness or something, I’m not really sure, or maybe is it just kind of a form of not wanting to get your hopes up?
My goal in the long term is to play lots of different varied characters … and hope that I do good enough job to keep getting to do it. You know that’s really the dream. … I know there’s lots of young actors now, kind of, you know, producing their own content and stuff, so maybe I should do that myself. Seems like a lot of work [laughs]
Right now, I just kind of get back on the audition trail and see what I can get.
Charlie Cox’s new film King of Thieves arrives in select theaters and on VOD January 25.
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