Warning: contains very mild spoilers for Daredevil.
Charlie Cox – you either know him as Daredevil’s brooding lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock, Boardwalk Empire’s IRA volunteer Owen Sleater, and/or Tristan Thorn from the criminally underrated family film Stardust.
We met up with the immensely polite actor to talk about his experiences and future expectations of Daredevil, the future roles Matt Murdock could play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and more.
Here’s the interview in full…
I was here yesterday for the Avengers interviews, have you had a chance to see the new movie yet?
Not yet, I’m very excited to. Is it good?
It’s very good. And because I’ve been watching that, and binging Daredevil at a similar time, I was wondering if you think those worlds could still click together? Obviously it’s been rumored, but Daredevil is a lot darker than the movies…
Someone asked me the question earlier on today, about how would you take the Daredevil that we’ve met in the show and put him in an Avengers movie, and I understand that would be tricky because obviously you can’t bring the blood and guts that we’ve got to the cinematic universe.
But at the same time, if you read Civil War and you read New Avengers, Daredevil takes very much a back seat in those, and he’s just kind of on the periphery. He’s kind of brooding, and he adds a comment here and there, and give some advice.
In Civil War he ends up being the device they use in order to bring the whole thing to a head. So, I hope that there would be a way of including him, and more kind of suggest at his nature, suggest what he’s capable of, without having to actually see it. But maybe I’m just being optimistic because I want to be in the movies, you know what I mean?
You seem quite clued up about comics, did you have any specific inspirations for bringing Matt Murdock and Daredevil onto the screen?
I just read and read and read and read and read the comics, you know? A lot of people know now that I didn’t grow up on the comics, so I didn’t really have much of an experience. And in a way that’s been quite helpful, because I didn’t have a preconceived idea about what the show should be or what Matt should be.
So when I read the scripts, I was then able to go away and read the comics and work my way through the different years and different writers and illustrators, and I was able to identify which ones best suited the show that we were trying to make, and then concentrate on them.
And so, I read, obviously all of Frank Miller’s stuff – in particular I read and reread The Man Without Fear. I got really invested in the Bendis and Maleev stuff, Bendis and Mack, and I love a lot of Joe Quesada’s stuff that he did with Kevin Smith, and of course Jeph Loeb’s Daredevil Yellow is one of my favorites. So I’ve found series and episodes and issues that really worked well tonally, thematically with the show that was being written. And yeah, in execution that ended up being the case as well I think.
Obviously, Matt’s powers aren’t very visual – no sight pun intended – as we only really see the ‘world on fire’ effect once. So what was going on in your head when you’re trying to act like he’s listening to a heartbeat, for example?
It’s quite tricky actually. Because, one of the things that’s quite hard is; let’s say you have to show, from a filmmaking point of view, that Daredevil is picking up on something, right? Sensing it. The only way to do it is to show the camera go there.
If it was another character, they’d look down at the floor, and the camera would pan with them to the clothes, or the alarm clock or whatever, and then pan back up and you know that they’ve looked at it.
But Daredevil wouldn’t need to turn his head at all, or look down. But obviously that doesn’t work as a storytelling device, so what we decided was that he tends to cock his head in the direction of what he’s picking up on. Almost like, because he had nine years of sight, he takes all the information that he’s receiving and he turns it into a visual.
And so he looks in the direction of… there’s a scene where he’s walking through all the blind drug runners, and he’s picking up on the cocaine and the fact that they’re blind, and the camera is a point-of-view shot. So the camera has to go with him as he does it, so we ended up using that as a device. It was quite complicated, and it was important that there was a consistency to it.
One of the through-lines is obviously “should he kill Fisk?” – do you think that’s the line between becoming Daredevil and becoming Punisher, as I’ve seen you mention before?
Yes, that’s the promise. I think he makes promises to himself that he doesn’t keep. But one of the promises he makes to himself is that he won’t kill someone. He won’t cross that line. That’s the difference. And sometimes he comes way too close. And again, sometimes he really battles with that decision, and I don’t think he even knows that he’s going to be able to relent, given the opportunity.
And I think we see him struggle with that, even from the first episode when he gets Turk Barrett, and he gets him pinned, and he can’t stop. He keeps hitting him and hitting him and hitting him, and that’s a line. Hopefully, as an audience, we feel that concern and fear for our hero, that he might cross a line that he can’t come back from.
My colleague James, who reviews Daredevil, came up with a great phrase, “weaponised Catholic guilt,” for when Daredevil encourages someone to hand themselves in, confess their sins. And obviously there’s all the scenes of Matt confessing too… How important was that aspect of faith, do you think?
I think it’s important, I think it’s a strong element in many of the [comic book] series. If it didn’t exist, I think people would ask the question “why does it not exist?”
And also, it’s a great device. It’s another great device for an actor, to play with this. We’ve got all this time, it’s not a two-hour movie, it’s a thirteen-hour movie, and so you’ve got all this time to witness Matt Murdock and this struggle.
To have someone who believes in God, and believes in divine order, and God’s will, and the almighty. Who, at the same time, is going out and playing God. To question that, and have that inner turmoil and conflict around what he’s doing is such compelling television, hopefully.
Is that how you would see it, then? As a thirteen-hour movie, rather than a shorter-than-usual TV show?
I certainly think that. And also, being on Netflix, you don’t have to spend any time reminding audiences what happened the previous week, because there hasn’t been a week. Also, you don’t have to gear each episode so that it stands in its own right so you can resyndicate it.
If you haven’t been watching and you tune into episode 6, you won’t know what’s going on, you know? And that takes a lot of courage from a filmmaking and television point of view. But for the real fans, that’s much more engaging.
With the arcs, you get more time to spend in origin – the coming of age moments, or whatever they are. One of the things I love about that show is how long it takes, and the discussions it takes, around getting into the superhero suit. Who makes it? What’s it made of? How does he discover it? What inspires him to put it on? All that stuff is discussed and I love that, I think that’s really fun.
Because in a film, that would normally get sorted out in the first act.
Yeah, you’ve got a little bit of origin and then you’ve got to be there. Exactly, because you’ve got to get into plot. You’ve got to resolve everything after two hours. And there’s a real art-form to that, I also love that, but it’s nice to also have the opportunity to really explore that.
And obviously, the news of season two broke just in time for everyone to bug you about it today. How would you like to see Matt develop now, more courtroom scenes maybe? Or do you have any requests?
There was a tease wasn’t there? A Stilt-Man tease?
Yeah, there is an Easter Egg in Melvin Potter’s workshop.
Um, I’m so confident in the creators of this show, and they’ve done such a great job that I’d sort of rather they crack on and break it down. I’m so interested to see what Drew Goddard has to say about it, and Doug and Marco. They’re going to take it and run with it, and make it their own.
Um, I would like to see… the introduction of one or two other great Daredevil characters…
We’ve had Elektra teased as well, haven’t we?
Yeah, Elektra, the Greek girlfriend. So maybe an appearance by her, maybe a Bullseye would be very cool. I think if we do multiple seasons of the show, at some point you’ve got to have Bullseye.
Ah, but have we already had him, though? Is it Bullseye on the roof in episode six? There’s much been made of that in our Den Of Geek comments…
[Really enthusiastic] Oh has there?!
Yeah! Whether the sniper on the roof when you’re with that Russian chap is actually Bullseye.
Oh really?! That didn’t even twig with me, so I don’t know… it certainly wasn’t in the script! But wow, man, that’s amazing! That’s amazing.
I think there was a shot of a playing card in his bag, so some saw that as a Bullseye teaser.
Really?! [I’m really not exaggerating how excited he was about this]
Oh God, I’ll have to ask… Obviously there were lots of playing cards. Ben Urich had lots of playing cards, and so obviously people thought Bullseye was going to be involved because of that.
I’d like to see Bullseye. Who else? Um… I know he’s going to exist in the Jessica Jones story as well, but I always liked Purple Man too. Kilgrave, is it?
Yeah, that’s right. David Tennant now!
David Tennant, yeah – he’s great. Another Brit!
That’s on my list as well actually – the number of British actors in superhero projects. What do you think that’s all about?
I don’t know! I’ve no idea. It’s weird isn’t it? There’s a lot of us. I read a news article the other day from the States that said ‘the Brits are coming and they’re wearing our tights.’ Lucky for us! I don’t know. I think American actors do wonderful jobs. The two obvious ones being Robert Downey and Chris Evans. I think they’re brilliant in those roles. And Mark Ruffalo.
Another random side-bar coming up, be warned: we had Matthew Vaughn for a chat in January, for Kingsman, and he mentioned Stardust 2, and how he really pushed for it and was gutted it never happened. Do you feel like that was a missed opportunity? Would you have wanted to be involved with that?
Well, I had a great time on that film. I don’t have any regrets really. Obviously it was a strange one because the film did so well here, but it didn’t really do as well in the States. As a consequence, I had to kind of start from scratch again. It didn’t make a career impact in the way some people had maybe thought it might.
But at the same time, I don’t know if that would have been a good thing for me. If it had been a huge commercial success, would I have gone on to do Stardust 2 and 3? And then be kind of known for that.
I probably wouldn’t have been given the opportunity on Boardwalk Empire, to play a rather sinister character. And that directly led onto this, and right now this is the best job I ever had. I’m very very happy.
But then again, maybe I wouldn’t have been involved in Stardust 2, maybe it would have been a different thing. But I did have a good time on it, and I love Matthew.
Do you think your next big challenge, with the Marvel-Netflix team up, it’s going to be when Iron Fist and things start coming into it? Making the mystical and the gritty worlds gel together?
Same as like, Jessica Jones. Yeah that’s an interesting question. I don’t know. Obviously, the show-runners are different [between Daredevil and the other shows], so I have no idea what the Jessica Jones scripts are like. What it looks like. Whether they’re trying to emulate Daredevil. Whether it’s dark and gritty. I don’t know if they’re trying to do that.
Presumably they’re trying to work out some sort of similarity, so that when we come together in The Defenders, we all sort of feel like we’re part of the same world. I’m fascinated to see how that comes together. I can’t wait to see who they’re going to get to show-run The Defenders, because a lot depends on that.
Before we get ushered out, one quick Den Of Geek trademark question: what’s your favorite Jason Statham movie?
Oh wow, is that trademark Den Of Geek?!
Oh yeah, we’ve got a database of them.
My favorite Jason Statham movie… I mean… It’s hard for me, if I’m being really honest. It would be hard for me to say anything other than Lock Stock.
That’s a popular one.
Yeah, I think that’s such a quality movie. He’s obviously very good in Snatch. Um, I like… Wasn’t he in The Expendables?
He was indeed.
[Laughs] Do you know what I mean? He’s kinda fuckin’ good in that! He does Jason Statham better than anyone else.
Charlie Cox, thank you very much.
Thanks, too, to James Hunt, for a few of those questions.