Rufus Sewell: “Prince of a Guy”

Rufus Sewell isn’t sure why people think he’s so good at being bad. The striking British actor has played a wide variety of parts on stage and screen, from Shakespeare to Stoppard, yet he’s probably best-known to American audiences for his series of villainous roles in films such as Bless the Child and The Legend of Zorro.

One could chalk it up to Sewell’s intense, brooding good looks — he’s mastered the art of glowering — or that powerful voice that slices through dialogue and cuts his opponents down to size. Both were put to such excellent use in the jousting epic A Knight’s Tale in 2001, in which Sewell played the evil Count Adhemar, that the actor noticed a lot of bad guys coming his way after the movie’s release. “I loved playing a baddie in that film, but after that people kind of got the idea that’s all I do, which is not the case,” he notes. “There was a spate where I would open a script, and there was a page where it says, ‘There’s a dark figure on a horse,’ and I knew it was me.”


He will then be seen as a “good guy” in Amazing Grace, a biopic about 18th-century antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd). Sewell confesses to having no master plan for choosing his roles. “I like the idea of being surprised by what comes along,” he says. “I like to see people slightly adrift; I like to be cast against what people may think is my type. And just see what life throws my way.”

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