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‘I liked Ben Affleck’s Matt Murdock’: Charlie Cox

Charlie Cox plays TV’s current favourite superhero: Daredevil. But he’s far from dismissive of Affleck’s widely-slammed film version

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Apr 29, 2016 12:51 IST
Serena Menon
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock in Daredevil.
Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock in Daredevil.(Photo courtesy: Netflix )

Charlie Cox, or Daredevil, TV’s favourite superhero, deserves points for diplomacy. He says he liked Affleck’s widely-slammed film version. Also vows to stay off social media

Charlie Cox and Matt Murdock seem to have little in common. Except for two things: first, they’ve both had a Catholic upbringing. Second, they’re both fearless. Murdock, for being the blind hero of Hell’s Kitchen; and Cox, for openly praising the 2005 Ben Affleck-starrer, Daredevil. “I really liked his Matt Murdock. But the film is slightly confused. Tonally, it was a little bit odd,” says the British actor. Topping the list of qualities that Murdock clearly doesn’t share with Cox is diplomacy.

Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock (Still: Daredevil (2003))

Netflix’s popular superhero series, Daredevil, is Cox’s first big, noticeable role. Before this, his filmography relied heavily on the names of the Hollywood stalwarts he has worked with — Al Pacino (in The Merchant Of Venice; 2004), Robert De Niro (in Stardust; 2007), and Steve Buscemi (in the TV series, Boardwalk Empire; 2011-2002). That’s changed now.

The flip side is that, here onward, he may forever get stuck with this definitive role, and be known as the blind lawyer-turned-vigilante with the funny mask with tiny horns. The way Hugh Jackman is Wolverine, or Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter.

But he’s yet to cross that bridge.

Until that happens, Cox’s plan is to maintain an air of mystery around him. He takes great pride in discussing his work, rarely talks about his personal life, and can be repeatedly heard calling himself a “private person” in multiple interviews. So far, he’s succeeding.

Professionally, he has the critics impressed, and leaves them with little to do, as he does a fine job of being extra critical on his own.

For one, he takes preparing for his role very seriously. He didn’t grow up reading Daredevil comics, so he made up for that lost time in the month before he started shooting for season one. “I read a lot, comic after comic after comic. Obviously, Frank Miller’s Man Without Fear and Miller’s Born Again, which was one of my favourites, I read multiple times. But I also focused on a series by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, which was excellent,” he says.

A still from Daredevil (Photo courtesy: Netflix)

Then, when season one aired, Cox went around earnestly talking about how he “watched it back” to understand what he needed to “improve” in his performance. His biggest challenge, he says, was Daredevil’s blindness. Initially, he even attempted wearing special contact lenses that actually didn’t permit him to see, but he ditched that idea after he “became a nuisance on set”, he told Esquire UK.

“Television works really fast. On set, I didn’t really have a chance to watch what I was doing, and whether the blindness of the character was reading on screen. So, for the first season, I was kind of really figuring that out, and was unsure about whether it was working,” says the 33-year-old.

While Cox did fix whatever he had to, season two still opened to mixed reviews. Not that they must have mattered to the powers that be. They seem to have come to terms with the fact that when the source material dates back to 1964, and features innumerous stories by numerous writers, there really is no win-win situation. “If you’re going to make a Daredevil show, you’re never going to please everyone,” he says.

A scene from Daredevil. (Photo courtesy: Netflix )

Yet, Cox wasn’t entirely prepared for some of the scathing reviews: “...there were a couple of reviews that almost, like hated… really disliked the [second season of the] show. But, it’s just my opinion, what Daredevil has done for the superhero genre in the television world is extraordinary. That, to me, is undeniable, so, the reviews that... gave the second season a really hard time, I felt that was a little unfair,” he says.

The real gratification for actors like Cox, whose fame was expedited by his character’s cult status, must come from the overnight fan following. The screaming fans at public events. Or those, who, according to an Indian journalist, were willing to pay good money to get their hands on Cox’s accommodation details during his recent Singapore visit.

The social media following is the other parameter that defines stardom now. But Cox doesn’t want any of it. Social media isn’t for him. “I would love to engage and interact more with the fans, but just in terms of everything that comes with social media, that is not really my cup of tea,” says the actor, who has found a way to straightjacket even this situation. “Occasionally, I go to the Marvel headquarters, and reply to questions on Twitter via their feed. But I am not on it on a daily basis. I am not subjected to it every single day,” he says. Not yet, that is.

Season 2 of Marvel’s Daredevil is on Netflix (netflix.com/in) now.

Charlie Cox in a still from the film Stardust.

Know the actor

Who: Charlie Thomas Cox
December 15, 1982, in London, UK
Acting school:
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bristol, England
Debut role: Young vicar in the TV series, Judge John Deed (2002)
Career highlights:
>After making his debut, Cox played a small part in a film called Dot The I (2003), along with another young actor, a certain Tom Hardy.
>Cox dropped out of acting school after being offered a small role in the Al Pacino-starrer, The Merchant Of Venice (2004), as per a report in LA Times.
> In 2005, he worked alongside late Heath Ledger in the movie, Casanova.
>His lead role in the 2007 film, Stardust, got him some attention. The film also starred Robert De Niro, Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer. However, in an interview to Metro UK, he admitted that the film “didn’t do that well commercially… For a while after, I couldn’t get work — I was unemployed, trying to do theatre, working as a barman.”
>He briefly played Philip, the Duke of Crowborough, in the TV show, Downton Abbey (2010).
>He played Owen Sleater in the TV show Boardwalk Empire (2011-2012).

Sources: IMDB, Los Angeles Times, Metro UK

— Compiled by Serena Menon