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Interview: Arnold Vosloo

Written by Anwar Brett 

 

Life tends to get turned upside down in movies. Many respected British theatre actors cheerfully take their pay cheques and turn out for all kinds of Hollywood hokum, a far cry from their dusty theatrical roots.

 

And much the same is true of Arnold Vosloo, the South African born anti-hero of "The Mummy Returns". Back home he was a hard working theatre actor with a string of prestigious credits to his name, but now thanks to his performance as the evil Imhotep in "The Mummy" and this latest blockbusting sequel, he is known for something quite different.

 

"Oh it’s a relief to do movies," Vosloo smiles, "especially ones like this because you get to be like a little kid again and run around and play in this great adventure. I had a wonderful time."

 

Brought back to life once more, Imhotep not only has to battle his old foe Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) but an even older one in the form of the mighty Scorpion King. However audiences get a chance to see Imhotep’s softer side, as we realise the depth of his love for Anck-Su-Namun.

 

"I’m so thankful that all that stuff made it to the screen," the actor nods, "because a lot of the time studio executives say that there’s no time, or ask why we should feel sympathy for this bad guy".

 

"I joke that I’m the romantic lead in the movie, I just happened to pick the wrong girl. Imhotep is kind of the tragic villain, I guess, and a lot of people have come up to me and said I was hating you, but then I reach a point when I was feeling sorry for you too. It's those different facets that help explain why this film is such a success".

 

 

Arnie the Mummy gets girls gasping

 

SA star Arnold Vosloo stuns Hollywood by breaking box-office records with a film that turns a mummified Egyptian priest into a sex symbol

 

South African Hollywood star Arnold Vosloo's latest movie is setting Tinseltown alight, smashing box-office records in the first week of its release.

 

And this week, as The Mummy Returns, sequel to The Mummy, raked in $77-million (about R620-million) in its first three days of release - a record for a movie released in a non-holiday period - the boy from Pretoria was back in South Africa, basking in his fame.

 

Vosloo now commands up to 1.7-million a movie ( R13.5-million) but he was paid a whopping $3.5-million ( R28-million) for the sequel.

 

"When you convert that back to rands its like lotto money. It's quite unbelievable," Vosloo said this week.

 

Despite his huge success , Vosloo, 38, whose path to fame began with Boetie Gaan Border Toe , remains a down-to-earth boereseun. Fame, he said, was "lots of fun, especially when you've got a big hit".

 

"I don't mind people coming up to me and saying they love the movie and eight-year-old kids kicking me on the shins and yelling 'Bad mummy!'."

 

Looking relaxed at a top Cape Town hotel this week, the actor said he was happy to be back in South Africa, where he is shooting a new film.

 

"Getting off the plane and smelling the Cape was just wonderful. I haven't been here for years but it was always a place of happy memories and it's great to be back. I mean if this is winter, I can't wait for summer." Asked if he would ever return to live in South Africa, he said: "In terms of work I don't know".

 

"The kind of movies I make cost around $140-million (about R1.1-billion) which we could never make here. But I'll always be South African and I come back on holiday as often as I can."

 

Not only is Vosloo now a recognised star but his fans reckon he is one of the sexiest men on the screen.

 

"I'm no Mr Fitness, but I had done some exercise. When I finally got to London and they showed me my [mummy] costume, it was the size of a postage stamp," he told the Sunday Times.

 

Although he hit headlines in his role as a mummy -- not everyone's idea of a sex symbol -- Vosloo managed to capture the imagination of thousands of fans who worship his particular brand of sexy heroism.

 

Roger Lecomber, South Africa's managing director of film distributors United International Pictures, said: "I have never seen anything like it. Arnold has created a devoted female audience who for the first time in their lives have been turned on by a mummy."

 

Although Vosloo's fame has come from a typecast character, he is not fazed: "There is already talk in Hollywood that this will lead to more romantic roles. But if I have to be remembered as the mummy, so be it -- I'll be quite content. It was a great break for me."

 

In director Stephen Sommers's remake of the 1932 horror classic starring Boris Karloff, archaeologists and scavengers searching for the 3 000-year-old treasure of mummified Egyptian priest Imhotep (played by Vosloo) accidentally awaken the evil mummy from his tomb. In the sequel, the same territory is revisited.

 

Vosloo will be in Cape Town for the next few weeks shooting scenes for his new film The Red Phone , an international spy drama.

 

"You'll know we're around," he said, "because we're about to blow up the town with some stunning special effects."

 

 

From the Presskit for "Darkman 2: The Return of Durant" (1995)

ARNOLD VOSLOO (Dr. Peyton Westlake/Darkman) believes that "Darkman" was such a success because of the Darkman fantasy, "everyone would like to step into another person's shoes for a day. That's why people relate to the Darkman character--it's fantastical. He truly can become other people and enter their worlds."

 

Vosloo, last seen in the Renaissance Production of John Woo's "Hard Target" for Universal wanted to be an actor for as long as he can remember. He had strong role models in his parents, who were theater actors. Performing in town halls, recreation centers and theaters across South Africa, the Vosloos traveled in a Studebaker, with son Arnold and daughter Nadia, in tow. When the children reached school age, the Vosloos settled in Port Elizabeth, South Africa where they purchased and operated a drive-in movie theater.

 

Vosloo grew up absorbing the business on a day-to-day basis. While his mother and sister ran the cafeteria stand, his father sold tickets and managed the office. Each night from the projectionist's booth, Arnold sat with his dog and watched imported movies. Some of his favorites were "Tarzan" and "A Place in the Sun".

 

Upon graduation from high school, Vosloo joined a theater troupe. He began his career behind the scenes, doing lighting and props, and learning from the actors. Soon he tried his hand at acting and was signed by an agent.

 

With his handsome charismatic looks and natural talent, Vosloo's acting career took off. One of his first goals---turning 21 on the set of a movie---was fulfilled. But as Vosloo got older he felt frustrated by the political climate of his South African homeland, which censored his creativity, as he wasn't allowed to make films that questioned the government. In spite of high profile roles in many feature films and television series, his films had a limited distribution and Vosloo was restless to break into larger markets.

 

Then Vosloo was cast as the lead in the Market Theater of South Africa's production of Athol Fugard's "Born in the RSA" (Republic of South Africa) and had a chance to tour the United States. Although his American arrival in Chicago was in minus fourteen degree weather, things warmed up when Vosloo was signed by a William Morris agent. With the support of his thespian parents, Vosloo packed his bags and set sail for America.

 

Vosloo's first role in a major motion picture in this country was in Ridley Scott's "1492" with Gerard Depardieu. In 1991 he also co-starred with Al Pacino as John The Baptist on Broadway in Oscar Wilde's "Salome".

 

Then Executive Producers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert cast Vosloo as a vicious hoodlum in Alphaville/ Renaissance Productions' "Hard Target", an action-packed adventure film, which brought Vosloo to the attention of the film critics. Raimi and Tapert were so delighted with

Vosloo's work in "Hard Target that they asked him to do the title role in the "Darkman" video series.

 

Vosloo, who has been featured in dozens of South African magazines, Italy's Vogue for men and Cosmopolitan, has been described by one critic as having "the energy and sensuality of a young Marlon Brando."

 

Arnold Vosloo, winner of two DALRO awards (South Africa's equivalent to the Oscars), and three VITA awards (South Africa's equivalent to the Tony's), is also passionate about the outdoors, fly-fishing, trap and skeet shooting, bikes and photography.

 

 

 

 

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