Paul Bettany: the glee with which Johnny Depp watched me set on fire was troubling

“I’m convinced that Johnny would just come up with things in order to see me in precarious positions and dangerous situations”

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If you’ve ever thought that spending a few weeks in the company of Johnny Depp would be lovely, think again. Paul Bettany had to brave flames and dog teeth while filming Mortdecai – and he received no sympathy from his co-star.

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“I’m convinced that Johnny would just come up with things in order to see me in precarious positions and dangerous situations,” he tells RadioTimes.com – “like setting me on fire.”

He adds: “I’ve never seen him come to set so quickly as when I was going to do something really foolish and dangerous. And the glee with which he would watch me be lit on fire was troubling.”

Bettany’s manservant must endure a lot of physical punishment when his master, Depp’s titular art dealer Charlie Mortdecai, becomes involved in a complicated plot to steal a painting. Were any moments particularly hairy?

“Wrestling with a dog, I wasn’t very pleased about… But yeah, he gets beaten up a lot, and takes a lot of punishment because his master’s an idiot. It comes from that tradition of clever student, stupid master.”

Still, there are no hard feelings. Bettany and Depp are friends, and apparently the general mood on set was jovial.

“It was the best fun I’ve ever had on a film set,” Bettany says. “I didn’t want it to end, because me and Johnny and Ewan [McGregor] and Gwyneth [Paltrow] would just have so much fun – and the director David Koepp kept ruining takes by laughing on camera! We ended up having to move his monitor down the hallway because he just kept laughing. Your face ached from laughing so much during work.”

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Mortdecai is released in UK cinemas on 23rd January