There are few sorrier tales than that of the poor Baudelaire orphans in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. By "sorrier" in this instance, I mean depressing or utterly miserable. And if you haven't read the books then that will make no sense but let's carry on regardless.
If there's anyone that makes things even more downright sombre, it's the ultra villainous Count Olaf played by How I Met Your Mother's Neil Patrick Harris. In an exclusive interview in the brand new issue SFX magazine (opens in new tab), Harris explains exactly what makes Olaf tick and how he got involved with the Netflix Original.
Why A Series of Unfortunate Events?
Barry Sonnenfeld came to my house in New York to explain his vision of the series before I signed up for it. And it was so dark and fully-realised and almost Cirque du Soleil. He had such a vision and one of his visions was darkness, and it had to stem from Olaf.
Had you read the books?
I didn’t know the books by Daniel Handler. I knew that they existed. I liked the titles. But by the time I was interested in reading them, there had been seven or eight of them. Like Breaking Bad... I love Breaking Bad but I’m still on season one, episode four! But I read the first book as I was reading the script. I loved it.
Who is Olaf?
Olaf is random and rare – he’s a legitimately bad actor and thinks he’s really talented. That allowed me the freedom to be really bad... I wasn’t playing Mark Rylance as a Shakespeare actor where I had to be really good. I could do ridiculous, awful acting, and it made even more sense.
How did you get into character?
I was trying to channel Alan Rickman a lot. Legitimately. He had great elocution and love for the language and the way the mouth creates words... I think that’s much more terrifying than growling, screaming and spitting.
You look kind of different...
I spent three hours every day transforming into Olaf. I’ve heard people watch movies as they get that much make-up put on. What I did was put a bunch of pictures of the children, the actors, and cut them out and put ‘x’s over their eyes and ripped them up, so I could stare at them with disdain!
For more sci-fi and fantasy news, previews and features, pick up the brand new issue of SFX magazine out now. Alternatively, subscribe to future issues here (opens in new tab).