Charlie Cox On Superheros, Bulking Up And Boardwalk Empire

Esquire meets the star of Netflix' comic book hit, 'Daredevil'

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He's already worked with Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Steve Buscemi, but – unless your Boardwalk Empire trivia is on point – it's unlikely you'd recognise 32-year-old London born actor Charlie Cox without a quick IMDB search.

Daredevil, Netflix' new superhero series based on one of Marvel's lesser-known properties, is slowly changing all of that as Cox becomes the new face of binge watching.

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With a second season just confirmed and a Marvel team-up The Defenders in the works, Esquire decided the time was right to sit down with Cox and find out exactly how difficult it is playing television's first blind superhero. 

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What was it that drew you to Daredevil?
I auditioned initially without having read any of the scripts. When I found out Marvel were interested in me and I finally got sent the scripts, I was blown away by how good they were. I was a fan of the Marvel movies, but I hadn’t read anything they had done that was this dark and geared to a much more mature audience. 

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The fight scenes are brutal. Can you tell us a little bit about how they were choreographed?
Obviously there is no CGI in our show and there was a real intent to keep it grounded. In reality, when two people fight, they grapple and they don’t necessarily connect all of their punches. People get in headlocks and they try and get in under the other person’s ribs and all that kind of stuff, so we wanted to stay true to that. And of course every now and again Daredevil manages this three-sixty flip-kick.

The corridor fight in the second episode is a stand out scene. Was that as exhausting to film as it looked?
That particular scene required immense amounts of moving parts and detail and we had to get it right because it was all one take. It was very tiring, very physically challenging. Of course I have a stunt double, but I do a lot of the work as well and I really enjoy that aspect of it.

You had a month to get in shape. What was your approach?
They set me up with a trainer everyday and I just ate what I was told to eat and worked out in the way I was shown. There was a lot of focus on the upper body because obviously the shirt’s going to come off and I wanted to represent those iconic muscle-bound panels in the graphic novels. They draw them for a reason, so it was important to me to do my best at least.

What were the difficulties of playing a blind man and how do you prepare for that?
It was much trickier than I anticipated. As an actor, you use your eyes to convey emotions so not having them available was a challenge. Also I couldn’t look at anything I wanted to pick up. There was a cool moment when another character throws me a shirt and I grab it without looking, which took three or four takes of someone shouting ‘Now!’ to get it right.

You also had special contact lenses made?
Yes. In the Daredevil movie they used washed out white lenses and we didn’t want to advertise blindness in that way as it’s not that typical. I had these contact lenses made that looked like my eyes but I couldn’t see out of them. The difficulty with that is that I then became a nuisance on set. After every take, someone had to come and sit me down so I wasn’t in the way. After a couple of days of that I was like "nah, this is bullshit". So I started to act it instead, which I think worked better.

Which other superhero would you want to play?
I would say The Punisher! I’d also like to see him turn up in the next season. I’d love to play Spiderman, but I’m definitely too old for that role now.

What can you tell us about Daredevil season 2?
I think Matt [Murdock] could have put on a bit of extra muscle. He’s probably started honing his skills more so I think I can explain if he’s a little bit bigger – I’m going to start cracking on with that pretty soon. At the same time, I still have to fit into the suit that has been tailored for me…

What’s your overriding memory of playing Owen Sleater on Boardwalk Empire?
My favourite memory was shooting that really great scene in the bathroom [in which Cox’ character strangles another man to death]. That was fun and also smart because it was written as a fight scene but the director Alan Coulter said, "I want the majority of the scene to focus on however long it takes a man to choke to death," which is a long time.  When you read a scene like that, you just think "fuuuck".

Daredevil season one is available to stream on Netflix now, netflix.com.

 

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