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Pezh Maan talks "Spectre" and becoming timeless villain in iconic Bond franchise

Acting has been Pezh Maan’s passion since childhood. Growing up in Plymouth, United Kingdom, he spent his early years on a stage. Although many children like movies and being the center of attention, Maan appreciated the art of acting. He enjoyed being in a position to influence the audience, whether it be making them laugh or allowing them to feel different emotions through his work. As a teenager, he began reading more plays and watching films not only for entertainment, but to also study the actors. Despite the success he has now earned, he enjoys acting simply because it is what makes him happy.

“Acting was part and parcel of understanding life it seemed to me, and it felt like a natural place for me to express myself,” said Maan.

Having worked in a plethora of successful films and television series, Maan is one of the United Kingdom’s leading actors, working alongside many of Hollywood’s elite. He has starred in the award-winning thriller Unattended Item, the successful FX series Tyrant, the celebrated show Eastenders, and acclaimed French series The Bureau. A big career highlight came in 2015, however, when Maan acted in the blockbuster Spectre, the latest installment in the iconic James Bond franchise.

“Who wouldn’t want to do a Bond film if the chance came their way? It’s one of the most iconic movie franchises in history and I was a huge fan growing up with all of the original Bonds since Sean Connery first took the role. My youth was the era of Roger Moore and the way that he infused that quintessence of the Englishman defined the role for me. James Bond is truly a global phenomenon and I was excited to be even considered for the latest film. I’m also a great admirer of Sam Mendes as a Director since American Beauty and the prospect of working with Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz and Lea Seydou was incredibly exciting,” said Maan.

The film sees Bond pitted against the global criminal organization, Spectre, and its head villain, Blofield. Bond attempts to thwart Blofeld's plan to launch a global surveillance network and discovers the criminal network Spectre and Blofeld were behind the events of the previous three films. The film marks Spectre and Blofeld's first appearance in an Eon Productions film since 1971's Diamonds Are Forever.

As Blofield’s Chief Analyst, Maan’s character was extremely pivotal to the progression of the story. He had access to all the intelligence the criminal network was unearthing and was an extremely powerful figure in the organization. The revealing scene in which he shows Bond and Madeleine a tape of a confession that Madeleine’s father was being forced to make before his death was the catalyst for motivating their escape and hatching plans to ultimately bring down the organization. He is a technological wizard with a keen and ruthless streak, aiming to stay in control of his underlings and obsequious to a fault with his Boss, Blofield. Maan shared most of his scenes with Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz, Daniel Craig, and Lea Seydou.

“Sam and I both saw the character in similar ways. In many ways he was a kind of manservant to Blofield and lived in awe and fear of the power of his master whose authority he would never dare to question. He was a cold and calculating man with a cruel disposition, qualities that had served him well in his ascension through the ranks of Spectre to this high position. The kind of career villain with no home life and certainly no family bonds. That kind of psychopath, in essence, was fun to explore and understand the motivation of and it was that need to stay in control and to obey his master that motivated his every action,” said Maan.

Initially, Maan auditioned for a much smaller role as a guard in Blofield’s complex. However, after Mendes saw his audition tape, he decided to write in the role of Blofield’s Chief Analyst specifically for Maan. He knew the talent the actor possessed and wanted to feature that in his film. The addition of the character heightened the anxiety of the technological vice that tightened around the neck of the protagonists and served to add the necessary tension that Bond films are famous for, and Maan perfectly captured that.

“I must say that I was surprised when received the news that Sam had written in a role just for me. I couldn’t believe it at first. Sam was very complimentary when I met him at Pinewood Studios and it gave me a lot of confidence in approaching the character I was being asked to play. I quickly settled to the task of preparing for the role,” Maan recalled.

After receiving some notes from Mendes, Maan found it easy to get into character. Being a fan, he knew the past Bond storylines, but he studied them more closely before shooting to see where the Spectre organization fit into the previous films. Although the styles of the older films differed from each subsequent modern interpretation by different directors and different actors playing Bond, Maan found this helped to get into the general feel of playing a Bond villain. On set in rehearsal, he worked closely with together Mendes and Waltz to create a style of interaction that was unique to the Analyst’s and Blofield’s relationship.

“My character was a technological mastermind with all the information the Spectre organization has access to at his fingertips. It required a certain quickness of thinking and an analytical mindset which I tried to enter by reading a lot of technical articles regarding the internet and criminal organizations that relied heavily on technology. I tried to let go of my preparation on set in order to have as intuitive a relationship with the other actors as possible,” Maan described.

During shooting, everything went smoothly due to Maan’s extensive preparation. The actor recalls the atmosphere on set as “electric.” The entire crew made sure to get every last detail down to a fault, and everything was executed flawlessly. The excitement and level of concentration was something that Maan found infectious and inspiring, something that is evident for those who watch the film.

“It was such great fun to be shooting in Pinewood studios. The crew was immense, and the stunt team was so skilled, it was a joy to watch the action sequences being shot, especially scenes in which I was not involved. Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz were extremely charming and generous in giving their time for us to arrive at really satisfying scenes together and in the rehearsal process together we were able to improvise ideas which was thrilling. Two of the finest exponents of screen acting working together with me and the director was an invaluable experience that I learnt a lot from and I’ve taken to every subsequent film I’ve been involved with,” said Maan.

This year, audiences can look forward to Maan’s latest work, FOX’s Deep State, which he stars alongside Mark Strong (Kingsmen, Miss Sloane) and Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones). Maan is excited for the release of the series, and knows it is some of his best work. However, Maan still fondly recalls Spectre as one of the highlights of his career.

“Hey, now I can say that I played a Bond Villain, which my grandchildren can one day get excited about,” he concluded.

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