• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2022: Paul Bettany, “WandaVision”

Even with his start in Royal Shakespeare Company and BBC productions, Paul Bettany himself probably did not dream that someday, he would play a red-skinned android on WandaVision. And that he would earn his first Golden Globe nomination for portraying this alien in a sitcom-type TV mini-series.
Bettany was born in London on May 27, 1971, to a household steeped in theater. His father, Thane, was an actor, dancer, and drama teacher while his mother, Anne, was a stage singer and manager, and a theater teacher.
At 16, Bettany left home, dropped out of school, and survived by playing guitar on the streets of London. He had undiagnosed dyslexia which caused him to struggle to learn.
In a 2020 press conference with the HFPA for the film Uncle Frank, where he played a literature professor, Bettany was asked if he thought he’d make a good educator. In his answer, he brought up that time in his teens when he suffered from dyslexia.
“I have my own deep-seated anxiety about this because I grew up a dyslexic,” he said. “I was so embarrassed about it. I remember being asked [by a teacher] – I had the word in the textbook and on the screen, they had a microorganism. They said, ‘What’s this?’ And the teacher said, ‘Yes, Bettany?’
“I said, ‘It’s a micro-orgasm.’ That was really the end of me doing any public speaking until I became an actor. I sort of hated it and I was terrified of words. Then I went to drama school where none of that mattered. I fell in love with Literature because of drama school.”
The gangly 19-year-old has clearly thrived since enrolling in a three-year course at the Drama Centre of London. After making his theatrical bow in Stephen Daldry’s revival of An Inspector Calls in the West End, Bettany went on to act in Royal Shakespeare Company productions of Romeo and Juliet, Richard III and Julius Caesar, for which he earned accolades.
Bettany inevitably jumped to television and appeared on several series, including Wycliffe, The Bill and Sharpe, where he played Prince William of Orange. He debuted on the big screen via a small part in Bent, director Sean Mathias’ film adaptation of Martin Sherman’s play of the same name, which starred Clive Owen, Mick Jagger and Ian McKellen.
After more stage and TV stints, Bettany landed his first lead role in a movie, Paul McGuigan’s crime drama, Gangster No. 1. Bettany’s performance caught the attention of Hollywood where he soon made a splash as Chaucer in Brian Helgeland’s A Knight’s Tale.
Helgeland, impressed with the young British actor, recommended him to his filmmaker colleagues, including Ron Howard who cast him in A Beautiful Mind, which starred Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, who would later become Bettany’s wife.
Bettany acted alongside Crowe again in Peter Weir’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which cemented his reputation as an actor and paved the way for more roles in America. These performances included Manhunt: Unabomber, where he portrayed “Unabomber,” Ted Kaczynski, Journey’s End, Margin Call, Wimbledon, The Da Vinci Code, Creation, Priest, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Uncle Frank.
In 2014, Bettany made his feature-directing debut with Shelter, a drama that starred Anthony Mackie, Jennifer Connelly, Adolfo Mendez-Nouel and Kevin Arnold Hoffman.
But Jon Favreau’s casting of Bettany as the voice of Jarvis in the first Iron Man movie in 2008 proved to be a long and lucrative development in the actor’s career. While he continued to be the voice of Jarvis in The Avengers and the next two installments of Iron Man, he began appearing onscreen as Jarvis/Vision in the subsequent The Avengers movies.
The Marvel Comics superhero franchise led to WandaVision, for which Bettany cinched his 2022 Golden Globe nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or a Motion Picture Made for Television.
Ironically, Bettany thought he was going to be fired when Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Louis D’Esposito invited him to a meeting for WandaVision.
“I thought I was getting fired. Infinity War had just finished, and Kevin and Louis invited me into the office. I thought, ‘ah, this is where it happens. They’ll be delightful and charming and I’m going to get the can’. Then they pitched this entirely bonkers idea, which I loved!”
The classically trained actor dove into studying Dick Van Dyke and American sitcom shows for WandaVision, which also starred Elizabeth Olsen and Kathryn Hahn.
Bettany also told the HFPA how he got himself into the sitcom groove of such shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched and The Brady Bunch. “We were very aware of what sitcom reference was for each of the shows…I went back and watched every The Dick Van Dyke Show that he put out. It was delicious. They (Van Dyke and his co-actors) are consummate performers in a way that most of us don’t really understand anymore.”
As the maroon-complexioned Vision, Bettany evoked the goofball husband but who in fact, being an artificial life-form, has superhuman stamina, senses, and reflexes.
In real life, Bettany has been married since 2003 to Jennifer Connelly, with whom he has two kids. Even as a teen, Bettany already had a crush on Connelly when he watched her in Labyrinth. Although they worked together in A Beautiful Mind, Bettany did not propose to the actress until the September 11, 2001 attacks encouraged him to make the life-changing move.
“My children and my marriage saved me,” said Bettany. “They gave me focus and you immediately know what is important in your life, even if you have moments of distraction and stray from that path. And they taught me as many things as I have hopefully taught them.”
Bettany’s next project is Harvest Moon, a comedy-drama which he co-wrote and in which he will star.