Movie monster man Spencer Wilding set for Comic Con

Spencer Wilding as Wolfman. Pic: Comp
Spencer Wilding as Wolfman. Pic: Comp
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HOT! It was like being a jacket potato in a massive oven.” Spencer Wilding is recalling the time he spent filming the movie version of The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy - he played a Vogon soldier, a very sweaty Vogon soldier.

Needless to say, hidden beneath layers of latex and costume, Wilding was pretty much unrecognisable in the role. But then, over the last decade, the former kick boxing champion has carved a niche for himself playing marvellous monsters.

He laughs, “When my mother used to tell me off for kicking people when I was a kid, she’d say, ‘Stop being a monster.’

“I turned out to be a professional kick boxer and to make my living by being dressed up as monsters, so there must have been something in it.”

For the Welshman, Hollywood beckoned in 2004 when he was cast as a werewolf in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Since then he has gone on to feature in numerous iconic roles, including the blue-faced Mean Guard who stole Starlord’s beloved Walkman in Guardians of the Galaxy; the White Walker in the hit TV series Game of Thrones; and The Minotaur, twice, once in the movie Wrath of the Titans and again in Doctor Who, in which he has also appeared as The Creature in The God Complex, an Ice Warrior and The Wooden King.

“I had the pleasure to play three monsters in Doctor Who, it was awesome. Every character had a different feel,” says Wilding, who comes to the Capital this weekend to meet fans of those shows at Hero Conventions’ Edinburgh Comic Con, at Potterrow.

Wilding is one of a number of guests from the world of TV, film and comics who will be on hand to sign autographs and pose for that all important ‘selfie with a star’.

And as he arrives in town, the rumour mill is working overtime. Speculation on his latest role is rife. He appears in the new James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe movie Victor Frankenstein. What part he plays he cannot say... but the fact that he is 6ft 7in tall is perhaps a clue.

“All I can say is James McAvoy, what an awesome guy. All my scenes were with James and Daniel Radcliffe and they treated me so well.”

“Both” his characters are “very memorable” he teases before insisting he can say no more.

To catch a glimpse of what Wilding looks like without a monster make-over, check out movies such as Beowulf and Grendel (he was Grendel’s father), Batman Begins (he played a member of the League of Shadows) or Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, in which he was Grannik... or perhaps Green Street 3: Never Back Down, in which he plays Mason, a vicious killer and the head of the Millwall Firm, his biggest speaking part to date.

Despite those impressive credits, for a long time it seemed Wilding’s childhood dream of becoming a film star might remain just that.

Severely dyslexic and unable to read, he first expressed his need to perform through sport, becoming British champion. It was that, and a quirk of fate, that caused him to land his first role. Not that it was an easy transition.

The 42-year-old recalls, “I always had a feeling when I was a kid that I was going to be in films. But people just laughed when I said I wanted to be a movie star; nobody in the family was in the industry and I couldn’t read or write because I was dyslexic, so how could anyone take me seriously?

“However, I followed that dream with a passion, I strayed from it a little bit, but always got pulled back. There was this feeling, like a pulling on my jumper that said, ‘No, you’re coming this way’.”

Drifting from job to job and travelling around Europe, the feeling that “another world was calling” him remained. “I went in to the kick boxing as a way to get into films,” he explains. “I thought, ‘I’ll become a fighter. Become very good, take a few titles and one day there will be a guy with a big fat cigar in his mouth standing there at the end of a fight saying: ‘So, you want to be in da movies’.

“Well, there was no guy with a cigar and by the time I had won my titles I was so deep into the kick boxing world I’d forgotten why I was there in the first place.

“I thought that was the entertainment that I was destined to provide. Then I went to a photography shop in town with my Welsh and British title belts - my mum wanted a picture for the mantelpiece.

“The guy who owns the shop is called Tony Scott-Lee. His daughter is Lisa Scott-Lee from Steps. He’s like family to me and two days later he rang to say the pictures were ready... and offered to send them to a friend in London who knew people who ran a sports agency that put actors into films.

Thirty-one at the time, Wilding was quickly signed up by the agency. Unaware he couldn’t read or write they secured his first audition for a role in Guy Ritchie’s crime caper Snatch.

“I’d been with the agency just a couple of weeks when I was called to this studio called Three Mills to try for a character called Tommy.

“Thing was I still couldn’t read or write. They didn’t understand about dyslexia when I was at school, so they just left me. I always thought ‘You’re thick. Deal with it.’ That was the way it was.

“So, knowing nothing about acting I headed to the studio. In my head I was going to be met by guys with trumpets and a red carpet. I got there - none of that. Signed myself in and waited to be called.

“One of the producers came up to me and said: ‘You’ve got the face we want. Just deliver your dialogue and it’s yours.’

“And I’m thinking, ‘What’s dialogue?’ I didn’t have the foggiest. So they take me up stairs, hand me a script, and all I can see on the page is black and white.

“Because I’m actually quite a sensitive soul I start picking up on their feelings too as they realise I can’t do it and I start freaking out.”

“I could just feel their disappointment. They were gutted because I had the face they wanted. I came out of there and cried like a kid. I’d wanted to be an actor for 30 years but how could I when I couldn’t read or write.”

It was the spur he needed to get support to improve his literacy.

“I got a few more auditions after that and then my agent went quiet on me,” he recalls. “I thought it was never going to happen until, one day, I got a message from my mate saying Warner Bros were looking for a really tall actor to play a Werewolf in Harry Potter.

“That bulb went off in my head again.”

His agent put him up for the role and called back two minutes later to say the producers wanted to see him.

“As soon as I walked into the studios for the audition it felt like there were two massive invisible arms hugging me and making me welcome,” he smiles.

“Three auditions and three call backs later, despite being up against faces I recognised from the telly, I had my first role.

“This is the weird thing. A decade or so later, when I landed the Green Street role, on the first day of filming I got to the studio and realised I’d been there before... it was Three Mills Studios, the same place from all those years ago. The place of my first audition where I freaked out. Only this time, the feeling I had as I went through the gate was the same as on the Harry Potter film... and this time, I had loads of dialogue.”

Edinburgh Comic Con, Potterrow, Bristo Square, Saturday and Sunday, for full details of guests, events and admission visit www.heroconventions.com