The movie's director hadn't seen the actor's work in 'Nip/Tuck.'
By MARIA ELENA FERNANDEZ
LOS ANGELES TIMES
HOLLYWOOD -- Tim Story was looking for an actor to play the father of all villains, industrialist Victor Von Doom, who turns into the steely-eyed Dr. Doom. In walked Julian McMahon, and within minutes the "Fantastic Four" director was convinced he had found his anti-hero.
"You have to see this Julian McMahon," Story kept telling everyone, believing he had just discovered "new talent."
The actor who drove him to mad effusion is one of the two stars of "Nip/Tuck," FX's dark comedy/soap opera that ended with one of the television season's most discussed cliffhangers: Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Christian Troy, played by McMahon, possibly stabbed to death by a masked serial rapist.
"When I started throwing his name out, especially to women, they were like, 'Oh, my God, yeah!"' Story said. "Everybody was on 'Nip/Tuck' except for me. It was kind of better that way because then you're just watching the actor in the room with you. But it was great to know there's already a following there. I just knew him from walking in the door and thinking this guy is Victor Von Doom. He's that gentleman, he's that good-looking, he's that ladies' man, that powerful."
McMahon, 36, who was nominated for a Golden Globe this year for his portrayal of Troy, likes that Story cast him for his first big commercial film solely on the merits of his ability to personify Dr. Doom, even though he's grateful for the fame and popularity his small-screen alter ego has brought him.
Surprised by call
The Australian actor, who starred on "The Profiler" and "Charmed" before landing the role of boy-man Christian, says he was taken aback when he got the call, six months after the audition, that Story wanted him to play the insanely jealous, extremely intelligent Von Doom.
"That didn't sound right," McMahon said. "Because the Dr. Doom that I remembered as a child was covered with a mask, was just evil, pondering, mischievous and a never-will-die villain."
And how exactly is that not like McMahon? This is the actor who scowled intensely when he tracked down killers on "The Profiler," played a half-demon with sinful aplomb on "Charmed" and wanted to portray the pathos-ridden, sexually maniacal plastic surgeon so badly that he filmed an audition tape in his kitchen and mailed it in because the "Nip/Tuck" casting director wouldn't even put him on a list.
"Don't push me," McMahon said with a smile, relaxing at the 101 Cafe in Hollywood with a Coca-Cola before heading to the "Nip/Tuck" set. Then he explained that he wanted to play one of his favorite comic book antiheroes for the same reason he was so attracted to Christian Troy.
"Nobody's just a good guy. Nobody's just a bad guy. Nobody's just anything," he said. "We're all everything. We could be fantastic, wonderful, deep human beings one moment and shallow, horrible nasty people the next. That's what interests me as a person and actor. Even if I play a small role on something, I want to take you on that trip a little bit. I want you to see all sides of that person. Christian is the ultimate of that, and that's why me and the character fit so well."
Just mad about madness
Even in the pilot, Christian was out of control, and the actor reveled in his madness. The first scene McMahon taped in his kitchen was the first of many memorable fights between Christian and his business partner and best friend, Sean McNamara (Dylan Walsh); the second was a moment of weakness in which Christian fondles the breasts of Sean's wife, Julia (Joely Richardson).
"What we were looking for, and he really was the only one to possess this, was somebody who had such contagious charm that it would neutralize the character's amorality," said "Nip/Tuck" executive producer Greer Shephard. "We needed somebody who could be both an urbane playboy and a really accomplished surgeon. Or, as we used to joke, someone who could wield a knife as well as a martini glass. Oftentimes those are obviously exclusive traits, and Julian possessed both. He is both savage and sophisticate."
For series creator Ryan Murphy, who originally envisioned a Latino actor, everything turned when he glanced at the r & eacute;sum & eacute; of the former model who long ago had gained international notoriety as the Levi Strauss hunk.
"I didn't know Julian, but he walked into the room and I turned over his r & eacute;sum & eacute; and it said 'Givenchy Man of the Year,' and I thought, 'He's in!"' said Murphy, a connoisseur of designer fashions.
"Whatever you do, you'll be put in a category," McMahon said. "If you're Gary Oldman doing 20 characters, then you're put in the 'He does lots of characters' category."
One option might be the next James Bond, a role for which McMahon is happily still a contender. But for now, the actor is focused on what is immediately ahead, mainly the arrival of "Fantastic Four," which also features Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic; Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman; Chris Evans as the Human Torch; and Michael Chiklis as the Thing.
"I was ready to go as soon as I met both of them," Story said of McMahon and Chiklis, the star of the FX series "The Shield."
For two-thirds of "Fantastic Four," McMahon endured hours of makeup and prosthetic applications on his face and hands to make Dr. Doom's disfigured, sinister appearance as realistic as possible.
"I wanted to play a villain we hadn't seen before, and the script gave me the ability to do that because he started out as a billionaire magnate who pretty much runs the planet," McMahon said. "It's fun because it's totally out of the norm."
As an actor, McMahon is so thorough, said Story, that as late as three weeks ago, McMahon called to inquire if he should redo a line he was insecure about for the movie.