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There are some actors who are so good at being bad that it nearly becomes their defining quality. Such an honorable reputation began for Paul Freeman in a most glorious fashion when he was cast as Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark - a tribute to classic serialized adventure films that instantly became a beloved classic itself in 1981. Forty years later, the arch nemesis of Indiana Jones remains the British actor’s most recognizable role, partially because he is almost completely unrecognizable as his other most iconic antagonist: Ivan Ooze.
In 1995, Paul Freeman was cast in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie as the titular young heroes’ most sinister enemy: Ivan Ooze. Having grown-up with the hit series about teenagers fighting otherworldly threats in colorful armor, I just could not resist the chance to bring up “the galactically feared, globally reviled, universally despised,” and purple, character while speaking to the actor about Raiders of the Lost Ark’s 40th anniversary.
When asked if he had more fun playing Ooze or Belloq, Freeman had this to say:
Very, very different experiences. Ivan Ooze had a lot of challenges because the costume was enormous. The makeup - it was four and a half hours of prosthetics before I worked and an hour and half to get it off. So, all of that was a challenge. That was much more of a mental challenge… You know, if they are starting filming at seven in the morning, I have to be there at half past three to start putting that stuff on and, at the end of the day, everyone’s gone home and, an hour and a half later, I’m still there. So, it was very much a, sort of, meditative challenge about how I get through it and it has to be said that the people around me - the producers - were not particularly amenable... But, nevertheless, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It was a very interesting process and, actually, I rather like Ivan Ooze now. I’m rather pleased with him when I see it. And he’s got such an extraordinary reputation. I mean, I meet people who come up and say, ‘Oh you scared the life out of me when I was young!’ I always feel I have to apologize. Whereas I don’t think Belloq would have scared anybody.
Despite what sounds like a taxing experience to endure, it is refreshing to learn that Paul Freeman still looks back on the experience of playing one of his most bizarre characters quite fondly these days. It is even more endearing to learn that he also enjoys the reputation he has earned from scaring children as Ivan Ooze - something I can also closely relate to.
From playing the cunning French fortune hunter Belloq in the first of the Indiana Jones movies and the Power Rangers’ (literally) slimiest adversary, Paul Freeman has the honor of being remembered as the definitive villain for more than one generation of children. This is not even including the other notable times he has gone bad, such as playing Moriarty opposite Michael Caine’s idiotic Sherlock Holmes and Ben Kingsley’s brilliant Watson in 1988’s twisted comic caper Without a Clue or in Hot Fuzz as a reverend with a few surprises up his sleeve in 2007. Who knows what role the actor, who also stars on the hit Amazon Prime original thriller Absentia, will play next that has people jumping out of their seats?
The 4K Ultra HD Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection, which includes Raiders of the Lost Ark, is now available.