2016-06-30
Michael York has played nearly every kind of role on screen--kings and generals, a fey professor ("Cabaret"), musketeers and scientists (most recently as Mike Myers's straight man in the Austin Powers movies). But from his debut as Tybalt in Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet" York has sparkled most as the seductive villain. In 1999's box-office surprise "The Omega Code," he was the philanthropist-turned-AntiChrist Stone Alexander. The fun was watching Alexander's charisma harden into a glittering cruelty, exposing them as two sides of a coin. In "Megiddo," the "Omega Code" sequel released last month, York's Alexander finishes the job by transforming into the Beast.

In an interview before the terrorist attacks, York talked about how he went from star of "The Omega Code" to co-producer of the new film, about making movies about how the world will end, and what happens if it doesn't.

How did you get involved with "The Omega Code"?
["The Omega Code" producer] Matt Crouch at Trinity Broadcasting Network just came to me with a script, the normal way things are done. My initial reaction was too be a bit leery, to be honest. Even though I'd been in Zeffirelli's [miniseries] "Jesus of Nazareth," I thought for the most part that Christian entertainment was a sort of contradiction in terms. Something a little too pious and preach and too squeaky clean.

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But Matt is wonderfully enthusiastic and irresistible. Also, the actual role I was offered was very intriguing-you know, the Devil always has the best tunes. Stone Alexander, this particular anti-Christ I play in "Megiddo," is very much a fallen angel. He's a great philanthropist, who has used his business skills for the benefit of the world, to relieve several global problems. The he dabbles in politics and then he overreaches himself. So there were a lot of things going for it. And I always take risks. I'd rather rue the sins of commission that the sins of omission.

As it happened, it wasn't something that was out in far left field. It's part of a huge, huge trend. It turns out that there is a whole missing section of the population who stay away from the movies because they don't like what they see. The idea with "The Omega Code" was to make something they might want to see, and at the same time was made to cross over to a wider audience. They would be a fundamental few who would get all the allusions and the others would be quite happy seeing a fast paced thriller, which even had a car chase and a gun.

Are you a religious person?
I'm not a practicing Christian, though I was raised an Anglican. I was a choirboy even. And I loved the ceremony and the language and the esthetic beauty of it. And I'd like to think that I'm spiritual, that we're all on this journey. [But] I'm a C.S. Lewis man.

So "The Omega Code" is not a world you normally hang around in?
No, but on "Megiddo," I was a co-producer. I served exactly by being bringing a consciousness that was not as committed. But there is so much that I applaud. I do think that a film that has an unambiguous moral base is to be applauded, especially in our rather anarchic times, where there is a tremendous moral confusion.

Shakespeare's great sense is that all of his plays are allegories and parables. You're not aware that he is dealing with these huge themes and he is fascinated with what makes people tick. In the same way these movies are the enacting of a great parable found in the Book of Revelation. . You can take it as a literal interpretation or you can take it as a parable. It's open to both interpretations.

For those who take it literally, it seems, there's a bit of a paranoia to it. The European Union, for instance, is seen as a sign of very bad things to come. Is there anywhere where you wanted to draw a line?
I certainly haven't been offended by it. You do see parallels. You do see the world shrunk down by a few huge corporations, by the Stone Alexanders. In the example of the European Union you see it. You see people trying to maintain their identity while being subsumed into a large organization. It remains to be seen how much of our national identity will be preserved.

How you approach material like this as an actor? You are portraying the Bible, and a pretty strange part of it at that.
It's true, you're dealing with really entertaining issues, dragons and lions, larger than life details. In the first film, the coronation on the Temple Mount was difficult, because it was almost the first scene I did. I hadn't had any time to work my way into the character. These days, economics don't let you reshoot the way the early scenes like you did in the old days. So it was just a question of going for it. The second time it was that much easier.

Do you worry about being perceived as a "Christian" star?
No, I don't worry about these things. When I did "Cabaret" people asked me, 'Aren't you worried about being cast as a homosexual star and I said, "What? What?" This is a story about human beings, and that's my job.

You're writing a book about this experience.
It's done. It's called "Dispatches from Armageddon." It started off as a diary I was keeping on the set, but then it became more than that, it became about filmmaking and about travel. Originally I called a meditation on movies, travel and the Devil, but it's shortened now to "a Devil's diary." It will be out by October 15th.

You made the two Austin Powers movies, now "Omega Code" and the sequel. How would you describe the difference in the sets?
[Laughs.] I'm on dangerous ground here. Well, I'll say that Basil Exposition is naughty but nice, and Stone Alexander is naughty but not so nice. That's as far as I'll go.

How do you think the world's going to end?
I hope that I end before it. I'm basically optimistic. The one advantage to bringing the world together is that we all have to knock heads, and say you have to cooperate. The Japanese, these millions of people all crammed into a few islands, had to evolve a system of manners that enable them to get on in such a small space. And I think that's going to be the case with the whole world.



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