Game of Thrones is known for its complicated and mysterious characters, but perhaps no one in the show is more enigmatic than Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger. As played by Aiden Gillen, Littlefinger is cunning and manipulative, always five steps ahead of everyone else. He's capable of love, but too selfish to put anyone else but himself first; he makes mistakes, but still always seems to end up with the upper hand. Yet while labeling Littlefinger an irredeemable "bad guy" would be too simplistic, it's still a surprise to see Gillen playing a character who people actually root for, the rebel leader Goosefat Bill Wilson in the upcoming King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
And as Gillen tells me while on the film's London set, Goosefat Bill really is as polar opposite from Littlefinger as it gets. "I have played a fair few villainous roles or bad guy roles, but this is not one," he says, speaking in-between filming fight scenes alongside the movie's star, Charlie Hunnam. "I'm not evil or bad at all. He’s just a guy who’s from the upper echelons of society... he's a good character — a pretty good shot with the bow and arrow, pretty good with a casserole."
Casseroles in a Guy Ritchie-directed fantasy epic? Well, King Arthur isn't your typical movie, if Gillen's character's name didn't already make that obvious. The film, out May 12, follows a young Arthur (Hunnam) who enjoys a life on the streets until he discovers his true power, and then is forced to fight the tyrannical Vortigern (Jude Law) and become king. It's a more energetic and stylized take on the classic King Arthur story of pop culture past, and Gillen promises that it'll stand out from the Arthurian pack.
"My first experience of this story was the film Excalibur, which is much more somber and heavy and mystical," he explains. "This has mystery and magic in it... but is lighter, and poppier, and funny." Not to mention action-packed — like most Ritchie-directed films, King Arthur is full of fight scenes and swordplay, something that Gillen was luckily already familiar with from movies like Shanghai Nights and, of course, shows like Game of Thrones. "It definitely came into play, having had some previous swashbuckling experience," he says with a laugh.
That's not the only way Thrones has influenced King Arthur, though. Gillen is the first to say that the show's popularity has allowed for the fantasy movie genre to grow and gain support. "I don’t doubt that the popularity of Game of Thrones, for example, makes this kind of film more producible or more bankable," he says. "It still has to be good, though, to make it enjoyable and for people to come."
Only time will tell if King Arthur finds the type of success that gets millions of people to the theaters and studios to green-light sequels, but at the very least, the film will certainly give fans of action and fantasy much to talk about in the coming months.