Tribute's Bonnie Laufer talks to Jason Isaacs about taking command in the new war flick, Black Hawk Down.

B.L. One thing about your role choices, you really like to mix it up. Last time we saw you on the big screen you were wearing a dress in Sweet November. Tell me about your latest film, Black Hawk Down.
J.I. Well, first of all it's an amazing book. If anyone is slightly interested in what it is like being 19 and being in a war then Black Hawk Down is a real page-turner of a thriller...Having read it I was desperate to be in it and I was thrilled that Ridley offered me a part in it. None of us really knew what the parts would be like because there are so many characters in the book and the film kind of evolved which is an interesting thing to see.

B.L. Black Hawk Down depicts the real life account of a group of U.S. soldiers sent into Mogadishu, Somalia in October, 1993 as part of a U.N. peacekeeping operation. While their intentions were good, the carefully planned mission resulted in the U.S. military's biggest firefight since Vietnam. Was it hard portraying these heroes?
J.I. I've never felt such a keen responsibility to the men that we trained with at Fort Renning, the ones who were left alive. We met the friends and relatives of the people who died and were injured out there and I think all of us felt a duty to tell the story as responsibly and unglamorously that we could because in itself, without any Hollywoodizing, there is such nobility and such heroics in what those boys go and do all the time.

B.L. You have worked with a lot of young actors — Heath Ledger in The Patriot, and now Josh Hartnett in this. How did you like working with Josh?
J.I. He's obscenely good-looking I can hardly bear to think about him but he is very nice so that helps a lot. He is very anti-status; he is very keen to kind of play against as much as possible the hierarchy on a set. We all trained together as the Rangers and I was in charge of him, so I would punish them and tell them what they could and couldn't do. Then when you arrive on set and Josh has a trailer the size of Kansas it's not his fault; he didn't ask for it, he worked very hard to equalize every situation possible. I don't think he's learned how to throw his weight around yet and he probably never will because it's not in his nature, and he aspires to do very good work. I think you see the complications. He's done these two enormous blockbusters and he's drawn to doing small complex roles, but once you become this huge star it's much harder to do that kind of thing.

B.L. Ridley Scott, who directed the movie, is such a great filmmaker. What was it like to be under his direction
J.I. It was terrifying, it was nothing like going to real war, but Ridley would go 'you only have one take, come around the corner, you have ten cameras on you and the whole thing is going to blow up. Helicopters are going to fly and that thing is going to blow up over there.' Here I am, the commander of these troupes, but I was, like, can we just break that down into a bit more detail. No, come on, we haven't got time, let's go. I would come around the corner with all these men behind me and suddenly all hell would break loose. The entire city seemed to explode with bullets just flying all around it. It was all I could do to stop crying and sucking my thumb and it was like that every day for five months.

B.L. Oh I'm sure you did just fine.
J.I. We made it, but I do have to say that I think working with Ridley is an eye opening experience. The man is a visionary and has everything literally mapped out in his head exactly how he wants to see it. It's fascinating just to watch him work. I am so honoured that I got the opportunity to work with the man.

B.L. Did you learn anything after making this picture?
J.I. I'm not particularly pro-militaristic. I don't think of myself as right winged and I certainly wouldn't defend the British government or the American government on everything that they do abroad but in this particular instance we were on the side of the angels. The west was out there, and America was out there trying to do some good and they sent these young boys in (the average age was 19) to this hornets nest and they fought magnificently and they fought with such commitment to each other. I sound like a recruitment commercial, but it really was an honour to try and represent them and try and tell the story without showing off. A lot of acting is showing off and trying to make yourself look good and I know the other actors tried to make the Rangers and the Delta force look as good as they are.

B.L. You have a bunch of films coming out, but in a few months we'll see you on the big screen opposite Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Tuxedo, which was filmed in Toronto.
J.I I loved Toronto, it's a fabulous city. Working with Jackie was such a blast; I even learned a few moves from him. The Tuxedo is going to be a lot of fun; I can't wait for people to see it.