Paul Bettany

Paul Bettany

On this date in 1971, actor Paul Bettany was born in London to Anne (née Kettle) — a singer, teacher and stage manager — and Thane Bettany, a stage performer and drama teacher. “Bettany was himself raised as a Catholic, though his church attendance drifted after his confirmation. It was, he says, ‘incredibly’ strange to be back in churches while filming ‘The Da Vinci Code.’ [Because] now I only go to churches for funerals.” (The Guardian, May 11, 2006)

When he was 16, his brother Matthew died at age 8 after falling on concrete from a roof. Bettany dropped out of school and earned money playing his guitar in the streets as a busker and working in a home for the elderly before enrolling at the Drama Centre London. Stage and screen acting roles followed.

His parents divorced in 1993 and his father started a 20-year relationship with Andy Clark, who died in 2015. “The terrible thing for my father is that, in the end, he went back in the closet, which was awful to watch, really. And that really speaks to the power of his Catholicism, which sort of led him to a place of shame and inability to mourn his partner in a real way.” (People magazine, Jan. 15, 2021)

Playing Geoffrey Chaucer opposite Heath Ledger in Hollywood’s 2001 adaptation of “A Knight’s Tale” won him plaudits, and he was cast in “A Beautiful Mind” that same year when he met and wooed Jennifer Connelly, who played mathematician John Nash’s wife. He and Connelly married on New Year’s Day 2003 and have a son Stellan (b. 2003) and daughter Agnes (b. 2011). She and Bettany also raised her son Kai (b. 1997) from her relationship with photographer David Dugan.

He declined the role of George the VI in “The King’s Speech” that won Colin Firth an Oscar in 2010. The New Zealand Herald noted “a running theme” in his roles in a 2011 interview with Bettany. In “The Reckoning” (2004), he played a priest who flees after being found in flagrante delicto with a married woman. In “The De Vinci Code” (2006), he was cast as the murderous, albino Catholic monk Silas. He played the fallen archangel Michael in “Legion” (2010) and the title character in “Priest” (2011), in which he hunts vampires. “Unless Priest 2 happens, this is absolutely the last movie with any religious undertones I’ll ever do because it’s all I get asked about,” he said.

He gained about 45 pounds to play Charles Darwin in “Creation” (2009). “It was no problem though. I just ate a lot of sandwiches,” Bettany said. Connelly played Darwin’s wife Emma, driven to distraction by the death of their daughter Anne in 1851 at age 10 after contracting scarlet fever and possibly tuberculosis.

“When their child dies, he goes to science and she goes to religion. And the exact thing that he is working on [evolutionary theory] is potentially going to take her solace away,” Betanny said. “[R]eligion is sort of a function in the script, in that [Emma] is a fervent Christian and it’s her way of dealing with the loss of her daughter, which it is for a lot of people.” (The Guardian, Feb. 11, 2009)

Connelly once joked that she was raised with a double dose of guilt, having an Irish Catholic father and a Jewish mother who was schooled at a yeshiva. “I wasn’t brought up with any religion at all,” she said. “At school and in my early 20s, I read every religious text I could get my hands on — Buddhist scriptures, Hindu texts, the Qur’an and the Bible. I wanted to feel like something made sense to me, that there was something sacred I could feel aligned with. Then I had Kai and thought this is something that is really concrete and it’s sort of a practice in itself, trying to raise him well.” (The Guardian, Dec. 8, 2008)

Bettany co-starred with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in “The Tourist” (2010) and reprised his voice role as J.A.R.V.I.S. in 2010’s “Iron Man 2” and two sequels. He made his first onscreen appearance in a Marvel film in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), playing Vision in that and two sequels.

He portrayed serial bomber Ted Kaczynski in the Discovery Channel’s “Manhunt: Unabomber” in 2017. He co-starred with Elizabeth Olsen in Marvel Comics’ TV miniseries “WandaVision” (2021), playing a new version of his Marvel Cinematic Universe character Vision. He played Andy Warhol in both the mostly panned Broadway production of “Collaboration” (2022) and its cinematic adaptation, unreleased as of this writing in early 2024.

PHOTO: Bettany at the 2018 premiere of “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in Hollywood, Calif. Photo by Shutterstock/DFree.

Freedom From Religion Foundation