BILLY Crudup has finally embraced his peculiarity as an actor - and it's working for him.
Fifteen years ago, the actor seemed destined for a career as a Hollywood leading man on the back of his charismatic performance as a rock star in Almost Famous.
But a taste for offbeat theatre projects, his changing physiognomy, and an international scandal set him on an alternative path. (When Crudup left long-time girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker for Claire Danes in 2003, the headlines were merciless. Parker was pregnant with his son, William, at the time.)
In the last decade, Crudup has successfully reinvented himself as a character actor in films such as Tom McCarthy's Oscar-winning ensemble drama Spotlight, Natalie Portman's Oscar-nominated Jackie and TV series such as the Netflix thriller Gypsy, with Naomi Watts.
On the set of Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant in Sydney, he is sanguine about the twists and turns his career has taken.
"I guess I am old enough, now, to know that I am most useful as an actor doing certain things," Crudup says, explaining why he would only accept a role in the hotly-anticipated sixth film in the Alien franchise on his own very specific terms.
"It's like: 'this is what I have got to offer.' To my good fortune, Ridley was interested."
The actor has been cast in the role of Christopher Oram, the Covenant's complicated, conflicted first mate.
When a series of unfortunate events leaves him in command of the spaceship, which is on an historic mission to colonise another planet, Oram struggles to meet the challenge - much to the frustration of Katherine Waterston's terraforming expert.
"On the page he was written as a sort of fundamentalist and an archetype," says Crudup.
"I wasn't really interested in that aspect of it.
"As much as I wanted to work with Ridley, you don't want to get your dream job doing something you don't really want to do."
At the audition, Crudup trusted his instincts.
"If I were to reduce it down to a certain quality, it's something unexpected."
Crudup is at pains to point out that he's not actually trying to do something out of the ordinary when he tackles a role.
"I get this reaction all the time. I think: 'well, this is exactly the way you have to play this, it's so clear in the text.'
"Midway through rehearsals someone will come up to me and say, dude, that is such a weird take on that, I would have never thought!
"I am like: 'well, I wish you would have told me that in the beginning because I thought I was just doing the normal thing'."
In real life, however, Crudup says he's much more predictable.
"All of my friends and family will tell you that."
Judging by the way he's spent his time in Sydney, one can't help but wonder if that predictability has a slightly obsessive quality.
Two-thirds of the way through the three-plus month shoot, Crudup, who is staying in Paddington, still hasn't made it to nearby Bondi Beach, where co-star and keen surfer Michael Fassbender is regularly spotted.
This can partly be explained by the actor's work commitments and partly by his 12-year-old son's enthusiasm for amusement parks.
"We had the best time," says Crudup of his son's two-week visit early in the shoot.
"Though I have to say we spent the vast majority of our time at Luna Park - which is a replica of where we live.
"I am like: 'did we really come all around the world to go to Coney Island?' And he was like: 'yeah, Dad, we are never leaving here'.
"The only thing he was upset about was that we went back so many times, he felt like he had misspent my money. He said to me: 'we could have bought a year pass for about half the price of what we spent!.
"He's coming back next week - it's gonna be another seven days of Luna Park."
Alien: Covenant opens in cinemas today.
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