Mark Addy for “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas”

Who would have thought that a movie in which an overweight Yorkshireman gets his gear off would turn him into a star? It happened to Mark Addy, the movie was the low budget hit, The Full Monty, and now he’s appearing fully clothed as none other than Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. For the unassuming man from York, it’s all too good to be true, writes Paul Fischer from Los Angeles.

What is a slightly overweight guy from York doing playing a cartoon icon? It’s a fairly reasonable question, and one that actor Mark Addy finds just as curious. We’re at Universal’s Sheraton Hotel, the setting for another press junket. This time we’re in prehistoric territory, revisiting the Flintstones in a prequel to the hit 1994 comedy, which starred John Goodman as the fabled Fred. Addy is donning a T-shirt with the British flag proudly emblazoned across his stomach. “I wouldn’t wear anything else”, he says laughingly. He even has a British publicist, yet here is, promoting one of the quintessentially American films of the year. So exactly how DOES a bloke from Yorkshire get so well into the skin of one Fred Flintstone? “Yeah, it is a strange one.”

Strange is what the actor thought when he was first sent the script. “I discarded it straight away, because I thought: Why would they bother sending me this? I’ve got a pile a mile high to read, am I really going to be wasting my time?” Apparently not, according to Universal’s head of production who told Addy that she’d be remiss “if I didn’t mention The Flintstones again. I know you passed on it, but Stephen [Spielberg] is keen that you’re the guy to play Fred.” Naturally, Addy had second thoughts, because after all, “he’s the kind of guy you don’t want to say no to, so I thought I’d better go and read it at least.” Read it he did, and realised what it was the filmmakers thought that he could bring to the role. “They said that they were looking for someone who could bring humanity and heart to Fred. The comedy stuff, the look and voice, they weren’t bothered about.”

Before The Flintstones were everyone’s favourite Stone Age family, Fred was just a regular guy looking for the girl of his dreams, and his romance with Wilma sets the stage for this prequel to the 1994 screen adaptation of the popular cartoon series. Fred Flintstone (Mark Addy), a working-class caveman who earns his living at Mr. Slate’s quarry, falls in love with wealthy heiress Wilma Slaghoople (Kristen Johnson). While many people think that Fred is out of his league including Wilma’s mother Pearl (Joan Collins) and her father, Col. Slaghoople (Harvey Korman) he’s determined to win her heart. Things heat up when Fred, Wilma his best friend Barney Rubble (Stephen Baldwin) and girlfriend Betty (Jane Krakowski) head for a fun weekend in Rock Vegas.

Talking to him, his Yorkshire brogue is in full evidence, but not in his movie, in which he encapsulates the physical presence of Fred. Getting that voice down was painstaking. “It was hard because a Yorkshire accent isn’t hard to get rid of”, he explains. Apart from working extensively with dialect coaches, both in London and on set, he created his Fred by watching quite a bit of classic TV. “We were looking at episodes of The Flintstones TV show, seeing how Fred spoke and the kind of sounds that were distinctive as his own. The actual phrasing of lines was no use to us, because it’s just a voice, the actor tends to use a different kind of energy than you would if you were giving a COMPLETE performance.”

To add to that complete performance, Addy had one more bit of source material to get to: The Honeymooners, the classic sitcom that inspired The Flintstones series. Addy was at a disadvantage though. “We never got The Honeymooners in England, so I had to watch continual episodes of Gleason and Carney doing their stuff. Fred and Ralph Kramden have a lot in common: A big mouth, a big heart, they’re a big guy, they get into all sorts of trouble, but underneath it all he loves Alice.” The actor says, “Watching Gleason physically work and listening to the voice, just gave me a picture of how Fred could be. So in the Fred of this movie, there’s quite a bit of me, a bit of Gleason and a bit of the original Fred.” Yet out of that mish mash, Addy says, “I think we managed to capture the essence of Fred and made him into a real person as well.”

And Addy, as Fred, also gets to sing in this movie, but don’t wait him to evolve as a professional crooner any time soon. “Before started recording, I thought: We’re going to be in the studio all night doing this, but then you do it five or six times, and they can take bits and pieces from each take, get rid of all the sour notes and you have it. But I’m not going to go on the road, let me tell you.”

Addy began life as a stand-up comedian noted for his dry wit, prior to his feature film debut as Dave, the sweet and pudgy unemployed steelworker who becomes a stripper along with his mates in Peter Catteneo’s The Full Monty. Prior to that film, Addy landed the regular role of D.C. Boyle, the bumbling gentle giant, alongside Rowan Atkinson in the British police sitcom “The Thin Blue Line” and supported Nigel Havers in the well-received 1997 British TV-movie “The Heart Surgeon”. American audiences may also have seen him as another constable in the US cable mystery series “Band of Gold” (1994-95). On stage, he has worked for a range of directors including Tony Harrison, Alan Ayckbourn and Richard Eyre.

But life for Mark Addy has certainly changed since getting his clothes off in The Full Monty, a film that was larger than anyone expected. “It was one of those instances whereby everything fell into place; it could have screwed up at any point down the line. One weak link, one weak performance and the whole thing would have fallen flat.” But through that film, Addy is now a recognisable force, and both Hollywood and his native England have come knocking on his door. “The difference for me after Full Monty and before is that after, I suddenly had to make choices. Before, it was more like: You want to work or not? Now I have all this choice, and that’s hard, because sometimes you might want to do something which is smaller, quirky and independent, rather than doing a big-budget movie with less control.”

Already, Addy has appeared in one major studio film, the critically maligned Jack Frost. “The studio system is very complex, and ideas have to be vetted all the way down the line; that’s the way the system works.” So one tries to choose the right film that suits his purpose at the time. “I’ve been lucky in that I went from Full Monty to Jack Frost, then went back to England to a little low-budget picture called The Last Yellow, then came out to LA to do Flintstones before returning to the UK to an even smaller film shot in 12 days.” It’s meant that for Addy, going Hollywood hasn’t meant turning his back on the industry that gave the actor his start. “By doing the big studio pictures, I can allow the fame that I have achieved here to help me go back and get funding for these smaller films.”

What keeps Addy grounded is his constant return to Yorkshire and his wide “who is not only supportive, but finds Hollywood somewhat amusing.” No kids yet but we’re workin’ on it”, the 37-year old actor admits. And yes? He signed a contract to return to the big screen as Fred, “depending on how this one goes.”