In Venom, Riz Ahmed plays Carlton Drake, a billionaire philanthropist striving to find an alternative to Planet Earth for mankind to survive in. However, his experiments with his organisation called The Life Foundation results in him being attached to a symbiote called Riot that’s described as a “body hopper”. A chat with the Pakistani actor-rapper on the film and bonding with Tom Hardy, who plays Eddie Brock/Venom.
On his character
Carlton Drake is a billionaire industrialist with a background in medical technology, who is very worried about the future of humanity. He feels mankind will be extinct once the planet collapses ecologically because of everything we’re doing to the environment. And so he’s actually trying to find a solution for that and says, “Well listen, when Planet Earth is no longer somewhere we can live, how are we going to live on a different planet?”
So he sends spaceships into outer space to try and look for a place for humans to live. And what he finds is not a planet that we can inhabit, but a life form that would try and inhabit us, and those are the Symbiotes.
So he’s an ambitious man, he’s very intelligent, he’s quite ruthless in terms of achieving his ambitions, but his ambitions are, although narcissistic, still trying to save humanity just with kind of him at the head of it.
On the film’s moral ambiguity
I don’t think this is a film where there are very clean-cut goodies and baddies. Venom himself is more concerned with, “Have I been fed yet?” than good or evil. There are lots of moral compromises and people are just trying to be very pragmatic and get by and survive and achieve their goals by any means necessary. Sometimes those goals are noble and sometimes they’re less.
Riz with Tom Hardy in Venom Agencies
On Carlton Drake’s rivalry with Eddie Brock
According to Eddie’s point of view, Carlton Drake is this kind of heinous, villainous person who wants to just enrich himself at the expense of the most vulnerable in society. But I think, from Carlton Drake’s point of view, he looks at Eddie Brock and he says, “Well this guy is a bit of a kind of buffoon, just putting fake news out into the world, making up lies when he can’t find a scoop, and sometimes when he does find a scoop, not thinking of the bigger picture, which is, hey, don’t, don’t write bad things about me, I’m trying to save mankind. What are you doing? You’re a kind of small fry.” So they they have this rivalry that’s kind of born from this conflicting view of what the right thing is.
On working with Tom Hardy
Tom is really, really committed, and I think a lot of people can see that from his performances. He got into shape as he always does, for this role. And, to be honest, I found it really easy and, and fun working with Tom. I’ve known him for a very long time. The last time we worked together was 11 years ago. We’ve kept in touch back and forth. And so it was nice to be reunited with him. It was actually very chill.
On his favourite thing about the film
What I really enjoyed about the film, if I be honest, is Venom. Venom itself, himself… just kind of slicing people open like cantaloupes, left, right and centre. And he’s just kind of doing his thing, and he doesn’t really care what humans or mankind think about it, really. He’s just out for himself, and there’s something quite refreshingly honest about something with superpowers that isn’t really a superhero or a supervillain.
On respecting the source material
You have to try and stay true to the mythos behind these characters, because if you think about it, it’s like scripture to so many people. There are fans, dedicated fans that these characters have, who been around longer than I’ve been alive. You know, you have to respect them. And, so on that basis, the storyline for this film is drawn from two classic kind of Venom storylines — one is The Lethal Protector and the other one is Planet of the Symbiotes. Drawing on that source material ensures that we are really respecting the mythology of Venom.
On fan enthusiasm for the film
People are really excited about this. I’ve had more people stop me and ask me about this film than anything before it’s come out. So it’s really amazing to see the level of enthusiasm there is out there. It tells, you know, how well-loved Venom is as a character.