Legion will technically be Paul Bettany's second religious film after The Da Vinci Code, in which he courted controversy as an albino assassin. In Legion, he plays the archangel Michael, defending humanity when God decides he's done with us and sends his army to exterminate the pesky humans. Bettany actually expects this one to make the religious right happy.
"They'll love it, because they are the gun lobbyists," Bettany joked in a group interview over the weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego. "This movie is going to be made into a comic book. It's called The Legion of Prophets, and when you go into a bookstore and you buy a graphic novel, whether it's Watchmen, very intellectual or not, you don't buy it for spirituality or personal growth, you know what I mean? It's very clearly a fantasy. And anybody who really takes it seriously and gets offended, I just don't want to go out drinking with you. Life is just too f--king short."
Legion is based in religious mythology, but only as a vehicle for badass action. Michael shows up with an arsenal of modern weaponry at a diner where a group of strangers is holed up trying to keep the violent angels out.
"I think that he has always toed the line," Bettany continued. "Traditionally Michael was the first angel to bow down to mankind, and he's God's love of mankind. I think that it's appropriate in our fantasy story that he just can't stop loving human beings because he's been told to. So God loses his faith, but Michael doesn't, and he has to do what he feels is right. I also think that he feels that it's sort of his destiny."
Then he whips out machine guns and starts blasting away. "It was great fun," Bettany said. "It was embarrassing how much fun I had making the movie. Loads of f--king guns, it was really fun. And, also, their wings are used as weapons as well. They're not just a means of transportation; they can slice and stuff."
This too is consistent with traditional depictions of Michael, except for the firearms, the actor argued. "You go on the Internet and you look them up, these images of angels, and they've all got swords and fight, and they often have breastplates," he said. "They were warriors."
When resources run low, Michael can even improvise some weapons out of the common diner props. He has a lot of guns, though. "There's a few things that get utilized from within the diner, but I can't give those away," Bettany said. "But I also turn up [armed]. We're all getting to the diner, and I stop at an illegal arms dealer, and I come with enormous amounts of weapons, rockets. ... I brought a lot of s--t with me."
Legion opens Jan. 22, 2010.