walesonline From Tony Blair to Kenneth Williams, he’s renowned for his chameleon-like acting abilities and knack for disappearing beneath the skin of each character he plays.
But there’s no danger of Michael Sheen pulling off that same vanishing trick for his latest role, not while he’s wearing a pastel pink suit as eye-grabbing as this.
And even if you can get past such a shockingly garish piece of couture, there’s still the greasy Teddy Boy quiff and spivvy Terry Thomas moustache to contend with – not to mention the small matter of the stuffed cat he’s carrying under his arm for some reason.
The 44-year-old Port Talbot screen star’s outrageous look is for a part in The Spoils Of Babylon, a six-episode spoof which parodies those overblown, Thorn Birds-type TV melodramas made popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Based on a fictional best-seller by equally made-up author-turned-filmmaker called Eric Jonrosh (who’s played by Will Ferrell), the show also features former Spiderman star Tobey Maguire and Bridesmaids’ Kristen Wiig as siblings who become entangled in a scandalous love affair that threatens to tear their extremely wealthy family apart.
Chronicling an entire century, viewers are taken from the oil fields of Texas to the boardrooms of New York City, with Sheen playing Wiig’s put-upon husband in a tall tale which also heaps on sub-plots involving international espionage and the Shah of Iran.
There’s also plenty of deliberately cheesy special effects, some even cornier dialogue and Tim Robbins as a cape-wearing British luvvie called Sir Richard Driftwood.
Produced by Funny Or Die, the sketch-based website co-founded by Ferrell and Knocked Up director Judd Apatow, The Spoils Of Babylon represents Sheen’s first return to comedy since his winning cameo as Tina Fey’s unfortunately named, uptight English boyfriend Wesley Snipes in the hit sitcom 30 Rock.
But, unlike the usual glowing praise heaped on the Welshman’s previous projects, reviews have so far been mixed.
“The Spoils Of Babylon looks like programming done on the cheap, but the fact it comes across like a high-school production is ostensibly part of its charm,” said movie industry bible Variety.
“What is more, there’s something amusingly ironic about it having attracted talent like Michael Sheen, whose agents wouldn’t normally let him be caught dead in such cut-rate environs.”
Elsewhere, Entertainment Weekly described the show as “more funny-weird than actually funny,” while another called it “a campy hoot” and compared its humour to the knockabout slapstick of the classic Airplane films.
Not all the critics were as kind though.
One writer dismissed it as “too much of not enough,” while The New York Times shrugged, “Babylon ought to be funnier, or at least more daring, given the personnel involved,” before finally conceding that it had been “good for some dumb laughs.”
Not one managed to answer the main question on everyone’s lips though – namely, what on Earth is going on with that stuffed cat?
Over the course of the decades-spanning epic, even relatively minor parts are played by the likes of Val Kilmer, Jessica Alba and Michael Sheen. “I’ve got dirt on every one of these actors, that’s why they did it,” says Piedmont, who co-wrote the script with another “SNL” vet, Andrew Steele. “You’ll have to ask them why they chose to end their careers on this note, but I’m happy that they did.”
*The Spoils of Babylon premieres on IFC on Thursday, January 9 at 10/9c
@SpoilsofBabylon Miss the premiere? Catch the re-air on @IFC tonight at 10/9c. #SpoilsofBabylon