One thing that lockdown, Ming Flanagan and the people who brought their Zoom meetings to the loo have taught us is the importance of camera angle and backdrop in video conversations.
Rather than just do a phone interview, Jason Isaacs thought a video chat would be better: cue make-up and tidying my office. Knowing the distracting temptation to spend time snooping at someone's house, he has prepared a backdrop of Scoob! merchandise for today. (Yesterday, he tells me, it was a sign reading: "Interesting books and half-hidden awards".)
"When I was growing up in my house in Liverpool, we had a bunch of leather look-alike, but actually plastic versions of the classics that nobody ever took down off the shelf, ever, not one time." He talks a mile a minute and there's not a trace of the Liverpool accent left after the family - he is the third of four sons - moved to London in 1974, when he was 11. In those days racism and prejudice were tolerated, the National Front in England was strong, and growing up Jewish he encountered it often. He studied law but his real passion lay with acting and over a busy and varied career, he has often played villains, channelling what he saw from the bullies of his early years. In film, he has played famous baddies like Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series and Captain Hook in Peter Pan, (he has also played goodies like Captain Steele in Black Hawk Down and perhaps his best-ever film role is as Maurice in Good) but he enjoys his bad guys and in Scoob!, a star-studded origins story of the most beloved Great Dane ever, Scooby Doo, he plays another villain, Dick Dastardly.
First things first, we need to clear up why Dick Dastardly, villain of the Wacky Races, is in a film with Scooby Doo. "You've got the Marvel Universe, the DC Universe, this is the Hanna-Barbera Universe," he explains, "Scoob! has also got Blue Falcon in it and Dynomutt who I didn't know, and there are many other characters just waiting in the wings to be unleashed, I'm sure."
Scooby Doo is unusual in that it is familiar to several generations. I loved it as a child and my kids did too. My 19-year-old daughter couldn't wait to watch Scoob! and really enjoyed it. So too did Ruby and Lilly, Isaacs' daughters with Emma Hewitt, his partner and wife of over 30 years. "I've got an 18 year old and a 14 year old, and they were sitting on the couch and I said, 'Look I gotta watch this thing for work', and they said 'What is it?' I said 'Scooby Doo' and they went humph... (imitates a teenage snort). They only watch things that are deeply cynical or involve suicide or naked teenagers, so they stood up and they started moving towards the door." But while he was watching, he heard "a snorting laugh" coming from the doorway where his two daughters had been standing. "I deliberately didn't look because I knew if I looked, and they knew I was looking, they would have walked away.
"Obviously the aim of making a family movie is that it works on different levels for everyone. If you've got little kids, they'll enjoy dogs and adventure and teenagers will enjoy the TikTok cultural references and stuff that went way over my head, and if you're grown up, you'll be snickering at some of the riskier double entendres that hopefully the kids won't be asking you to explain."
He doesn't know when his kids might have seen Scooby Doo but has vivid memories of watching it himself. "It was Saturday mornings, wall-to-wall cartoons because there weren't any VCRs in those days so you had to watch it when it was being broadcast - and so we were glued to the couch all Saturday morning. Then when they said you get to be Dick Dastardly, I couldn't believe my luck."
The original Dick Dastardly of Wacky Races is a bit of a wimp. "The character's incredibly wimpy, and weak and kind of pathetic and dismissible and that's what's enjoyable about him," but the decision was made to redraw him to provide some peril for Scoob!. He's all macho physique now, and to do the voice, Isaacs went back to what the character was based on - Terry-Thomas's aristocratic cads. "One of the great joys of making animation is, you know, there is a story but it evolves and changes over the years. What was clear about Dick is that he is the vainest, most grandiose, most insecure, pompous narcissist, you know, outside of the White House."
Interviews aren't always the place for all-topic discussions but Isaacs is vocal on social media, especially Twitter.
"It's just howls of rage, mostly."
He says sometimes he feels frustrated, but sometimes as though he can serve a purpose by amplifying a message or galvanizing support. "I try and be constructive, as in 'I'm angry, upset or bothered by this, here is something we can do'."
It seems those early injustices have not just been channelled into bad guys.
Scoob! is now available to rent VOD
Sunday Indo Living