Matt Smith talks Robert Mapplethorpe and why he loves Prince Philip

Matt Smith on portraying controversial people

In the Robert Mapplethorpe gallery of New York's Guggenheim Museum actor, Matt Smith has studied the artist's work.
 
"That's the one I'd want in my house from him," Smith told CBS News' Anthony Mason. "Because it's just the angle of it I find really satisfying. And weirdly it's kind of sexy." 
 
The incendiary photographer who died of AIDS in 1989 shocked even the art world with his gay imagery. Smith, who's best known for his portrayal of Prince Philip in Netflix's "The Crown," plays Mapplethorpe in a new biopic.

"He was a steam train in New York. He just had this ferocious talent and capacity for life and amazing work ethic," Smith said. "I like the fact that he was, how to phrase this, not hugely likeable in some instances. You know? Quite singular and uncompromising. Cruel perhaps at times."
 
Smith, who just finished playing Prince Philip, will next be seen as Charles Manson in the film "Charlie Says." "Another one where you go, terrible casting on paper, really, but I'll give it a whirl," Smith joked.

The actor seems to be on a run of playing real people, something Smith can't exactly explain. He does see a similarity between Mapplethorpe and Prince Philip.

"He's kind of similar to Robert [Mapplethorpe] in many ways 'cause he just don't give a flying what's it about anything. 'I'm 97. I'm gonna drive. Why not?'" Smith said. "Phillip, I think quite famously, someone asked him if he watched 'The Crown.' He said, 'don't be ridiculous.'"
 
Growing up in Northampton, England, Matt Smith wanted to be a soccer player, not an actor. When a back injury ended those dreams, a teacher suggested the stage. He didn't show up for the first two plays the teacher cast him in, so he called Smith's mother.
 
"I'm doing '12 Angry Men.' Can you please, please make sure that he turns up. So my mom said to me, 'look you should do this.' And I did and then I realized I quite liked it."
 
In 2009, at age 26, Smith shot to stardom in Britain when he was cast as "Doctor Who,' the 11th actor to play the lead role in the BBC's long-running sci-fi adventure series. He was the youngest person to ever have gotten that part.
 
"It was a tricky time. I'd be walking down the street in London and people out there, 'Oy, don't break Doctor Who!'" he recalled.

"The Crown" would introduce him to an even broader audience, but at first he was reluctant to play the part of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
 
"Honestly, I said, 'Who cares about a show about the royal family? Why?" Smith said.

But then he saw the script and learned his co-star would be Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth.
 
"And Claire was cast and I knew how brilliant she was. She had such a good reputation in England," he said.

"A lot of people about Philip were like, 'Oh, don't you think he's a real, you know?' I'm not – no, I love him. I love Prince Philip … When you play someone, you invest in them day to day so much that you can't help go, 'Well, you know, I like him.'" 
 
Both Smith and Foy were nominated for Emmys last year for "The Crown," but only Foy took home a statue. In her acceptance speech she dedicated the award to the next cast of "The Crown," and to Smith.
 
"Yeah, she did – and when she won a SAG award. Thanks, Claire! That's cause I never win anything. That's all I can do is thank you on CBS. Cheers, mate!"