Noted ASU professor lands first acting role as a big screen villain

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Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, who is also a cosmologist and founder of ASU's Origins Project, is not only an accomplished scientist, but also a big screen villain. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, who is also a cosmologist and founder of ASU's Origins Project, is not only an accomplished scientist, but also a big screen villain. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Krauss plays "Krauss," a wheelchair-bound bad guy in Salt and Fire. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Krauss plays "Krauss," a wheelchair-bound bad guy in Salt and Fire. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
'Salt and Fire' is slated to open next year. (Source: IMDB.com) 'Salt and Fire' is slated to open next year. (Source: IMDB.com)
"As a scientist who's fortunate enough to have a public voice, what I try and do is to provoke people to think about things. And that's what I think fiction does, as well -- good fiction," Krauss said. "As a scientist who's fortunate enough to have a public voice, what I try and do is to provoke people to think about things. And that's what I think fiction does, as well -- good fiction," Krauss said.
Krauss with Herzog, Veronica Ferres and Michael Shannon at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Source: Lawrence Krauss via Facebook) Krauss with Herzog, Veronica Ferres and Michael Shannon at the Toronto International Film Festival. (Source: Lawrence Krauss via Facebook)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

On TV's "The Big Bang Theory," Dr. Sheldon Cooper lives in an apartment adorned with books befitting a theoretical physicist with dual doctoral degrees.

There are books on physics, astronomy, chemistry, math, medicine and more, according to a fan site that has painstakingly cataloged images of the set. And included in that homage to contemporary science is a book by real-life theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss.

Yes, boy genius Sheldon Cooper is apparently fond of the writing of an Arizona State University professor.

But Krauss, who is also a cosmologist and the founder of the university's Origins Project, isn't limited to a mere set piece in the world of popular fiction. The accomplished scientist is now a big screen villain.

Krauss plays "Krauss," a wheelchair-bound bad guy in Salt and Fire. Directed by Werner Herzog, the movie had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last week.

"I'm kind of a metaphysical villain, which I liked, and I think I have the best lines in the movie," Krauss said with a smile. "It's amazing for me because many people would kill to be in a Werner Herzog movie, and here he wrote a role for me."

Krauss met Herzog, a German director once named to Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" list, while serving as a judge at the Sundance Film Festival several years ago. (Apparently one of the perks of being a well-known scientist is that you get asked to judge art, Krauss told me.)

Krauss has appeared in documentaries before, but he had never played a character -- in this case a villain in a thriller about an environmental disaster caused by humans.

"As a scientist who's fortunate enough to have a public voice, what I try and do is to provoke people to think about things. And that's what I think fiction does, as well -- good fiction," he said.

Salt and Fire was shot on location in Bolivia, much of it on the world's largest salt flat.

"It's the flattest place on earth, as my character actually says in the movie," Krauss said. "And it's cold, and we were in a hotel made of salt, which didn't have running water the first night because the pipes had frozen."

As a director, Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Cave of Forgotten Dreams) is famous for shooting in dangerous places.

"I just think Werner figures if you haven't suffered, you haven't made a movie," Krauss told me. Some of the scenes in Salt and Fire were filmed at high elevation.

"All the time we had doctors, but there were a number of scenes where actors would regularly pass out because of oxygen deprivation and would have to be resuscitated before they went on," Krauss said.

The ASU professor says he'd like to do more acting – perhaps up to one film a year – but he doesn't plan to quit his day job.

According to a report by Deadline.com, Salt and Fire is slated to have a theatrical release in spring 2017.

RELATED VIDEO: A sit down with Lawrence Krauss
Earlier this year, heather Moore sat down with Krauss to discuss atheism and its impact on the state, education, government and more.

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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