In a gap from shooting Romy and Michele's High School Reunion in Los Angeles, I went with my then girlfriend, Saffron Burrows, to Palm Springs to shoot a report for the BBC Travel Show.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion was the first film I made in the US, inded the first time I'd ever worked in any capacity in the US. It was also the first time I had ever played an American character on film. I still can't understand why they cast me!!
It's actually amazing to me how this film struck a chord with people all over the world, but especially in America. For me, it was a total revelation, because I had never been to a prom or a reunion ever in my life. We don't have them in Scotland. The film climaxes in a dance between me and Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino (for which we were nominated for a MTV movie award, thank you very much), which has also become really iconic.
I was seriously busking it in terms of my understanding of the jokes and references in the script. Luckily my character, Sandy Frink, was similarly challenged. He is the geeky boy at high school with Romy and Michele who returns in Michele's dreams, and finally really appears at the high school reunion in a helicopter, having become very rich after discovering a new form of rubber. As you do.
I can't tell you how naive I was. At the read-through an actor pronouced 'Tucson' (where the film is set) correctly and I snorted, thinking that they had made a sort of joke because I really thought it was pronounced 'Tuck-son'. Then the next person said it and I realised I was the one who had it wrong!!
Here are two clips...first of all my favourite scene, the one which flashes forward and Lisa and I are old people. I just love my turkey neck.
And secondly the famous dance scene (performed to the music of Ms Cyndi Lauper, who I would work with many years later).
Burn Your Phone was originally a radio play, written by Andrew wallace, which I did for the BBC. I thought it would make a really gripping film, and as I was looking for something else to direct after Butter, I asked my friend and producer Dixie Linder to help me get it made. And so, in a relatively short time we were shooting it for BBC 2's Screen Two strand at Elstree Studios. It only took two days to shoot, because basically it's just me on the phone to lots of unseen people, but it was quite an intricate process getting the actors in an adjoining studio piped through to the earpiece in my ear and acting with them as well as concentrating on how to make the thing visually interesting when it was just my face for half an hour.
I think this was the first time that I realised that I liked directing myself because it really freed up my acting. As a director you have so many things to think about on a set that when it came down to the actual acting I felt really relaxed and free and I think my performance is better as a result. Also, as a director I am way, way more prepared than I ever am as an actor so I think that amount of preparation and thought for the other aspects of the film helps my acting too.
Burn Your Phone is about Andy, a telephone operator, who, during a normal day of answering calls begins to hear from someone who knows things that only Andy himself could know and eventually begins to threaten Andy's life.
The film was broadcast on New year's Eve 1996, and on that night as I was boarding a flight back to London from Prague (I had been filming For My Baby in Budapest) I walked on the plane to see about a hundred pictures of my face staring back at me from the TV listings on the back page of the complimentary newspapers that the passengers had all been given. It was rather alarming until I realised what was going on.
The BBC asked me to go to Hong Kong with a bunch of travel agents and report back for their Travel Show.
This was one of the first of these sort of celeby game shows I had ever done and I remember being very nervous. Also these shows are always quite scary because you feel you have to spend the entire week leading up to them committing to memory every morcel of every newspaper as though you are studying for your finals at university.
I was also very excited because Dolce and Gabbana had sent me a suit to wear.
I had worked with Paul Merton at various benefits and shows when he was doing his stand up act and I was doing Victor and Barry. He is really nice and very funny
I appeared on Pebble Mill to talk to Ross King about Comic Relief, gave a gong at the Scottish BAFTAs, gave the Costume Design award at the BAFTAs, and popped into Scottish Television to talk about Goldeneye.
GoldenEye, directed by Martin Campbell, was the first James Bond film in which Pierce Brosnan played Bond. I played Boris Grishenko, a Russian computer programmer who is embroiled in a devilish plot to take over the world.
Like a lot of these kind of action films the plot was quite confusing, even when we were shooting. So don't expect me to explain it now. But I do remember Boris' catchphrase - I am invincible! - because strangers still come up and say it to me all the time.
Goldeneye was my first action film, and there were a couple of scenes where I felt in real danger. When we shot the scenes where the underground bunker starts to explode, it was really scary. There was a wall of flames shooting above our heads and I had to leap over the consul as an explosion happened behind me. Then when I was frozen alive at the very end I nearly lost my hair! I had to stand very still while they dropped a whole load of dry ice on top of me, and I was tied to a pole by a big rubber thing under my costume so that I wouldn't move. However, there were some lumps of hard dry ice and they stuck to my scalp and wouldn't come off and started to burn. I started to move off the set to get help but I bounced backwards because of the rubber! And the next thing I saw was a fireman running towards me and he hosed the dry ice off my head. I was okay apart from a few red patches, but it was a near thing.
The film had a royal premiere in London to which I took his mum. It was so surreal. At one point at the party I looked over and my mum was standing chatting to Judi Dench and Tina Turner!!
Russell Michaels wrote and directed the short film, Bath Time, about a man named Wrigley, who is in love with his goldfish Diana.
I played Wrigley, and Julie Walters played my lascivious neighbor.
This is a beautiful film. The premise sounds so weird, but you really feel for the characters, even Diana! It also looked really beautiful. Julie Walters is one of my favourite actresses in the world, so I was really delighted to get the chance to work with her. I remember badgering her to do Mrs. Overall (one of her characters from the Victoria Wood show), and also I remember feeling very prune-like because of being in the bath so long.
I also remember accidentally killing one of the goldfish who played Diana. I had to run along a corridor naked (yes, really, take a look..) holding a flapping goldfish, and when I turned a corner throw it into a bucket of water. In my haste to ensure the little fishy got back to its natural habitat in record time I flung it rather forcefully. There was a horrible thud and it started to swim rather strangely. I was devastated and I remember standing there naked with various crew people trying to convince me that it would be okay. I am sure that afterwards there was one less Diana double in the bucket.
Emma is based on the novel by Jane Austen, and was adapted and directed by Doug McGrath, who I went on to work with again in Company Man. We shot it on locations in Dorset and Devon, England.
I play the Reverend Elton, who we discover is in love with Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow), even though she is trying to match him with Harriet (Toni Colette). The film also starred Jeremy Northam, Ewan McGregor, Polly Walker, Greta Scaachi and Juliet Stevenson.
Sometimes a film is memorable to me for the friends I made on it, and that is certainly true of this one. Doug is one of the nicest people in the whole world, and I can't wait to work with him again. The worst thing about this film was my hair. Every time I start a new film and I sit down in the chair to talk with the makeup and hair people about how I am going to look, I always joke about and say stuff like I think I should go blonde and permed. Well this time when I said it they didn't laugh, as they had already discussed lightening my hair and curling it! It looked okay for the character, but when I wasn't working it was a nightmare because the curls went really tight when I had a shower and I had to walk around looking like my granny for three months. I couldn't wait to get it buzzed off.
Gwyneth and I laughed so much during the scene in the carriage when I whisper in her ear. Doug said there was only one take that was completely giggle free. It was just so surreal, having grown men standing outside throwing handfuls of fake snow and bumping the carriage up and down, and her not knowing how near I was because her head was turned away from me and getting a fright each time she felt my breath on her neck. It was also nearly the last day of the shoot and we were all a bit tired and hysterical.
The BBC commissioned me and Forbes Masson to write a half-hour comedy pilot which became The High Life, and we shot it at the beginning of 1993, and was broadcast with a number of other pilots as part of Comic Asides in 1994.
Then a full six-part series was commissioned, and we wrote that in various cottages and houses in Perthshire, Crewe and the Midi Pyrenees to name but a few in 1993/94 , shot in the autumn of 1994 and they were broadcast in early 1995.
The series followed the antics of Sebastian Flight (named after the character in Brideshead Revisited, but spelled differently of course), played by me and Steve McCraken, played by Forbes. The chief purser, Shona Spurtle ('Hitler in tights, Mussolini in micromesh, Pol Pot in pantyhose'), was played by the amazing Siobhan Redmond, and their pilot, Captain Duff was played by Patrick Ryecart. They all worked for a tatty Scottish airline called Air Scotia, and were all a bit mad. The series location sequences were shot at Prestwick Airport, and in and around Glasgow, Scotland. Production then moved back to London and studio sequences were shot in front of a live audience.
This was really fun to shoot because we were getting away with so many dirty things. It was quite wicked because a lot of the Scottish-ness in the script hid the fact that we were saying things that people hadn’t said on national TV before. The writing was really difficult because we were trying to do something different, something almost surreal and the people at the BBC were a little frightened, a little nervous. They kept trying to hem us in, but we knew the success of the show would be its wildness and abandon. And I think we were right.
The High Life was the swansong for Forbes and I working together, and whenever I go back to Britain I am always amazed and happy that it has a place in so many people's hearts and I think it is a great thing that we created something together that has had such a lasting effect.
Someone has very kindly put the entire series up on youtube, but here is my favoutie bit out of all the episodes. I think Ann Scott Jones who play Gretchen Betjamin is brilliant. I sort of still can't believe we got away with being so bonkers.
And also the opening titles dance, which is something of a classic, even if I do say so myself.