1997

Spice World

Spice World, the paean to Sporty, Posh, Baby, Scary and Ginger was shot in and around London, and directed by Bob Spiers. I was part of a star-studded cast which included Richard E Grant, Roger Moore, Elton John, Barry Humphries, Jason Flemyng amongst others. 

I played Piers Cuthbertson-Smythe, a documentary filmmaker trying to find the kernel of the nut that was the Spice Girls. I had the best fun. I got to be in London for a whole summer, and go to work every day with these really great girls who just happened to be the most famous people in the world at that time. It was hilarious and bizarre and I loved it. And best of all I made a friend of Geri, who is just a darling girl. And I learned all the Spice Girls' dances from the Spice Girls themselves.

I really like this film. It doesn't take itself too seriously and is actually very witty.

And then here's a bit of a behind the scenes film...



Plunkett and Macleane

Jake Scott directed the highwayman romp, Plunkett and Macleane, in which I played Lord Rochester, a bisexual dandy based on a real person from the 18th century. Robert Carlyle (who was a year below mw at the RSAMD) and Jonny Lee Miller played the two highwaymen, and the other cast members included Liv Tyler, Michael Gambon and Ken Stott.

We shot this in Prague in the winter, and I remember being so cold that I cried and smudged my make-up!! I also remember having to wear old lady headscarves to protect my wig from the rain which I did not like at all. Rochester was one of those parts where I just had fun, and no excess was too much it seemed.

It's one of those films that didn't do terribly well when it camew out but which has a really devoted following. I think Jake Scott did a great job and had a really interesting and exciting take on what is, let's fact it, a pretty tried and tested story. So bravo to him!


1996

For My Baby

I went to Budapest, Hungary immediatley after wrapping Buddy to shoot For My Baby.  This was a really intense experience in every way. I played Daniel Ogelbrand, an Austrian-Jewish stand-up comedian whose parents are Holocaust survivors and whose sister was killed in the a concentration camp during the war. Juliet Aubrey played my girlfiend from America who I get pregnant and who we begin to discover has a horrible family connection to my sister. Oh yes, I forgot the bit about me dressing up in women's clothing each week and pretending to be my sister when I go to visit my mother who is confined to a hospital bed.

The film was directed by Rudolf Van Den Berg, who I'd previously almost worked with on a film based on the Orestia which I was going to do with Fiona Shaw in Tunisia, but at the last minute the money fell out and it never happened. Rudolf was as intense as the script, but I really enjoyed the experience of going to dark and unchartered waters with him.

The film was released in Europe, but in America its title was changed to Goodnight Vienna for its video release.  It was shot in Budapest, Hungary.  Lots of really weird things happened to me personally during shooting which I suppose only added to the air of hysteria and anxiety that Daniel has in the story. Also I was staying in a hotel in Budapest which had been Nazi HQ during the war, so that was strange too.



Buddy

Caroline Thompson, who I had previously worked with on Black Beauty, wrote and directed Buddy - a film about a New York socialite in the 1920s whose menagerie of animals expanded to include a baby gorilla, Buddy.

Rene Russo was the leading lady and I played her assistant, Dick Kroener. I just loved making this film. My character looked after the chimps in the story, and so I spent every day for a few months cuddling chimps. I was like their nanny for the summer. It was such an amazing thing to do. By the time the film finished they were grooming me and playing with me in ways that they only do with other chimps. I was very honoured. One chimp in particular called Tonka became really attached to me. I loved him. It was horrible when I had to go, trying to explain to him that I wouldn't see him for a long time. But I have two pictures that he painted in my possesion.

I later saw him in the Babe sequel playing a girl. Showbiz, baby.



Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

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).


1995

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!!

 



Bathtime

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

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.


1994

Circle of Friends

Pat O'Connor directed this film version of Maeve Binchy's novel, Circle of Friends, set in rural Ireland in the 1950s.

I played Sean Walsh, the slimy suitor of Minnie Driver's Benny, who worked in her father's clothing shop. The film also starred Chris O'Donnell, Colin Firth, Saffron Burrows and Geraldine O'Rawe. It was shot in Kilkenny and Dublin.

I really enjoyed this film. Pat is great, and it was a really lovely cast. I was going through a rough time personally so it was great for me to be away in the countryside, working hard and having fun with new friends on location. And Sean Walsh was just so slimy and awful - I loved playing him. People still come up to me in the street and start talking about the double entry system!!

I made my first foray into Hollywod with this film. I went to LA for the press junkets and the premiere, and shortly after that I started being offered work in the US. So Circle of Friends was another of those life-changing jobs



Black Beauty

During the filming of Circle of Friends, I returned to London and recorded the voice of Black Beauty in the film of the same name. Yes, I am beauty.

The great thing about doing this movie was meeting the writer/director Caroline Thompson, who has become a really great friend of mine and many of my friends. Infact it turns out she is one of my best friend's cousins!!

It was quite an odd thing to do, to narrate a whole film as a horse, but I just thought of it in the same way as I do about every part: pretend to be someone else (or some species else) and mean it.

 I went on to work with Caroline in  1996 in her film, Buddy, and I hope to continue to work with her till we are both old and grey. Oh wait, we already are.

It was Black Beauty that first took me to America, actually. I was flown over just before the film was released to do some last minute changes. I must be one of the only people who can say they came to America on the back of a horse.