1994

Butter

Butter, is a short film that I wrote and directed. It was my directorial debut and I was really lucky to have a great friend, Dixie Linder, to produce it and a bunch of really great actor friends to be in it and help me bring it to fruition.

Originally I wrote Butter as a short one woman piece that was performed as part of a trio of plays called Listen, I'm Talking at the RSC Fringe Festival in Newcastle in 1990.

I am really fascinated by food issues, I have had them myself, and I think there is a huge problem in the way people can seek their own happiness, desirability and self-worth through or via food.  I had listened to many people's stories and anecdotes and finally I put pen to paper and Butter was the result. Also, like Jane in the film,  I equate comfort with mashed potatoes, so that's why they play such an important part!

Jane (who was played by my ex-wife Hilary Lyon) has an eating problem. She has bought and prepared a feast for an unseen date who calls in sick and sends her spiraling round London, visiting friends and revisiting old habits. The film also stars Jane Horrocks, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard E. Grant, Richard Wilson, Susan Wooldridge, Andy de la Tour, and me myself in a cameo as Jane's secretary. The film premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994 and played at many other film festivals before being shown on Channel 4 TV.


1993

Second Best

William Hurt stars as Graeme, a middle-aged Welshman who decides to adopt a little boy, in the Chris Menges film, Second Best.

I play the little boy's social worker. The film also stars Jane Horrocks, who worked playws Sally Bowles opposite me later that year in the London production of Cabaret.

Here we all are looking young and perky at the premiere.

 


1991

Prague

My first full length feature film, Prague, was shot in the Czech Republic, also stars French actress Sandrine Bonnaire and Swiss actor Bruno Ganz. It was written and directed by a fellow Scot, Ian Sellar, and produced by yet another one, Christopher Young.

I played Alexander Novak, a young Scot (yes, we are everywhere!) who returns to his ancestral home, Prague, to search for a piece of film he knows exists of his grandparents being taken away by the Nazis in World War II. At the film archive, he meets and falls in love with Elena (Bonnaire), then later discovers she is still involved with her boss, Josef (Ganz). A love triangle ensues, with Alexander searching for more than just his past.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1992 and was released soon after. I won the Best Actor award at the Atlantic Film Festival, and was nominated for a Scottish BAFTA Best Film Actor award for my performance.


1985

Passing Glory

Passing Glory was the first film I ever worked on. I was still a student at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow when I got the part. I had been allowed some time off my final year to make my theatre debut in Macbeth and Macbeth Possessed at the Tron theatre in Glasgow, and whilst I was still performing in the plays I was asked to go and meet the writer/director Gilles McKinnon. He is a really amazing man and I really loved his energy and his script. The character of Rab felt very different to anything I'd played before because in drama school plays I had only swanned around drawing rooms and French windows carrying a tennis racquet doing a plummy English accent.  I had never played anyone my age, and never anyone from Scotland.  Also Rab was from Glasgow and I wasn't, and I felt at the time a strange pressure that in some way I wasn't going to get those sorts of working class Glasgow boy type roles because I was not viewed that way. I guess I was viewed that way because I actually wasn't that way -  I was working class alright but had been brought up in a very rural area in the east of Scotland and had an East Coast/Highland accent due to my parents.  Of course now, looking back on it, having played in loads of films doing loads of different accents, I feel stupid for being cowed in this way. But hey, I was 20 and still a student.

The shoot was very exciting. Passing Glory was Gillies' graduation film from the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and so the crew was made up of a lot of his fellow students, who were really interesting and made my first experience on a movie set a special one.  Everybody really cared about the film, they were really passionate.

I knew Fiona Chalmers a little bit before the shoot and I had seen Ida Schuster in loads of plays at the Citizens' Theatre (where it was my dream to work one day) so I was a little in awe of her, but she soon made me feel really comfortable and we got on like a house on fire.

The film also taught me a lot about the Spanish Civil War and how so many lefties from Scotland had gone over to fight for freedom, for the very notion of political and social freedom.  I wish we had that spirit and fire nowadays.

Passing Glory premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1986, and I remember going to see it and being shocked at how my nose arrived on the screen about 30 seconds before the rest of my face! It was the first time I had seen myself in a cinema and it wasn't easy.

I nearly worked with Gillies several years later when he made a film of a play I had done, The Conquest of the South Pole, but sadly the dates didn't work out. He has made some really stunning films and I am so happy and lucky to have worked with him on my first film, one that I still realy like and am very proud of.