also see: http://www.scottishstyleawards.co.uk/sponsor.php?id=3
The award is given to the man "whose truly inspirational personal style is an important factor in their celebrity." The award is chosen by a panel of judges and presented at an awards ceremony on October 26.
The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Glasgow on October 26. Scotland on Sunday has been given an exclusive preview of the nominations and can also reveal that the shortlist was selected by a panel headed by the Australian supermodel Elle McPherson.
The judges were asked to look for men and women "whose truly inspirational personal style is an important factor in their celebrity".
The most stylish Scotsman may also come from the big screen with James McAvoy, star of The Last King Of Scotland and Atonement, up against Rome's Kevin McKidd.
They face competition from Britain's most expensive goalkeeper, Craig Gordon, the 24-year-old who recently transferred from Hearts to Sunderland; Mutley, the cultural entrepreneur from Glasgow; and comic book and screen writer Grant Morrison.
The Scottish Tastemaker of the Year nominations include a magazine, a record company and an arts director. Style and music journal Clash is based in Dundee but circulates in 28 countries, while Soma Records is an electronic dance music label with a global following.
Meanwhile, Vicky Featherstone is credited with bringing new life, audiences and interest to theatre as the artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland.
Other awards up for grabs include most stylish restaurant, bar, hotel, cafe, entertainment venue, boutique, fashion designer and musician. One surprise nomination in the retailing section is Topshop, mainly because of the coup in attracting the Kate Moss Collection.
Katie Leung is described as "making fashion waves thanks to her youthful and quirky style." Meanwhile, Laura Fraser, the 31-year-old actress from Glasgow who was Bafta-nominated last year for her role in The Flying Scotsman, is praised for her "enigmatic sensuality." Her personal style is "quietly bohemian, bordering on grunge, unaffected and utterly real."
McGill, 30, is described as the film festival's dynamic new artistic director. Her "signature smear of dark lipstick" and ability to "work a pencil skirt with aplomb" reflects the style of the coolest screen stars.
If Gordon wins, it will be two-in-a-row for footballers after the triumph last year of Steven Pressley. "This dark and handsome 24-year-old certainly knows his Prada from everyone else's Primark," says his citation.
He is up against the "rugged and intense masculinity" of Kevin McKidd.
James McAvoy, however is likely to be the favourite. His citation says: "This 28-year-old Scotstoun-born actor exhibits an admirable sense of distinctive yet effortless style in his downtime. Sharply-suited and booted, however, he cuts an especially dashing figure on any red carpet occasion."
Image consultants said the lists represented a good range of talent. Martin Hunt, head of the Tartan Silk PR agency, said:
"Most stylish Scotsman for me would have to be James McAvoy. He is very contemporary and is promoting Scotland very well at the moment."
Scottish style awards: shortlists for all categories. The awards, sponsored by Glasgow:Scotland with Style, champagne house Moet & Chandon and radio station Xfm, will be held at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on October 26.
MOST STYLISH MALE
MOST STYLISH FEMALE
MOST STYLISH BAND/MUSICIAN
Dot Allison, singer
Calvin Harris, performer and song writer The Aliens The Cuban Brothers
SCOTTISH TASTEMAKER OF THE YEAR
MOST STYLISH BAR
Amicus Apple, Edinburgh
Great Scots bar, Cameron House, Loch Lomond Gandolfi Bar, Glasgow
MOST STYLISH BOUTIQUE
Peter Johnson, Edinburgh
MOST STYLISH HOTEL
Dakota Forth Bridges
Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens, Glasgow Kinnaird, Perthshire The Lodge, Jura Boath House, Nairn
MOST STYLISH RESTAURANT
Restaurant Martin Wishart
Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles
The Bistro, Hotel du Vin, Glasgow
Gandolfi Fish, Glasgow
MOST STYLISH CAFE
The Cupping Salon at Fifi &Ally, Glasgow Kember & Jones, Glasgow Tinderbox, Glasgow Glass & Thompson, Edinburgh North Star, Glasgow
MOST STYLISH FOOD/WINE RETAILER
Kember & Jones, Glasgow
Heart & Buchanan, Glasgow
Valvonna & Crolla, Edinburgh
Harvey Nichols Foodmarket, Edinburgh
Iain Mellis, Edinburgh
SCOTTISH FASHION DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
Vidler & Nixon
MOST STYLISH ENTERTAINMENT VENUE
Classic Grand, Glasgow
Home House, Edinburgh
The Club at One-Up, Glasgow
Sub Club, Glasgow
MOST STYLISH HIGH STREET RETAILER
MOST STYLISH LIFESTYLE/INTERIORS RETAILER
Timorous Beasties, Glasgow
Dallas & Dallas, Glasgow
Galletly & Tubbs, Glasgow
Jeffrey Interiors, Edinburgh
June 16, 2007
By Vicki Power
Source Daily Record
He's played a Roman soldier for the last two years yet Kevin McKidd admits there's one thing he's still not mastered - how to sit down in a skirt without giving people an eyeful.
"I know, I know," he says, sitting in his dressing room with his legs clamped firmly together on the set of Rome, the bonkbuster series co-starring Ray Stevenson and Polly Walker that returns to BBC2 this week. "I've got used to wearing a dress and feel comfortable with it but I can't keepmy legs together. "Ray says, 'Hell man, you've been in that thing for two years. Can you not learn that people can see right up your skirt?' Actually, I think Ray gets a longer one."
When we meet at the legendary Cinecitta Studios outside Rome, Kevin's nearing the end of filming the second and final series of Rome and admits he won't be sorry to say goodbye to his costume.
"I'll be relieved not to be in a dress all the time," says the 33-year-old. "I hate the sandals, too. The soles of my feet are like cowhide."
But that's about all McKidd has got to complain about, given that Rome has catapulted the Scots actor to stardom Stateside and landed him a new US TV series. So far he's had a decent, if generally unstarry, acting career that started off promisingly in 1996 with Trains potting in which he played the unfortunate Tommy. But while his co-stars Ewan McGregor and Kelly Macdonald became household names, Kevin (who was famously left off the promotional poster) sunk back into obscurity.
"When Train spotting got so big, everybody said it was going to do amazing things for my career and it didn't," Kevin says. "It did for Ewan McGregor and a couple of the other guys but it really didn't formeand I spent the next year working in a pub."
Now, thanks to Rome, the bloodthirsty, sex-laden swords-and-sandals series set in Julius Caesar's time, it's all happening for Kevin. The acclaimed EUR100- million series made by HBO, producers of The Sopranos, won four Emmys last year and has entranced US audiences and TV bosses. McKidd, who plays upright soldier Lucius Vorenus, and Stevenson, as Vorenus's loose cannon mate Titus Pullo, have emerged as the series' stars. But McKidd speaks modestly of the career boost.
"People seem to be more aware that I exist now," he says. "I still have to go to auditions because it's a very competitive market with a lot of very good actors fighting for the same roles. Before, I wasn't even getting into the room and meeting somebody, whereas now I'm getting into the room slightly more. But who knows what the future holds?"
He admits that having made such a mark in Rome, he is concerned about being typecast.
"As far as roles as a doctor in a medical drama or a lawyer in a court drama is concerned, it might be a danger," Kevin says. "I've been getting a lot of offers as soldiers lately, which is worrying."
No need. Shortly after our interview, McKidd, who's had an LA agent for several years, landed the lead role in a US television series called Journeyman, in which he plays an ordinary American family guy who suddenly finds himself travelling back to the past with the power to change people's lives for the better - and sometimes for worse. It debuts on the NBC network this autumn and is likely to make McKidd even more famous in the US, but much as he deserves better roles, the modest actor doesn't enjoy the fame or fan mail that come with them.
"You do get people sending letters but it's a bit weird for me," says Kevin uncomfortably. "Usually when I'm in the supermarket, people will come up to me and say, 'Have I met you at a party?' "But the other day a woman came up to me and said, 'You're Kevin McKidd - Rome.' "That was the first time it had ever happened and it was a bit weird, actually. To be honest, I didn't like it very much."
Nevertheless, he'd better get used to having his shopping trips disrupted once Rome begins again, since it's proven to be a perfect showcase for the burly, blue-eyed actor's talents. The second series picks up moments after the first ended with Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) sprawled on the floor of the Senate after being assassinated by Brutus (Tobias Menzies). At the same time Vorenus is enduring his own personal tragedy - his wife, Niobe (Indira Varma), has just thrown herself off the balcony of the family home after her enraged husband confronted her about her adultery and the love child she had until then managed to keep secret.
"At the end of first season Vorenus has this huge, terrible awakening of the deceit that has engulfed his family," Kevin says.
Life grows more tragic when, shortly after Niobe's death, Vorenus's children are snatched by vengeful local gang leader Erastes Fulmen (Lorcan Cranitch), who later reveals he's murdered them in revenge for all the wrongs Vorenus has done. As Vorenus grows mean and vengeful, Mark Antony decides he's the perfect man to take over the gangland area of the city and keep the various factions in line to ensure the smooth running of the vital food supply. The change in him from upstanding soldier to feared ganglord was a gift to McKidd.
"Vorenus is a much darker and sinister character this season, not the moralistic centre of the show any more," says Kevin. "It's really good fun to get the chance to totally flip the character. Pullo becomes the more domesticated of the two this time."
One of the perks of playing a Roman thug is the fight scenes.
"That was fantastic," Kevin says. "We worked for weeks on getting it right. Lots of screen fights look stagey, so we wanted ours to look messy and ugly as possible. It was tiring but very satisfying. I was biting him (Stevenson) and we were biting each other and flying out of windows, like in an old western bar room brawl. It was really good fun."
The downside of filming in Rome for so long is that Kevin was separated from his wife Jane and children Joseph and Iona, who stayed at home in Bedfordshire.
"I flew back most weekends, even if it was just to get 36 hours at home, and my family spent all the time on their holidays with me," he says.
He did have one constant companion, the family's pampered pooch Rosie, who has joined us in the interview.
"She's flying home tomorrow and it's costing me 750 euros, plus a box for 250 euros," he says. "I could buy five new dogs for that."
Kevin is now living in LA during the filming of Journeyman and has been showing Lee Boardman, who plays Rome's Timon, around the town as Boardman arrives this month for interviews with TV bosses. Stevenson has also landed a US series, Babylon Fields, and Indira Varma has also been offered high-profile TV work. So it's no skin off their noses that HBO pulled the plug on Rome after the second series, due to its huge budget. Apart from the obvious bonus of being able to ditch the dress, Kevin has mixed emotions.
"It's a bitter-sweet feeling," he says. "It's been a tough show to work on, with long hours and hard graft and being away from home. But in the end there's no point in being disappointed because it's a pretty incredible thing to have been a part of. Rome is going to be one of those landmark things that I can look back on when I'm lying on my death bed."
Rome, Wednesday, BBC2, 9pm.
'When Trainspotting got so big everybody said it was going to do amazing things for my career but it didn't'
The Scots actor found oblivion not fame after Trains potting - but swords and sandals hit Rome has put Kevin McKidd back on the A-list.
April 29, 2007
By Elizabeth Tai
Source: Star Online
Here’s one of the leading men of Rome and Rome II, who’s relieved he has got fewer sex scenes in the series than his co-stars.
I'm not very interesting,” Kevin McKidd insists. I don’t believe him, of course. But the 33-year-old Scottish actor, known for his role as the honourable Roman soldier Lucius Vorenus in the HBO-BBC series Rome, says that he was a shy, tongue-tied kid who stumbled onto acting because he discovered that he could express himself better as an actor. Furthermore, he doesn’t think it is an actor’s job to make people interested in them. “I am not an actor because I want to be a celebrity,” he says in a light Scottish accent.
McKidd, who looks decidedly more casual in jeans and white shirt than the very proper Vorenus, is in HBO Asia’s offices in Singapore to promote the second season of Rome, which premieres on regional television next week. (The actor met with the media last Tuesday.) Thanks to Vorenus’ intimidating presence, one tends to think that McKidd is as intense as the stern soldier. But in real life, McKidd is a light-hearted and talkative fellow whose “vice” is that he’s a bit of a gadget freak.
The unpretentious and down-to-earth actor, together with his beautiful, publicity-shy wife, gamely joins us reporters for a pottery-making session at Boon’s Pottery and later for a noisy dinner at Brown Sugar, a fusion restaurant in River Valley Road. Stardom has not quite swelled his head. “I live a very quiet life, really,” he says. (He makes his home in a cottage in the English countryside with his wife and two children – one aged seven, and the other is five.)
He claims that his role in Rome hasn’t changed his personal life much, even though the powers that be behind American television are very interested in his leading man potential (see Rome leads to roles). Interestingly, McKidd nearly didn’t become Vorenus because he had turned it down when it was first offered to him. “I thought: ‘American TV show? Nah,’” he says.
Back then, he had been doing lots of independent cinema in Europe, and didn’t know what it meant to star in a HBO original series because the cable channel was not available in Britain. Plus, he didn’t realise that it would be broadcast internationally. If not for his agent, who asked him to reconsider, we may have a very different Vorenus! “If you look at Rome, it’s a very high-class, high-end soap opera. And I think that’s what keeps people watching. “Coming from the film world, I used to be snobby about it, but I came to realise that I was in denial. It is a soap opera.” And a good one, mind you.
For 179 days in 2006, McKidd had to wake up at 5.30am to get to Cinecittà Studios (in Rome, Italy) to shoot the second season of Rome. Considering that an average 22-episode series takes 160 to 180 days of production, it was certainly a mammoth task to make the 10 episodes of Rome II. The actor recalled working 14-hour (or more) days that often included strenuous battle scenes. “It’s a boy’s dream come true to ride horses and swing swords, so I will try not to complain,” he says with a chuckle. “Now, Ray (Stevenson, who portrays Titus Pullo) is a terrible complainer,” he adds cheekily.
The actors had to wear actual chain mail – no plastic ones for them – because the producers wanted the costumes to be as realistic as possible. “Wearing them for 14 hours was like you’d been in the gym for four hours. Which was great!” he says, laughing. However, standing around for 14 hours in heavy chain mail didn’t do favours for their feet. The actors absolutely hated the leather sandals they had on because the soles were only half an inch (slightly over 1cm) thick. “They were agony. Your arches were dropping. And we thought, ‘Why can’t we get Birkenstocks?’ My kingdom for a decent pair of sandals!” he says in jest.
Eventually, they managed to convince the producers to tone down the realism a notch to allow them to wear leather sandals with proper arch support! Besides its attention to detail, Rome is also famous for pushing the envelope with its brutal battles and steamy love scenes. The producers argue that they needed to portray an era where such debauchery was commonplace and an accepted part of life.
Love scenes are never easy for the actors to act out, admits McKidd. He feels especially sorry for James Purefoy, who plays the womanising Mark Antony. “Poor James. At one point he said, ‘I’m so sick of having to take my f***ing clothes off every episode!’” McKidd had fewer sex scenes only because his character is a principled man who is loyal to his wife. “Those scenes are awkward for an actor to do. There’s not one actor I’ve met – male or female – who has said that they enjoy steamy scenes,” says McKidd. “They’re embarrassing; you’ve got lights, you’re worried about the way you look ... yuck,” he says, making a face. “I think I got off lucky,” he chuckles.
A dark turn
But while being Vorenus was fun, McKidd was always aware of the heavy responsibility he had as the lead actor of an expensive production. “That was quite scary, but it made you stronger in the long run. Now, there’s not much to faze me in this career,” he says. In Season One, McKidd was very hands-on, and even contributed to the writing process. But it was taking a toll on him after a while. “It was exhausting, and I wasn’t enjoying myself. And I made a note to myself that I wasn’t going to do that in Season Two, but to focus on my acting.” Just as well he did for Vorenus was slated to undergo a massive personality change in the second season.
“Vorenus is the kind of man who, no matter what happens, will stick to his principles. It can get frustrating after a while. I had been desperate for him to do something a bit more out of control and out of character,” he says. He got his wish in Season Two; Vorenus is going to a dark place. “Vorenus has lost everything in his life and because he has nothing to live for he has a certain power he hasn’t had before ... he’s released from himself,” says McKidd. To prepare himself for a darker Vorenus, McKidd watched Asian films like the South Korean movie Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, the crime thriller directed by Park Chan-wook. “Vorenus wants to die in some bloody battlefield, and because he has no fear of death he becomes strangely invincible and unkillable,” he says. And that means lots of physically-demanding battles such as the fight between Vorenus and his best pal Titus. “It was hard, sweaty work for three days in a dark studio, knocking lumps at each other,” he says. “Ray damaged his thumb. He’s quite accident-prone,” he says, laughing. (Stevenson also fell off his horse thrice and dislocated his shoulder during filming.)
There were also many more emotionally-draining scenes such as the one that involved Vorenus’ children. “I have children ... and the idea of playing a scene about young children under your care that you allowed to fall into abuse ... the kind of guilt that a parent will feel ... the horrible emotions that you have to go through. That was hard. I know how visceral that emotion would be,” he says. “There were some days it was almost as if I had given myself a headache because of the level of intensity I had to get to. In real life I’m light-hearted generally, so to get to that place, that kind of intensity, was exhausting,” he relates. Ironically, after being released from the straitjacket of Vorenus’ principles, McKidd finds that he prefers the Vorenus of Season One. “He had that innocence that is stripped from him in Season Two. In a way, he was naive, that was one of his faults, but he had ideals he hoped he could live up to. It’s very sad, but you have to open his eyes to the truth so that he becomes less ideal (sic),” he says.
When executive producer Bruno Heller told McKidd that there wouldn’t be a third season, the latter was naturally sad. “Bruno said, ‘The great thing about this is that they’ve given us 10 episodes and now I can put three seasons worth of storylines all in one intense, 10-episode, kick-a*** season.’ “But it’s much more punchy because we know we have only one season to tell everything,” McKidd says.
USA TODAY When we left our heroes on HBO's Rome, which returns Sunday (9 ET/PT) for its second season, warriors Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) find their worlds turned upside down. Gaius Julius Caesar has been assassinated. The cool, savvy Vorenus is in a deep funk from his wife's suicide — after he learns she bore an illegitimate child he thought was his. He has lost everything dear to him. Meanwhile, hot-blooded Pullo, after impulsively killing the fiancé of the woman he loves, has married her. He's looking forward to a more stable life. British actors McKidd (Kingdom of Heaven), 33, and Stevenson (King Arthur), 42, talk to USA TODAY about Rome's second and final season.
Q: Men seem to love Rome. Why?
Stevenson: What resonates with guys is true friendship and loyalty, and that transcends the relationship you have with women. It's very important for the male psyche to have a best mate. Even if he's someone you wouldn't describe as your best buddy at the moment, he's the guy you go to when your back is against the wall. Or, if he turned up on your doorstep, you'd give him the shirt off your back.
McKidd: A lot of men respond to the fact that rarely do you see a genuine, deep male friendship portrayed this way on TV. There's usually some kind of spin. But with these two, it's a very old-fashioned, deep friendship, a love for each other that men seem to respond to.
Q: What do women think of Vorenus and Pullo?
McKidd: Initially, women said to me, "Whoa, you're kind of harsh to your wife," but as their relationship unraveled and they started to have genuine love for each other, the female reaction seemed to shift.
Stevenson: Women come up and say they love my character, although they find him a bit violent — they say it tongue-in-cheek — but the guys really connect.
Q: What's ahead for Vorenus?
McKidd: He goes through all the stages of grief and is given a new job cleaning up the streets of Rome. Essentially he becomes the leader of the underworld of Rome, a job that suits him well because of the darkness that surrounds him. That makes him quite a formidable force to be reckoned with: He doesn't have anything to lose anymore.
Q: How about Pullo?
Stevenson: Pullo starts to realize he's not the stupid oaf and he can make the call. Things are going well, but Vorenus' life is spiraling out of control, so he allows Vorenus a lot of rope — while making sure (Vorenus) doesn't hang himself.
Q: What have your characters taught you?
Stevenson: Pullo doesn't look around and think "Vorenus is a senator, maybe I should be a senator." He says, "Vorenus doesn't look too happy." He has a Zen outlook; he is where he is, and he's going to make the most of it. Actors are fraught with insecurities. We're always thinking "George Clooney's having a great career and why can't I get a movie?" It's absolutely ridiculous and pointless. What happens is, you're missing the life you have.
McKidd: Don't trust your wife's sister's husband (who cuckolded Vorenus). You never know what he might do. How's that for deep? Actually, the more Vorenus gains financially, the more he sells out his ideals. That's a good lesson for anyone: What you get through outward success isn't necessarily what you want or need.
Q: What's next for you?
Stevenson: I'm shooting my first horror movie, called Outpost. I head a team supposedly checking up on minerals and geology, but actually it's far more sinister.
McKidd: A movie about (poet) Dylan Thomas that starts in March. It's set in his later years, so I have to gain a few pounds because he dies a horrible alcoholic.
Posted 1/10/2007 9:24 PM ET http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2007-01-10-HBO-rome_x.htm
August 14, 2006
By Andy Hall
Source: Scotland Magazine
Perhaps it is because you cannot take a car on to Iona or more probably because it is of historical and spiritual significance, whenever you set foot on this tiny Hebridean island, you can feel a wave of peace and tranquility wash over you.
I've visited Iona on many occasions but on the day that this photograph was taken, it was at its most beautiful.
Actor Kevin McKidd chose this particular spot of Port Grullain Bay on the west coast of the island as his favourite place in Scotland. Kevin is one of Scotland's most versatile actors.
His most recent starring role is in Rome, an epic saga set in the final years of Julius Ceasar's reign, although he is also remembered for his role in the seminal Scottish film Trainspotting with Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle.
In A Sense of Belonging to Scotland: Further Journeys, Kevin describes how Iona has had a profound effect on his life. He has visited since his childhood and remembers having picnics on the grassy ledges of the photograph.
He recalls falling asleep there to the sound of the sea and gulls while a summer breeze kept him cool. Since then, he has visited with his own family and named his daughter Iona.
As a young girl, my mother who was born and brought up on the Ross of Mull, would visit Iona with her sisters on a small open boat, soaked in sea spray and, in the words of my Aunt Cathy from Bunessan, they would "stand on the tiny island's hallowed ground with voices toned down to a whisper."
Even now, as an adult, one feels that voices require to be subdued as you explore the beaches and coves of this very special place.
I intend going back in August this year to explore the south part of the island whilst staying at Fionnphort on Mull, the embarkation point for the Iona Ferry.
In particular, I'm keen to photograph the Iona Marble Quarry and visit Columba's Bay where St. Columba first set foot on Scottish soil after his boat trip from Ireland in 563 AD when he converted Scotland to Christianity.
If you have time, Traigh Bhan on the north of the island on a sunny morning is an unforgettable experience. Of all the places I have travelled on my photographic journeys, nowhere has had a comparable effect on me to this lovely island.
The Evening Standard (London)
January 13, 2006
BYLINE: MARIANNE MACDONALD; GAVANNDRA HODGE
Source: The Evening Standard
HBO and BBC's Rome is the most expensive TV epic ever made. Out of the gore and discarded togas of the first series rose two triumphant British stars: Polly Walker and Kevin McKidd.
Marianne Macdonald hails the heroine and Gavanndra Hodge greets the standard-bearer
Polly Walker's screen alter ego, Atia, was the most flamboyant character on television in 2005.
Undoubtedly the star of the BBC and HBO's grand and wildly expensive drama Rome, when we first see her, in her elaborate red wig and very little else, she is having raucous sex with a tradesman in front of her longsuffering slave. Next we watch her naked in a bath, chatting to her embarrassed teenage son (the future Augustus Caesar). She goes on to immerse herself in sacrificial bull's blood and to flog her servant to work off a vile mood. It was a tour de force from Polly, and earned her a Golden Globe nomination as best actress in a TV drama (the series has also been nominated but no other actor). It was also a phoenix-like career move for the 39-year-old actress who has gone from early Hollywood highs as Harrison Ford's terrorist costar in Patriot Games at 23 to single motherhood, struggles with men and unemployment.
For Polly, the role of Rome's resident power broker was irresistible, despite all the nudity.
'When I read the script,' she observes, coal-black hair framing a sweet curving mouth, 'my eyes got wider and wider. Although I never considered not taking the part because I didn't find it offensive.
The guys that I was doing the scenes with were so brave and such a laugh.
At one point, I was sat on top of the actor [Lee Boardman] who played Timon, going, "Please, for God's sake, make sure you cover my tits!" He went, "Don't worry about your tits, cover my tits!" ' She cracks up. 'But I did say sorry a lot. I had a very sweet Italian lady glued to my side playing my body slave, who saw me in different states and various positions. I was like, "Sorry you're having to see my arse!" And the guy I had to whip' She shakes her head. 'Apparently, in Roman times, if you were a bit pissed off, you could call on one of your servants and say: "I'll whip you now," and get it out of your system.
The whip was actually string, but I remember looking at this poor man cowering in the corner and saying, "I hope I'm not hurting you!"' Atia, a role Polly will reprise in the second series, being filmed this year, is the high point of a career notable for its peaks and troughs. She had a strong start; after three years at the Drama Centre London she went straight on tour with the RSC, playing the second gravedigger to Mark Rylance's Hamlet, then she got the title role in the 1990 TV adaptation of Lorna Doone and next came Patriot Games. Polly was flown to Los Angeles to audition with instructions to bring her own underwear. She found herself onstage in her bra and knickers, watched by Ford and the producer, miming shooting someone. It may have been non-PC, but she got the part. 'There were lots of other glamorous girls being tested that day and I felt very ordinary and inadequate,' she says. 'Sean Bean was auditioning, too. We realised we'd got the parts and were on the same plane on the way back, in business class, and we were so relieved we drank champagne all the way. When we landed I couldn't get my boots back on!' Next came Enchanted April in 1992 with Joan Plowright, filmed in Tuscany where Polly met her first husband. He was an Italian businessman (she has never named him or any of her exes); they married the same year and she went to live in the medieval hilltop town of Bergamo. Polly had a son, Giorgio, in 1994; a year later the marriage broke down and Polly moved back to London. 'It was difficult and worrying.
But we all have our journeys. And what's the alternative? Fall to pieces?
It's so long ago now, all those feelings are kind of long buried. And, you know, I can handle it. My mum Georgina helps me out massively.
She steps in and holds the fort for me, and so do my two sisters.' With her mother's help, Polly was able to keep working; she made the disappointing Sliver with Sharon Stone, Restoration with Robert Downey Jr, Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow (Polly played Jane Fairfax) and The Woodlanders with Rufus Sewell. But then she met her next serious partner and in 2000 had her second child, Delilah, again separating from the father of her child soon after the birth. She has never explained why her relationships fell apart; both men, she insists, were the 'love of her life' at the time. All she will say is that 'men require a lot of work and attention'. Still, as a single mother with two children, she was forced to put her career on the back burner, taking a three-year break.
'A lot of times I couldn't work, and people would say, "Oh, you disappeared, when everything was so amazing for you," ' she recalls. 'But I had kids!
Babies to feed. I found it very difficult to reconcile the two things. It was definitely a heartache. I remember after I had Delilah I was back working after eight weeks, strapped into a corset on some set. And I was only away a few days and my mum was looking after her, so I didn't feel worried, but it was too early to be out there. I felt completely mad. I was lying in my horrible dingy hotel room and I could hear babies crying, I kept hearing phantom babies crying! So I've had to make sacrifices definitely, and I suppose my career has suffered as a result. But I'd much rather that my children are happy and secure, which I think they are.
I'm very happy. I'd like more children, I love babies, so I'll have to keep my legs crossed I think for a bit!' Polly reignited her career in 2002, appearing in the well-received TV dramas State of Play, The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jeffrey Archer: The Truth. She now lives in Chiswick with her children and her partner of two years, a Welsh actor. 'I've finally learned my lesson. I've sampled alternative cultures and I've realised I have to be with a Welshman to make me happy! I suppose that's what life's about: you learn on the way, and I've finally settled down and I'm really happy, actually. Lucky, finally! I think I used to be in cloud-cuckoo-land, tearing around places like a headless chicken. I'm much more grown up now. And I've finally met this wonderful person who's taken us all on. What's nice,' she adds with real feeling, 'is to finally have something in common with someone.
The same points of reference, and being able to laugh at the same things, rather than trying to find the funny side of an Italian sitcom. I can't be bothered any more.' Polly says she and Giorgio are 'very close, because he was my little mate for so long, travelling round in hotel rooms. He'd come with me on location, he was like my mini-husband. He didn't go to school till he was six. That's what's forced me to put down roots finally, because I think otherwise I'd still be bobbing about. I wanted him to have a normal existence and school friends and clubs and swimming practice. And Delilah's a brilliant little artist, and it's nice to have a girl as well.' Polly herself is one of four: her older sister Emma lives over the road in Chiswick, her little sister Hannah is a fulltime mother, and younger brother Danny an antique glass specialist. Her father Arthur continues to run his country house hotel in Statham, Cheshire, where her mother Georgina, a retired art teacher, also works.
As a child, Polly always wanted to dance. At ten, she boarded at The Bush Davies Ballet School in East Grinstead. 'I missed my mum massively,' she says. 'I kept a pillowcase that my mother had folded. I put it on my pillow.
At night I'd open it and kiss along the creases her hand had touched!' She grins. 'But I never saw coming home as an option.' At 16, Polly graduated to the Ballet Rambert School in Twickenham, 'but my heart wasn't in it. As soon as the teacher's back was turned I'd be the first one leaning on the barre.'
She wasn't sorry when she had to stop dancing at 17 because her body, overcome by the barrage of training, began to buckle, literally, at the knees.
Her parents sent her to a French convent, a decision she finds surprising today. 'It was daunting and quite hard at first.' But she emerged fluent in French and, as her sister Emma was going to Oxford, decided to try there, too, but was rejected by every university she applied for to do art, so she went to drama school, 'which is where I was meant to go anyway. I was never meant for academic life.' Polly has a powerful personality; once she has established what she wants, she acts on her decisions, and seems content with the paths she has chosen.
'I've not had much money,' she remarks, 'but it's rare to find an actor who's rolling in it. And I have quite expensive taste in shoes and handbags I blow it all.' Her money, these days, goes on sending the children to private schools. 'I live off baked beans when I'm at home.' Will they become actors as well? She flings up her hands passionately. 'They're not allowed to be!
Banned! Banned! They're both displaying extraordinary' She shakes her head in horror. 'I don't want that life for them!" Still, it is a life that hasn't done Polly Walker badly. Atia of the Julii, I think, would be singularly impressed.
Ten years ago Kevin McKidd had just finished making Trainspotting, one of the most influential films of the Nineties; but, out of work for six months by the time of the premiere, he walked home in the rain because he didn't have the money for a taxi. It has taken him a decade of slogging away at worthy, low-budget cinema (Topsy-Turvy, Dog Soldiers, Sixteen Years of Alcohol...) to finally find himself in a production of equal impact, Rome, in which he played Lucius Vorenus, first spear centurion of Caesar's loyal 13th legion.
'It's great, for the first time in my life I can come to a smart place like this and have a meal and not worry about being overdrawn.' We are sitting in the glossy Soho Hotel and McKidd is gobbling down a plate of eggs Benedict, after which he, very politely, steals my biscuits and finishes them off, too.
It's hungry work, serving as a legionary.
'For years and years I was just chasing my own tail, trying to get myself out of debt. Once I needed money so badly I agreed to be in a film called The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, a reworking of Romeo and Juliet told through the eyes of leprechauns.' It was an unlikely casting for the 32-year-old actor. In fact, I have never met anyone less like a leprechaun.
He is a 6ft 2in, burly, deep-voiced Scot, the wide-eyed innocent of his Trainspotting days long morphed into a hard, ruggededged creature. He may be endlessly affable in person, genuinely delighted by his success, but he has the cold eyes and rough-hewn features of a blood-hungry warrior. It is a look that Hollywood has taken to its bosom. McKidd is involved in three more lavish productions: The Last Legion, another Roman epic, with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley, in which he plays Wulfila, the shaggy-haired leader of the marauding Ostrogoths; Young Hannibal, the story of Hannibal Lecter's dysfunctional childhood, in which McKidd is a terrifying Lithuanian called Kolnas; and there is also The Virgin Queen, the BBC's new offering, in which he plays the unfortunate Duke of Norfolk (his imprisonment by Elizabeth led to the Northern Rebellion, and he was eventually executed for his involvement in the Mary Queen of Scots Ridolphi plot). Then in March it is back to Cinecitta and the Styrofoam Senate House for the next instalment of Rome.
'My career certainly seems to have gone up a notch. Some actors have their time early on, and then just get fat, while others grow into their faces. I think I am becoming more interesting as I get older.' McKidd grew up in Elgin, a small town near Inverness in the Highlands; his father was a plumber, his mother a secretary. 'There wasn't much money about, we lived in a two-up, twodown council house without any central heating; pretty tough in the north of Scotland. I had a paraffin heater at the end of my bed. Still, it was a beautiful place; as a child I could play all day in the fields it was an old-fashioned kind of childhood.' But as a teenager McKidd felt stifled. 'I remember thinking that there were things going on in the world, and I was stuck out almost at the furthest point from where anything was happening.' He escaped provincial life when he went to Edinburgh to study engineering at the behest of his parents, who knew their son was clever and wanted him to make the most of it. 'I was one of the first people in my family to go to university, and that was a big thing, but I hated engineering, and after two months stopped going to lectures and joined the Edinburgh University Theatre Company.' After a year McKidd dropped out formally and did three years of drama school at Edinburgh's Queen Margaret University College. He got the role in Trainspotting as tragic Tommy, the fitness fanatic who dies of an AIDS-related illness, almost directly after graduation.
'I felt very green and inexperienced when I was making that film, just in awe of the whole thing and all the other actors. Kelly [Macdonald] was the only person there younger than me and I think she found it hard, too. I was painfully shy at the time. If I did it now I would have a much more enjoyable experience; I am a much more confident person.' Nevertheless, Trainspotting gave McKidd's career a serious kick-start, and he moved down to London to embark on his lean years of theatre and poorly financed British films.
In 1999 he met his wife Jane, three years his junior, who was working in the box office of the Albery Theatre while he was appearing in Coriolanus at the Almeida.
'Our eyes met and that was it; we were married six months later and Jane was pregnant with Joseph not long after that.' The family lived in Camberwell until the day Damilola Taylor was killed just around the corner. 'We heard the commotion and saw the gang of kids running outside our door. Joseph was two months old; that was the moment we decided to leave the city.' The McKidds now live in rural bliss in a village just outside Bedford; Joseph is five and they have a daughter, Iona, three, and a new Jack Russell, cocker spaniel-cross puppy called Rosie Pink. 'My one extravagance since I received my Rome paycheck,' he says.
The series has received mixed reviews in the UK, but has been a roaring success in the US, where, apparently, toga parties are all the rage and four more series have been pencilled in.
McKidd's character, Vorenus, is the linchpin, the common man through the eyes of whom the debauched and bloody upheavals of the final days of the Republic are observed.
'He is such a great character to play; he is very staunch and rigid.'
Vorenus is, in fact, a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, but McKidd plays him brilliantly and the character is far more nuanced than some of the more cartoonish Roman aristocrats, such as the comically libidinous Mark Antony as played by James Purefoy.
'I can't wait to go back to Rome, the whole family are coming out with me again. Last time we had 14 months there and we lived in such a beautiful house on the Appia Antica, we used to pinch ourselves every day.' Kevin McKidd is going to have to keep pinching himself, because, as Hollywood's favourite new axe-wielding warrior, life can only get better.
Bedrooms and Hallways (1998) Filed under: Reviews by Mariken on October 22nd, 2006 02:10:38 pm
Director Rose Troche followed up her acclaimed indie Go Fish, with British production Bedrooms and Hallways, about London roommates Leo, Darren and Angie. While Darren has a turbulent sexual affair going with his real estate agent, Leo joins a new age mensgroup and soon falls for straight member Brendan. Brendan has recently broken up with Sally, who just happens to be Leo’s childhood sweetheart. What follows is much more than a romcom: it is an intelligent take on love, relationships, sexual orientation, friendship and the urban family and how and why we love who we love.
The Bedrooms and Hallways plot is rather dependent on coincidences, but that’s fine, really. It is a well written piece, full of gentle humour and funny dialogue, but also a fair bit of romance. Not the epic ‘sweep you off your feet’ Brokeback Mountain kind of love, but rather a more lifelike version. I’ve heard Bedrooms and Hallways described as “a gay-friendly Friends” and that is not an entirely undeserved comment. Where Friends goes for the all-out laugh, Bedrooms and Hallways aims more for the benign chuckle, but its portrayal of people is fairly similar. The Bedrooms and Hallways characters live in the same kind of exaggerated reality. It is life (and love) as we know it, but embellished for artistic purposes.
Despite a rather impressive cast (Kevin McKidd, Tom Hollander, Simon Callow, Hugo Weaving, Jennifer Ehle, James Purefoy and Hariet Walter). Bedrooms and Hallways can be considered a ‘small’ movie. However it does pay a lot of attention to detail, particularly where the costumes and production design are involved. Leo’s dream sequences are well-executed (and very funny) in their surrealism. The houses featuring in this film (including the one where our three friends live) are full of stuff that adds texture to its inhabitants, and the costumes are meticulously chosen. Angie and particularly Darren are outrageously dressed, Sally’s character development can be monitored through the amount of blue she is wearing and one of the supporting castmember’s coming out is a as much about items of clothing as it is about sexual experiences.
Kevin McKidd is adorable as sweet but neurotic Leo, a man thinking everything he feels to death and rationalising himself into isolation. Tom Hollander as Darren and Julie Graham as Angie are his exuberant counterparts. The three form a family unit that has nothing to do with genetic bonds, but is just as sincere and genuine as its biological equivalent. James Purefoy satisfies as hunky Brendan and his chemistry with McKidd (as the more recent Rome has reaffirmed) is great. Jennifer Ehle’s charm does not fail her, her portrayal as Sally, the woman caught in the middle, is endearing as well as sympathetically strong. But absolute scene stealers are Harriet Walter and Simon Callow, as the new-age couple. Notwithstanding their efforts to spiritually enlighten everybody around them, these two are a vile pair of passive aggressive spouses. Their encounters are hysterical.
Overall, the scenes that take place in the men’s group are the most outright hilarious moments in the film. There is something inherently sad about a bunch of modern men, stripping and dancing around a campfire while banging a tribal drum. About as sad as a 65-year old guy with a comb-over in a Porsche convertible, I would say. The new-age group sessions are full of satire on that lifestyle: rather than actually seeking enlightenment, modern man/woman seems content to use new age as a crutch: they babble a bit while holding “the stone of truth” or the “harpoon of strength” or spontaneously rebirth themselves. The superficiality and poignancy of the group sessions often had me in stitches.
Though some may argue that Bedrooms and Hallways pussyfoots around too much, to me this is in fact the strength of the film. Very few relationships are clean cut, most people just blunder about until they coincidentally get it right, and for a lot of us there may very well not be such a thing as completely gay or completely straight. I am a profound believer in the ‘blue dot’-theory, as advocated by Rita Mae Brown: If tomorrow morning, all people would feature a dot on their foreheads in various shades of blue, where completely straight would be light blue (almost white) and completely gay would be dark blue (almost black), 80% of people would probably not show up for work that morning, and would have to re-examine what they always believed was their sexual orientation.
Bedrooms and Hallways gently brings the point across that every individual can only live and love as is right for them, that there are no rules for who you are attracted to, nor should there be, and that the direction your (love)life takes can never truly be predicted. The fact that it manages to teach us a profound lesson while making us smile, only adds to its appeal. A delightful and intelligent movie.
December 01st, 2005
Kevin McKidd joined BMS Media Studies students on 28th November to discuss his career in the British film industry. The Scottish actor spoke about his experiences whilst shooting 'Trainspotting' and many of his subsequent films, including 'Regeneration', 'Topsy-Turvy', '16 Years of Alcohol' and 'Kingdom of God'.
Students asked a number of penetrating questions and they were particularly eager to hear about his current starring role in the BBC series 'Rome'. Kevin ended by entertaining the group with stories about his current film project, the next 'Hannibal' film, which he is shooting in Prague.
Copyright 2005, Bedford Modern School http://www.bedmod.co.uk/news_details_archive.html?id=92
Bray, Elisa. "The 5-Minute Interview; Kevin McKidd; Actor; 'I'm very bad at". The Independent: (London). 31October 2005.
The actor Kevin McKidd, who starred in 'Trainspotting' and 'Kingdom of Heaven', plays Lucius Vorenus in the television series 'Rome' which starts on BBC2 on Wednesday.
Filming Rome was ... Great. Lucius is quite a complex character. He thinks deeply about things and his morals are challenged all the time. He's a subtly drawn character.
If I wasn't talking to you right now I'd be ... Watching a DVD. I've got the day off. I'm going to watch the second season of Little Britain.
A phrase I use far too often is ... I tend to end a lot of sentences with 'you know'.
I wish people would take more notice of... Kindness to each other. When people have the opportunity to do something for others without the desire for something in return.
The most surprising thing that ever happened to me was... Probably getting cast in the lead role of a play, The Silver Darlings, before I'd left drama school. I was surprised to get the job.
I'm very bad at... Sitting still, especially in a make up chair. The make- up artists who work with me will tell you the same.
An ideal night out is... Grabbing the chance to go for a meal with my wife. Our local Chinese or Indian; nothing too flamboyant.
I'm not a politician but... I'd look at the education system and address the issues about funding and the obsession at the moment with testing children.
In moments of weakness I... Eat biscuits. Jammy Dodgers.
The best age to be is... Looking at my children and the age they are now between three and five because you are learning so much.
Copyright 2005 Independent Newspapers UK Limited
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company.
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 22/10/2005
Rome star Kevin McKidd tells Benjamin Secher about his second stab at fame
Reclining so far back in his chair that he's almost horizontal, his bulky arms crossed behind his head, Kevin McKidd stares at the ceiling and thinks how best to sum-up the brawny, battle-savvy soldier he plays in Rome. "Lucius Vorenus is incredibly uptight, anal, difficult, recalcitrant, and unfashionable" he says, a huge grin hanging between dashingly well-defined cheekbones. "But that's exactly the way I like him."
Kevin McKidd: 'the moral centre of the show' Vorenus is certainly not the kind of hero we're used to seeing in a lavish primetime drama. As a foot soldier in Caesar's army, he has a worm's eye view of society; to choose him as the main mouthpiece for a drama about the Roman Empire is as counter-intuitive as entrusting the story of the Great Plague to a rat.
Low in rank, he also lacks the hedonistic exuberance that the series suggests was the defining spirit of the age. While the loftier characters are shown revelling in sexual naughtiness and sensual excess, Vorenus is - initially, at least - lumbered with the stuffy sensibility of a disapproving onlooker.
"He's set up as the moral centre of the show," says McKidd. "The sexual mores of the time dictated that you could shag anything with a heartbeat, but for some reason this guy has a much more modern outlook. He's a man out of step with the values of his time, a bit of an outsider, I suppose".
In many ways, this makes the level-headed, softly-spoken McKidd the perfect man to play him. A decade ago, he was rocketed into the international limelight by the success of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting. His memorable performance, as the tragic, well-meaning Tommy, should have been enough to secure him a golden future on the screen, alongside his cast mates Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle.
But on the brink of stardom, the 22-year old hesitated. "I was still living in Glasgow at the time and all my mates were telling me I had to go to Hollywood, and take the chances available," he says. "But something inside me just said 'no'. It was frightening. I had this gut feeling that if I went to LA, I would get chewed up and spat out."
Instead, McKidd stayed in Britain, keeping a relatively low profile and mixing interesting roles in "theatre and low-budget film stuff" (Regeneration, Topsy-Turvy, Dog Soldiers) with the odd cameo in a mainstream feature - most recently Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. It was while filming the latter that HBO, the mighty US TV network, offered McKidd the role of Vorenus.
Again the actor hesitated, until Liam Neeson explained why turning down HBO would be madness. "I'm not a big TV watcher," says McKidd apologetically, "so I didn't realise the kind of cachet they have. I was thinking of taking some theatre work instead, but then Liam brought me up to speed and I quickly changed my mind."
In the States, where Rome has already started screening, to great acclaim, McKidd's reputation is suddenly ballooning. Initial suspicion about this unfamiliar gentle giant entrusted with the lead role in a $100 million series - "People over there don't have a clue who I am; they think I've come out of nowhere" - has quickly melted into popular and critical approval.
With a second series of Rome already commissioned and two major films in the pipeline, McKidd is once again staring celebrity in the face. "Celebrity?" he yelps, lurching upright with the full-body shudder of a cat attempting to dislodge a fur ball. "It's not something I'd wish on my worst enemy".
IN his biggest role to date he plays a bold and noble Roman soldier, but when Kevin McKidd first stepped on to the multi-million dollar set of new BBC2 epic Rome, he felt anything but brave. The Scots actor swapped the soft warmth of low-budget Scottish flicks like AfterLife and One Last Chance for the searing heat and brutal battle scenes in the Italian capital.
But it wasn't the harsh content of the stunning new programme, due on our screens on November 2, that gave the Trainspotting star the jitters, it was the size of the task he took on.
Speaking at this week's London launch of the terrestrial blockbuster, Kevin, 32, said: "I was frightened when I came to this job, because of the magnitude of the thing, and the whole corporate element to it.
"Before we filmed AfterLife (the tale ofa man struggling with professional ambition and family responsibility, with Paula Sage), I'd go for a beer with the writer to talk about the film. I was worried that wasn't the kind of thing that would happen on something as big as Rome."
The $110million series, a co-production between the BBC and big-hitting US production house HBO (Six Feet Under, Sex And The City and The Sopranos), cost the BBC pounds 800,000 per episode, and is easily the biggest project Kevin has embraced to date. He said: "I worried that something of this size would become a mish mash of middle management, but thankfully, that didn't happen.
"You actually realise the job is just the same, whether it's a pounds 50,000 budget or a pounds 500 million budget. "Thankfully, with Rome we've got a good team of people and the lines of communication remain quite clear. "When I first walked on to the set, having come off low budget films, I felt that I couldn't breathe. It felt like an elephant standing on my chest, but you quickly realise that to do your job you have to just do your job - that's the same regardless of budget size. "Films like AfterLife and One Last Chance have been my bread and butter until now.
"But something like this can potentially mean up to five years of your life (a second season has already been commissioned after a good response in the US). Yes, that might mean more cash in the bank, but it's a much bigger deal."
For one thing, it means more time away from his wife Jane and their children, Iona and Joseph, at home outside London.
Kevin said: "It's hard when you have kids because they've changed so much when you get back, but you just have to travel back home a lot and bring them out when you can. It's a big balancing act, I love the job and my kids." But the enforced separation enabled him to empathise with his character's domestic plight early in the series.
Kevin explained: "My character was apart from his wife for eight years. I know what it's like to be away from family and then go back and try to reconnect. So I think a lot of people will relate to that, people who work away on oil rigs or whatever."
Kevin plays Lucius Vorensus, a noble Roman foot soldier, honourable, true and severe. In a place and time where debauchery and violence were as commonplace to the people as pounds and pence are to us now Kevin's Lucius appears, despite his fierce combatant capability, to be a man of rare virtue surrounded by bankrupt morality.
His military duty has prevented him from seeing wife Niobe for years, yet he has remained loyal despite others' waywardness. But when he returns home to find Niobe (Indira Varma) with a mystery baby in her arms, his loyalty looks to have been wasted.
Kevin said: "My character becomes more complex as he goes along. He doesn't consummate his relationship in the first episode, and it takes them a while to get back on track." The drama unfolds through the eyes of Lucius and his unpredictable cohort Titus Pullo, played by King Arthur actor Ray Stevenson, and the duo make an unlikely yet compelling pair.
"They're like oil and water, they just don't mix," said Kevin. "But it doesn't stay that way, although even they don't know what it is that eventually attracts them to each other."
Filming in extreme conditions helped the actors form a strong bond, but there were even reports that they both developed mild hypothermia.
Kevin said: "We filmed for a week at sea and were dry for about half an hour for the whole time."
Co-star Ray added: "We were hit with a weather system, typhoons, lightning strikes, rain and a wind chill so it was warmer in the sea." But the pair lucked out when they only had to catch up with the rest of the extras playing soldiers at the tail end of their real-life boot camp, which they were forced to endure to authenticate the drama.
Kevin said: "We're a bunch of luvvies, and due to contractual reasons we didn't do as much of the boot camp as I think we wanted to. "Everybody else had come back smelling of horse dung. We got off lightly, but it did help, definitely.
"Billy Budd, the show's military expert, was good at keeping us up to speed, not just with marching and saluting, but with the whole ethos. "We were thrown in at the end, and they were all pretty hardened by that time. But we turned up and because I play their leader, Billy told me I had to address my men, give them an inspirational speech... in 10 minutes. "It was probably the scariest acting exercise I've ever done."
Ray reckons his fellow soldier won his 'charges' over, with a real battle-cry. He explained: "Kevin said something like 'Two thousand years ago, your forefathers stood where you stand now...' Everybody applauded."
The drama is not for the faint-hearted. It's strewn with graphic sex and drenched in blood, and will no doubt incense the clean-screen brigade with its bang-on-the-watershed time slot. A toned-down version was made for Italian TV, but Ray has no worries about offending anyone.
He said: "The watershed is there to be exactly that - a watershed. I wouldn't mind if they started with a sex scene or a violent scene. I don't have a problem with that.
"In fact, I have a problem with people who have a problem with that. People will be told there's graphic content. If you're going to be offended don't put yourself in that position."
Writer Bruno Heller also defended the 11 episodes as an accurate depiction of the way things were in Roman society 52-44BC.
"The Romans had an unashamed appreciation of those things," he said. "In the last 20-30 years of historical research more attention has been paid to the street level history in Rome - the history of the plebs.
"There was a civil war at the time, and violence was very much a part of it. People can see sex and violence on the internet at 8am if they want to." The series' historical consultant Jonathan Stamp suggested we'd be in for a rude awakening if we could see how the Romans lived.
He said: "If we went back in time to ancient Rome, we'd be shattered by the ubiquity of physical cruelty and sexual behaviour."
Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, backed up Heller adding: "HBO make 'grown up' pieces of broadcasting.
"Every time sex is used, it's done to tell a story, it's never gratuitous, and is embedded in the story, so is violence."
And she conceded that the show is unlikely to draw as many viewers as Channel 4's Lost, despite Kevin's claims that it "held its own" alongside Desperate Housewives in the US.
She said: "We won't be showing it the same way or as often as Lost," she said. "It's more difficult, complex stuff."
KEVIN McKidd's shoulders are broad but fame has never sat easily on them. When it was first offered up to him, he cast it off. "I had this attitude, if something did well, I would be like, 'Oh God, oh God, what's going to happen now?' and I'd get really paranoid and run away," he says, cringing at the memory.
That was the Elgin-born actor immediately after Trainspotting made his name and those of Ewan McGregor, Bobby Carlyle, Ewen Bremner and Jonny Lee Miller - but an older, wiser and altogether more confident McKidd sits before me sipping tea in Soho today.
I tell him he seems pretty sorted. "Aye, well, I've got my garden."
But he's got more than that: he's got his very own blockbuster. This is Rome, the most expensive BBC drama ever. The others in his Trainspotting crew all went on to bigger, though not always better, things. Now it's his turn to reach for the sun.
"I feel OK, I'm pretty relaxed and I don't mind if this is a hit," says the 31-year-old. The BBC, it's safe to assume, will be a bit more anxious about the series' success. Rome isn't entirely the Beeb's baby; it's a joint production with America's Home Box Office, costing £58m. But this is supposed to be the big, golden-era throwback drama to remind us that TV can be about more than singing competitions featuring twerps in daft haircuts and distressed jeans. If it flops, empires could fall again.
The 11-part, swords-and-sandals epic is already running in the United States, where critics have compared it unfavourably to I, Claudius and also to The Sopranos, possibly forgetting that whatever the excesses of sex and violence of a bunch of Italian-American gangsters, Ancient Rome did everything first, and worst, during a toga party that lasted 400 years. Reviews described McKidd as "honourable and dour", which is about as positive an opinion of a Scotsman as you're likely to get. Nevertheless, HBO has commissioned a second run; the first hits our screens next month.
Like I, Claudius, Rome covers a pivotal moment in western history, when Julius Caesar was marching the troubled republic into the era of empire. The Derek Jacobi series could tell its story while wandering in and out of a few wobbly pillars; the post-Gladiator crowd expects big-screen wows, even on TV, and Rome has had to be excessive in all aspects. With a fibreglass Forum as the centrepiece, it was filmed in Rome's Cinecitta Studios, on what McKidd says was the biggest set ever built. It was also the longest shoot of his career - 14 months, and he was involved every day.
"I remember big drama series like Jesus Of Nazareth and The Thorn Birds, but they were very much of their time in the 1970s. TV isn't supposed to do things on that scale any more, so the first day on set was pretty daunting and all I was doing was staring at the scaffolding. I remember telling myself, 'Right, it's just you and a couple of other actors fronting this up. If it doesn't work, it's not going to scurry off under the nearest stone. Don't muck up.'"
The action opens in 52BC. Eight years of war have resulted in the conquest of Gaul. Eight years on from this point, Caesar, played by Ciaran Hinds, will have been assassinated. Everyone is living for the moment, as only the Romans knew how to. "Any desire will be tolerated," says someone early on. The peel-me-a-grape classes enjoy live sex shows, the slaughter of entire species of animal, the best plumbing and ripping dialogue: "You piss-drinking sons of circus whores!" They, of course, look down on the lower orders: "What a dreadful noise the plebs make when they are happy." But two plebs are crucial to Rome, soldiers in the 13th legion mentioned in Caesar's account of the Gallic War: Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, played by Ray Stevenson and McKidd.
"My character's a bit of a Forrest Gump," says McKidd. "He not only arrives at the kind of great historical moment you read about in sixth-form studies, he changes events without realising through a kind of butterfly effect."
Pullo is the polar opposite of Vorenus. The former boasts: "Here I come, drinking all the wine, smoking every smoke and f****** every whore in the city!" And McKidd's character reprimands him: "Show some dignity - you are under the standard!"
Our man gets to kill a few people with "distilled, cold, pure violence" but isn't required for the numerous sex scenes. While his fellow soldiers rape and pillage, Vorenus is saving himself for his wife on his return from war. Back in 52BC, according to McKidd, cruelty was a virtue, mercy was a flaw and guilt didn't exist at all. "Everyone else thinks Vorenus is weird for not joining in, it's almost as if he's the harbinger of the Christian mentality."
If the producers intended for Vorenus to be Rome's moral conscience, then they have chosen well with McKidd. He's completely unstarry. The last time we met, our chat was interrupted by a berk landing his helicopter; that was a year ago, but it's the first thing he mentions today. When I ask him how he enjoyed his villa with pool while filming Rome, he prefers to talk about the bilingual opportunities the relocation afforded his children, Joseph and Iona.
Asked to reveal his biggest indulgence and he thinks long and hard before answering: "Curry on a Friday night." Then he reconsiders the question: "School fees." He voices concern about falling education standards and how, in Berkshire, he and his wife Jane will have to pay for the quality of teaching for his kids that cost his parents nothing when he attended a "brilliant school", Elgin Academy. His local education authority deals in euphemisms. "Joint teaching" is when two teachers standing back to back struggle to make themselves understood to respective classes of 40. "Focus learning" is finding a bit of peace and quiet for lessons in a broom cupboard. He wishes he didn't have to send Joseph and Iona to private school, but says: "You've got to look after your bairns."
McKidd admits he was a swot at Elgin Academy and, under the tutelage of Rome's historical expert Jonathan Stamp, felt like he was back in class as he researched his role. "I've always liked grafting. At school I liked to apply myself and when we were filming the series I drove HBO nuts, phoning them at two in the morning to suggest some new dialogue."
He laughs as he recalls a particularly arduous day on location, trying to take some gear off a make-up girl for a long trudge up a hillside for the next scene, and being told off for it. "She said, 'What are you doing? You're the lead actor!'" McKidd had come to the series straight from making 16 Years Of Alcohol, Richard Jobson's no-budget bovver-boy art flick, where everyone had to muck in; this was the film that got him an American agent.
McKidd is not precious about Rome. He appreciates the unintentional comedy of lines such as 'Brutus, my old cock!' "There were a few times between scenes when we were quoting Monty Python at each other," he chuckles. Nevertheless he's proud of the series.
Promoting it in America, he was asked if he felt the pressure of being involved in a show which, if its failure wouldn't quite bring down HBO, would severely dent its reputation after era-defining series such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under. "I didn't. I felt under pressure a year ago when I was getting up at 4.30 every morning to film it.
"When premieres come along you go because you want your wife to wear a nice dress because she has to deal with you being away from home for so long. Rome is out there now, and it is what it is."
For McKidd, it is proof that careers, like empires, aren't built in a day. "Actors are up one minute, down the next. It's, 'Here we go, let's get the plasma screens!' Then they're working in a pub."
After Trainspotting, McKidd didn't splash money on luxury goods - not his style - but he did have a stint pulling pints, and was occasionally taunted by obnoxious drunks over this apparent fall from grace. He also had a spell working on a building site and, being a grafter, he thoroughly enjoyed it.
One day, he was offered an apprenticeship, which would have guaranteed him £60,000 a year, as a "diamond-cutter", gouging holes in concrete.
"I went home to mull it over. Then that night my agent, who I hadn't heard from for a long time, called to tell me about an audition. That was a wee fork in the road, and I ended up telling myself, 'No, you're an actor.'"
He's coming to terms with the facts that he's a star. "I'm starting to get considered for big films, to make a name for myself. A few years ago I would have been embarrassed about that, but I'm feeling quite proud."
Kevin McKidd had better watch out. Excessive use of the word "quite" will have us thinking all that Roman debauchery has rubbed off on him.
• Rome starts on BBC1 next month
This article: http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/review.cfm?id=2094312005
The Duke of Norfolk
"He's very much the villain of the piece; every time you mention him to anybody they go, 'Oh, he's the bad guy!'" grins Kevin McKidd of his character, the duplicitous Duke of Norfolk. The Duke's thwarted ambitions lead to him conspiring with Mary Queen of Scots to depose Elizabeth, but he is found out and sent swiftly to the Tower.
Kevin reckons that with a little less machismo, Norfolk could have gone on enjoying a successful life at Court, "The thing that corrupts him is his own frustration and ambition. He tries to position himself as close to Elizabeth as he can, but his ambition is too obvious to her so she keeps him at a distance which, as time goes on, becomes more and more frustrating to him."
"Then she proves him wrong time and time again on political matters, which is humiliating; and he also has incredible disdain for what he sees as this disgusting affair going on between Elizabeth and Dudley. He has great contempt for that, so all that conspires to their relationship being particularly tense and terse. It's an interesting dynamic because they are very combative with each other."
Unfortunately for Norfolk, Elizabeth always wins, which eventually pushes him to desperate measures.
Kevin McKidd plays Bothwell, Mary's loyal but headstrong protector and lover. Recently, sword fighting and horseback riding have been the order of the day for Kevin McKidd, stalwart of the Scot pack.
Even catching up with this talented, young actor requires break neck speed these days, but as he arrives home from the gym he is more than happy to talk about his latest roles.
"I'm not really the work out type, but all these active roles mean I've got to at least try and stay in shape," he says.
Certainly, his current schedule demands serious fitness. Later today he is off to Italy for talks about his leading role in the epic drama, Rome.
This 12-part series, which chronicles the rise of ancient Rome through the eyes of two soldiers, is a major BBC and HBO co-production, which shoots in Rome's Cinecitta Studios, with additional location filming in Europe and North Africa.
Yesterday McKidd arrived home from Spain, after completing work on the new Ridley Scott movie, Kingdom of Heaven.
The film is set during the 12th century crusades and again called for physical prowess and emotional intensity.
But for now, McKidd cheerfully explains why his earlier incarnation as the rough and ready Bothwell helped him as he rode alongside his Kingdom of Heaven co-stars Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons.
It is all a matter of equestrian confidence, he confides.
"To be honest, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot got me riding properly because we rode so much. Up until then I'd felt very unsure of horses and didn't see myself as a horse lover," he chortles.
"My breakthrough came one particularly hot day; I hauled myself into the greasy saddle and could ride. It had become natural, second nature.
"How those Romanian horses ever understood my Scots accent is anyone's guess, but I'm chuffed to say the experience set me up to ride their Spanish cousins with ease."
Moving back to Jimmy McGovern's passionate and intense telling of the Mary Queen of Scots story, McKidd is full of enthusiasm.
He immediately praises his young, French co-star Clémence Poésy. "She did a brilliant job and is totally believable as Mary, who was a few years younger than Clémence is now.
"Mary was a big leap for this lovely, wee French actress.
"Initially, she was anxious about her English - which was ironic because it was better than most of us on set!
"I was able to reassure her that her accent was accurate - if not perfect - as Mary's first language was French."
Once work got underway McKidd says, "Clémence just became the tender, intelligent 19 year old, who was thrown into becoming Mary Queen of Scots - in a land that was wild and dangerous and culturally alien to her.
"I think it was a brave decision on the part of Gillies to cast young actors in many of the key roles," says McKidd who has worked with the director several times on his films Hideous Kinky, Regeneration and Small Faces.
"A less creative and respected director wouldn't be able to inspire the performances he drew from us. There was a real energy and buzz within the production and everyone was up for giving it their best on every take.
"I loved Jimmy's script, which moves from really full in-the-fire action to intimate love scenes between Bothwell and Mary.
"Having such well-written drama means every day was a new challenge - interesting and engaging. I hope we pass that on to our audience."
But, what does McKidd say to viewers who may not agree with McGovern's telling of history? There are those who say that Bothwell never loved Mary, and manipulated her when she was most vulnerable.
"You know, we're not making a documentary or writing a history book here. I think it's too simple to say, 'No, no, that's wrong historically in my view, therefore this drama is invalidated'.
"A dramatist of Jimmy's calibre will be inspired by history and then make it fly for the audience."
As soon as the script landed in McKidd's hands he felt an affinity with Bothwell.
"I've never felt so strongly about any character before. I thought I know this guy, I feel it in my heart. I was desperate to play him.
"Bothell's part hero, part anti-hero, which makes him brutally honest. He'll do and say whatever it takes to protect his Queen and Scotland. His love for both is absolute and selfless.
"The fact that Bothwell was a proud and noble Scot is irrefutable - he wasn't simply an ignorant hard guy.
"For example he would have been able to speak French, but only does so as a concession to Mary during a couple of intimate scenes. Gillies' direction brings these moments through with subtlety and beauty."
It seems ironic now that McKidd started acting because of athletic inadequacy.
Before the age of 14 he was 'a big beefer' unable to play football. So he ended up in a school play, enjoyed the buzz, and knew acting was for him.
However, his parents were less keen and he studied Engineering at Edinburgh University before switching to a drama course.
Since then he hasn't looked back.
He appeared with Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting, was acclaimed for his role as Johnny in Acid House and was a very credible operetta singer in Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy. Recently, he starred in Dog Soldiers.
Television audiences will remember him as a passionate Count Vronsky opposite Helen McCrory in Anna Karenina, and as Duncan in The Key, BBC TWO's epic Scottish drama last year.
Despite a strong work ethic, keeping a work-life balance is important to McKidd.
After his imminent meeting in Italy, he is relishing three weeks at home with his wife, Jane, and their two young children. Then he heads off to do battle proper in Rome.
Hoggard, Liz. "How do I look? Kevin McKidd Actor, age 30". The Independent (London): 31July 2004.
PEOPLE SAY I'm the archetypal Scot: blue eyes, white skin, fair hair. I suppose you can't change who you are. We've had problems trying to darken me up and make me more Mediterranean for certain roles, but it doesn't really work. As far as playing characters, I think I can change my appearance quite easily - though it probably comes out in more cerebral ways. I'm not one of those actors who's going to give myself a limp or a strange tic, but I do think you can create a different energy, although I'm not going to get too wanky about it.
A few years ago, when my friend James Purefoy heard that I'd got the male lead in Channel 4's Anna Karenina, he went, "But he's blond and Scottish. He can't play Vronsky." And people do lump me in with the redheads - come on, I'm more strawberry-blond. But, truthfully, I've never seen it as a problem. Costume designers often put me in black because with my colouring it's quite dramatic. I was watching Big Brother last night and this colour therapist said if someone chooses to use the colour black, they're trying to suppress an emotion, which is interesting because a lot of the characters I'm playing at the moment are men who are in some way struggling to control their world and keep a lid on things.
My latest film, 16 Years of Alcohol, was quite an autobiographical experience for the director Richard Jobson. He based my character, Frankie, on the early life of him and his brother. I didn't want to do a straight impression of Richard, but he and I are very good friends, so the more we talked, the more I got a handle on what it was like growing up in 1970s Scottish gang culture, because I was too young to know what that era meant. And the skinhead clothes were helpful - when you don that costume, you certainly get a real sense that it is about status and power and intimidation. But there's also a slight effeminacy, too, because of the silk neckerchiefs and paisley patterns. It's very touchy-feely, but with this incredibly hard edge. I can remember Richard saying you'd be hanging around on street corners looking menacing, but at the same time people would be fixing your hair and making sure your lapel was absolutely straight.
My own wardrobe is black, black and black. I've never worn red or green in my life and I never will. I do like a nice suit with a T- shirt or maybe a white shirt on special occasions. I've got a beautiful one-button Versace suit that I got married in and I've worn ever since. Growing up I had no interest in clothes. I was a real scruffbag when I came into this industry. When I was doing Trainspotting [he played Tommy] I'd be going out in these baggy jeans looking like someone off a building site, much to the horror of my girlfriends. I remember being in the play Tis Pity She's A Whore at the Young Vic with Jude Law and he always looked really individual and funky. You'd think, "Where did he buy that? Not in the high street!" So I was always on at him, going, "Where did that belt come from?"
If you look at photo shoots I did when I was 21, I look like a student. These days, I think I should at least have made an effort to iron a shirt. I suppose I was very suspicious of doing publicity, it felt such a compromise. I've grown up a lot in the last few years and I can see it's counterproductive to go to premieres in your decorating clothes.
My worst fashion mistake? I went to that famous Versace party where Posh and Becks turned up in matching leather outfits. I was just to the right of them, wearing this bright shiny purple, blue and silver shirt, all covered in tiny squares. In that famous photograph of them, you can see half of my shirt. That's one I'm never going to live down.
`16 Years of Alcohol' is at selected cinemas now
ACTOR Kevin McKidd, who rose to stardom when he played Tommy in Trainspotting, is a huge fan of Child Base.
The 29-year-old, who has also starred in the films Dog Soldiers and Topsy Turvey, has a three-year-old son, Joseph, and one-year-old daughter, Iona – who both go to..[nursery name deleted for privacy].
How has being a dad changed you?
It has really made me appreciate a good night’s sleep!
Your funniest moment since being a dad?
Looking in the mirror every morning.
What do you like most about Child Base?
Its friendly staff are great, and the fact that Jo Jo (my nickname for Joseph) loves it there. For both my kids...[the nursery] is excellent for boosting their social skills. It provides a brilliant service and everyone there is friendly and cool.
How do you juggle your work with being a dad?
With difficulty, but I guess I am in a lucky situation because my job means when I’m not on set I am at home 24/7. My wife Jane is also a full-time mum, which really helps.
What makes you cry?
Not enough sleep.
What makes you laugh?
Your ideal night out?
It definitely has to be a night in with Jane. The kids get farmed out to their grandparents, then we have a curry and settle down in front of a DVD.
What car do you drive?
What is your most prized possession, and why?
My Lowden acoustic guitar, which I bought second-hand for about £600 with one of my first pay cheques as an actor. Jo Jo has subsequently broken it!
Plans for the future?
I want to keep going with acting, go to LA to pursue more American films and then, hopefully, bring the family with me. I want to send my kids to a decent school (it sticks in my throat that in England a decent education for your child has a price tag attached to it: in Scotland it’s a different story).
Favourite holiday destination?
Well, I'm working so much these days I'm lucky to get a holiday. I don't get there very often, but it's the Scottish island of Iona suppose. I love the place so much I named my daughter after it. love to go there to switch off and just completely unwind. I take long walks and sit on the beach. It's a brilliant place to just sit and think and chill out from the hectic pace of life.
Favourite childhood holiday?
As far as I can remember we went on pretty crap holidays when I was a kid. Well, saying that we once went to Silver Sands Caravan park, in Lossiemouth, which is literally about four miles from where I grew up in Elgin. There was a heatwave that summer, and it was actually really good.
Essential hols item? Factor 50 suncream for my bairns. Actually, who am tryingto kid, it's for me too. Let's face it, I need it having fair hair.
Any hols from hell? Well, when my wife and I went on honeymoon four years ago actually. That was a proper nightmare. We had this great idea of getting a flight to France and jumping in the car and seeing where we ended up. But we didn't realise that we went the week when all the schools broke up in France. There was literally no room at any inn and we ended up going to sleep in a motorway lay-by. How romantic. Still it wasn't too bad in the end. We made the most of it. That's the key to any holiday even if it's not working, you have to make the most of it.
Next holiday? Well, to be honest, I'm working so much just now that I think I'm going to be too busy. I suppose the Edinburgh Festival was my break this year. It gave me some time to just relax and enjoy things.
From Rain Man to Forrest Gump, it's always stars who play characters with disabilities. But director Alison Peebles has found a huge new talent in Paula Sage, who has Down's syndrome
Sunday October 26, 2003
Why do disabled actors rarely get to play themselves on screen? Are we so shallow that we want to leave the cinema comforted not challenged? Films where Hollywood actors play a character with a disability can so easily become a vehicle for us to feel good about ourselves. 'Didn't he play that well?' we gush. 'He was so real.' Even the best independent films - Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, Daniel Craig in Some Voices - can feel like an actor's masterclass.
Which is why Scottish director Alison Peebles's new film, Afterlife, is so groundbreaking. The antithesis of films that hijack disability as a clever plot mechanism or a bid for pathos, it puts a young woman with Down's syndrome centre stage. More radical still, the character is played by an actress with Down's.
AfterLife, which has its London Film Festival premiere on Friday, was shot in five weeks on a budget of £200,000. Everyone, including the leads Kevin McKidd, Lindsay Duncan and Shirley Henderson, worked on reduced fees. Peebles says: 'The cast and crew all had a personal association with Down's or special needs, or some sort of sensitivity towards it. I think it touched a lot of people.'
The film follows an ambitious journalist (McKidd) who learns that his mother (Duncan) is dying, leaving him to assume responsibility for his disabled sister Roberta (newcomer Paula Sage). A touching relationship develops between the siblings, forcing McKidd to re-evaluate his priorities.
In a week that has seen controversy over mass NHS testing for Down's syndrome, it is heartening to find a movie that celebrates being 'differently abled'. According to Peebles: 'The script is about the journey of the character of Roberta who has Down's syndrome. She has been brought up in a protected, dependent way - and that can happen to a lot of children, whether they have Down's or not. Because of that, she isn't realising her full potential. But through her relationship with her brother, she discovers that she's feisty and she has a spirit.'
Afterlifefeels authentic, no doubt because Andrea Gibb's script was inspired by her own sister, Sharon, who has Down's. 'It's quite a personal story,' Gibb says. 'Although my family situation is different from the film, I wanted to celebrate my sister and my mum's relationship with her. Sharon is 34 now and I wanted to write something that shows she's a creative individual and not just defined by her disability.' Sharon contributed to the project by creating Roberta's paintings for the film.
The director was adamant an actress with Down's should play the part of Roberta. 'Her character is central to the plot; she is not just a cipher or a cute little person who enables the hero to shine. She has a voice of her own; she drives the story.'
Peebles is a former actress (best known for her TV role in Psychos) and an acclaimed theatre director. She set up V.amp Productions and this year Shining Souls for Tron Theatre earned her a Scottish Critics Award. Little wonder she coaxes great performances from her actors. The bond between siblings McKidd and Sage is believable, while Duncan is a revelation as a gritty working-class mother.
But the most remarkable thing about the film is the purity of Sage's performance. 'Paula was fantastic,' says Gibb. 'I had to rewrite lines only twice, and that was because I'd chosen words that actually she wouldn't have said. She was making choices all the time. There are great moments when Alison's camera is on her face, and someone says something offscreen, and she just smiles, because she's completely taking in what it means for her character. Once I was doing her lines with her and I said: "You won't really need to know that, that's someone else", and she said: "No, I will need to know that, that's my cue." And she was right.'
Kevin McKidd had a personal reason for joining the project. His mother is administrator of a theatre company for people with Down's syndrome and other disabilities in his home town of Elgin (McKidd is patron of the company, Out of The Darkness). But suddenly he was offered the lead in Zeffirelli's Absolutely! (perhaps) in the West End. Faced with a real dilemma, McKidd went out to drown his sorrows with Peebles and Gibb. 'But when I woke up the next morning, there was absolutely no doubt. I knew I had to do AfterLife.
'I learnt a lot about real acting from Paula. She's not thinking ahead to the next scene, she takes each beat of the film on its own. She didn't confuse herself with all that rubbish that actors can get caught up in. She plays a sensitive, quiet girl who goes out into the big bad world with her brother. And Paula mapped out that journey brilliantly, even though the film wasn't shot chronologically. Her gift meant that she often kept little things back for the next take.'
AfterLife has been compared to Rain Man, but Gibb dismisses this as 'sloppy'. She says: 'The only comparison is our film features a disabled character and they go on a journey. The difference is we are physically presenting a person with that "disability" on the screen. It's not cosy. The actor can't come out of role at the end of it and go off to the Baftas in a dinner suit and be completely independent. We're doing something very different.' In fact, when the film was initially shortlisted for funding, one executive asked: 'Don't you think it would be better to make Roberta autistic?' The implication was this would be more camera-friendly, or Peebles would then have to bring in an established actor to play the part.
There are significant differences between Paula Sage and her character. While Roberta is often confused by her dealings with the outside world, Paula has achieved an impressive degree of independence and attends college. Nobody knew how she would handle the nine-to-five demands of filming, but she proved a natural.
According to Gibb: 'She was completely acting and adopting a character; she wasn't just "being".' Neither was Sage overawed by her co-stars. 'We were driving through the countryside,' recalls Duncan. 'It was a lovely spring day, all the lambs were bouncing around, and I was doing that irritating thing of going, "Oooh, look at the lambs, aren't they gorgeous?" And Paula just glanced at me and said, "Pull yourself together!", which I thought was brilliant.'
To cast Roberta, Peebles and her producer, Catherine Aitken, visited special-needs groups throughout Scotland. 'Paula just shone out,' Aitken says. 'She had never acted before, although she belonged to a group that did drama and music in a very loose way. But she was so good with her lines and interacting with the other actors. Nothing fazed her.' Once on set, Peebles worked on motivation. 'There was one scene in which we needed her to be upset. I asked her to think of something that would make her cry. She said, "I'll just think about Maurice then" because Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees had died and she just adored him. And the great thing is that process is no different from any other actor.'
Sage, 23, has won rave reviews for her performance. Sean Connery welcomed her to the Edinburgh Festival (where the film won the Audience Award in August). And soon she will be whisked off to promote the film in LA. 'She is an instinctive, natural actress who can really go for it,' Peebles says. 'Paula is a real talent and very bright. I can see her doing a lot of different roles on television, and they don't have to be someone with Down's syndrome. I mean, she could be in EastEnders as a character. I'm having lots of meetings with producers, and I've told all of them that she's a real actress.'
McKidd is also convinced Sage can make it, but says: 'She hasn't got an agent yet, and my concern is that there are few scripts around that are like this one. In casting terms, she will play someone with Down's all her life, and my worry is that she's not just playing someone with a disability at the back of the shot to pull all the heartstrings. I've told her parents that they should send any scripts to us to vet. Jesus, it would be great if a soap like EastEnders or Coronation Street really wanted to go for it, but soap plotlines can be unreliable - sometimes the character disappears or something ridiculous happens. And the next thing Paula does should be chosen very carefully.'
Although AfterLife celebrates being 'differently abled', Gibb is aware of the challenges that having a Down's child can place on a family (she finally decided to write the script when she read about a couple in their seventies who killed their son because they were terrified he would be abandoned after they died). Gibb was 12 when her own sister was diagnosed. 'My brother and I watched my parents walk out of the hospital as completely different people. There was something about their body language that had completely altered. In the 1970s, when my sister was born, there was a coded, veiled thing - "You don't have to... we can make arrangements". Times have changed so radically that I don't think that would be an an issue now. But certainly, as a woman of her generation, my mum threw herself into 24-hour care. And there wasn't necessarily the opportunity for my sister to go to clubs and workshops at that time, whereas now it's very different.'
I meet Sage at her parents' home in Cumbernauld in central Scotland. Like any twentysomething, she is fascinated by men, music and clothes - just occasionally there is a delay in the conversation while she takes in my questions. I ask her about playing Roberta. 'She's a bit different from me. She takes tea, not coffee. I'm more independent than her, although she's a lot better at art than I am.' Was she intimidated by auditioning for the film? 'It was like Pop Idol. It came down to two of us in the end, but I won. I was Will Young!' In fact, Sage appears to take everything in her stride, even the trip to America, which is being sponsored by the Glasgow Herald. 'No problem there,' laughs Duncan. 'She will have a ball. She'll be queen of the chat show.'
One of the best things about AfterLife is that Roberta is portrayed as an individual: sometimes the camera makes her look beautiful, at other times she looks angry, plain - just like everyone else. In the most moving scene of the film, she sees photographs of herself for the first time and declares: 'I don't like my face.' I suspect every woman can relate to that moment, but did Gibb feel uneasy having a Down's actress say the words?
'That's a very interesting one,' the writer acknowledges. 'I feel that, providing you are coming from an honest place about material, and you have a knowledge that perhaps other people don't have, then you are in the best place to explore it in a much more complex way than being purely PC. I think there are things that should be said about disability that aren't a shocking thing to say, providing they're coming from an informed place, because then you can always redress the balance. I think it's interesting to have a character that speaks the unspeakable, so another character can offer the counter view.'
Gibb is tipped as a screenwriter to watch - her next film, Dear Frankie, stars Emily Mortimer. Meanwhile, she is adapting Louise Welch's cult thriller The Cutting Room, with Robert Carlyle in the lead. But AfterLife holds a special place in her heart. I ask if her sister has seen the film. 'Not yet. I kind of wanted to introduce it to my family gently. I didn't know how my sister was going to take it, seeing a presentation of Down's on the screen. So I sat with my mum and my sister and we fast-forwarded through the rough-cuts. They were really funny. My mum kept reassuring my sister, "That's not you." But my sister was really sorted. "It's just a film," she kept saying. "I know it's just a film."'
Enter The Matrix I play this on the PSII. I got it for my 30th birthday and it's getting addictive, I have to confess. After the kids have gone to bed, I end up sitting up playing it for hours. It's better than watching EastEnders.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls This is a book about the Hollywood upsurge in the '60s and '70s, and it really digs the dirt on that whole period of Hollywood history.
Getting eight hours sleep What a luxury that is, whenever it comes which, these days, isn't very often, it must be said.
Horse riding I'm learning to horse ride for Gunpowder, Treason and Plot just now. I used to be very scared of horses, but now I've got over that fear. I love being able to control a horse and cracking into a canter. I get a great buzz out of it.
Bathtime with kids It's good fun and, being so busy, I love spending as much time as I can with Iona and Joseph.
HOW do you measure success? By counting the zeros on your salary? By boasting about how much value your house has gained in the last two years? By knowing your car is that bit nicer than your pal's?
Not if you're Kevin McKidd. The grounded Elgin actor experienced the feeling of true success when his work put tears in the eyes of a Hollywood legend at August's Edinburgh Film festival.
Now the 30-year-old, who first got notoriety as doomed Tommy, the fitness-fanatic-turned junkie in Trainspotting, can make a make an incredible claim.
Kevin, you see, has reduced James Bond to tears. He says: ``I met Sean Connery at the film festival. He came to see one of my films -Afterlife -which was showing at the Festival.
``It was great of him to come along. ``I confess, I don't really know him, but as the lights went up at the end of the film and he walked up to me, I saw he had tears in his eyes.
``That was a big moment for me. I was really delighted, you know. The Big Man...''
Kevin tails off, almost still unable to believe that something he'd worked on was able to emotionally move one of his heroes.
It's fair to assume Big Sean won't be the only one who's in tears when Afterlife this autumn.
Set in Glasgow, and filmed last year in and around Greenock, it's a powerful story about one man's struggle between personal ambition and family responsibility.
Kevin says: ``I play a journalist who's on the verge of landing a story on a European doctor involved with euthanasia.
``Basically, if he nails the story then he's set up to land a job in America.
``But the star of the show isn't me. It's Paula Sage, who plays my Down's Syndrome sister.
``Her character is in the middle of this family who're always fighting because the son has problems dealing with the fact his sister has Down's -it's left him without the kind of attention he maybe always wanted.
``So he has basically channelled his energy into his career, taken a step back from his family unit, distanced himself.
``But then his mother becomes terminally ill and it forces him to reassess everything.
``The sort of pain he has been following as a story is now at home.''
For Kevin, the storyline came secondary to the experience of working alongside 23-year-old Paula. He says: ``She's basically the reason to see the film, to be honest. She's a total standout. She'll make you laugh one minute and cry the next, because she's very gallus then very sensitive.
``And she's incredibly talented for someone who has never acted before.''
Working with Paula presented Kevin with a new set of challenges from an actor's perspective: ``She obviously has her limitations. She's bright, intelligent, enthusiastic, but there are times when she's tired and doesn't want to do it any more.
``So I sometimes found myself looking at things almost from a parental point of view. But I think we'll be friends for life, because we've basically lived in each other's pockets for six weeks.
``After the film, she told Sean Connery, `You were the best Bond, by the way'.''
Rightly or wrongly, casting a Down's girl might also challenge the expectations of some viewers.
It challenged Kevin too -and changed him for the better: ``My mother is an administrator up in Elgin for Out Of The Darkness Theatre Company, which helps kids with learning disabilities.
``I'm a patron of the company but I've never really spent much time with them before and, to be honest, I'd always felt slightly nervous about it.
``But after spending time with someone like Paula, I was like, `Why was I worrying about this?' It's ridiculous.' ``I've told Paula's parents that if she get gets scripts sent to her then I'm happy to vet them. It would be good if she could get work as an actress, but Paula's never going to getthe part of someone who isn't Down's Syndrome. ``What you don't want, though, is for people to be offering her parts where they're using Down's to twist the audience's arm or whatever.''
Kevin's had plenty of offers himself. In fact, he has so many irons in the fire that you wonder if he's maybe not working himself just a little too hard. But having suffered something of a lean spell after the success of Trainspotting -apart from his role in Anna Karenina -he's ready to re-emerge from the shadows.
He says: ``After Trainspotting I didn't work for a while and I thought, `Right, that's it, you've had your chance, it's over'.
``But I think everyone gets that in their career and I`m sure it makes you stronger in the end.
``You have to go through the bad patches to appreciate the good.
``If you get things too easy, you get complacent, very quickly, so you have to experience the bad stuff to keep that fire burning in your belly.''
The fire is most certainly still burning as he has five films awaiting release -The Bums Rush, about a gang of mates searching for gold in the Highlands; The Purifiers, a futuristic Glasgow kung-fu movie; Sixteen Years Of Alcohol, directed by ex-Skids frontman Richard Jobson; Afterlife; and a biggie that could propel him into the same stratosphere as Trainspotting co-stars Bobby Carlyle and Ewan McGregor.
Just One Of Those Things is a Hollywood biopic of Cole Porter, revealing his unconventional bisexual lifestyle.
Starring Kevin Kline as Porter and Ashley Judd, the film features a string of cameo roles from the likes of Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Mick Hucknall and Alannis Morrisette.
It's set for success when it's released and, as Kevin confesses, the CD will probably shift shed-loads too. He says: ``That way everyone's happy because, let's face it, folk like Robbie Williams are desperate to get into films.
``But he should stick to what he knows best. He'll never be James Bond. It's time for him to wake up and smell the Martini.''
Kevin plays Bobby Reid, who sets up liaisons with men for Porter then threatens to expose him. Kevin says: ``Porter had an interesting life.
``His wife accepted his bisexuality, even though she didn't like it, because they both loved each other deeply. It seemed to work for them.''
Despite its big name line-up and storyline, the Anna Karenina star isn't pinning his hopes on the project, which some critics have already claimed will be as big as Chicago. He says: ``When you're on a big film it's hard to tell if it's going to be a success.
``I think you have a better idea about that when you're in a small film. In a big project you're just part of the chain and you have to make sure you're doing your thing.''
So does he anticipate it will help him shake free from the Trainspotting tag once and for all?
He says: ``To be honest, I've never wasted energy trying to shake it off. I never saw it as a blight at all.
Never. If someone wants to associate me with a successful film then I don't see how that's a blight.''
He's got a grab-it-before-it's-gone attitude to work, which explains his rather unlikely inclusion in Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest project, Woman In White.
He says: ``We're still workshopping that one. I was round at Andrew Lloyd Webber's house about three months ago with other cast members and these big Broadway producers who were over to talk about it.
``It was an amazing experience. Totally surreal. Imagine sitting around Andrew Lloyd Webber's house with him saying, `So Kevin, what do you think? Do you like that?' ``I was thinking, `What the hell does it matter what I think? You're Andrew Lloyd Webber'.''
The musical is set for a West End debut this time next year, by which point his face will be substantially better kent than it is now.
While he accepts this might be the case, Kevin's enjoying the current anonymity. He says: ``I don't think the public have a perception of me at the moment anyway. I still feel as if I'm wandering through life with blissful anonymity. ``Who knows if my profile will change? ``I'm not saying I'm cynical but, equally, I don't get carried away with myself any more. I used to think every job was the big one and that it would change everything.
``But now I think I have a far healthier attitude, to be honest.''
And a healthier lifestyle too. After spending six days a week in the gym for his kung-fu part in The Purifiers, he's now addicted to working out.
His already substantial frame has been bulked out considerably and he's sporting an alarmingly ginger beard.
He says: ``I've kept the gym up because it has become addictive. I swear to God, I didn't go today and I feel a little tetchy about that.''
So what's with the beard then?
He says: ``I know, I can't believe it myself. I really didn't expect it to come through bright ginger. I mean, why should it? I've got blond hair.''
This week, he's off to Romania to film a new BBC period drama, Gunpowder, Treason And Plot, which stars Daniella Nardini, Paul Nicholls, Bobby Carlyle and Emilia Fox.
The beard is for his part as the Earl of Bothwell in the Jimmy McGovern drama about Mary Queen of Scots, James I and the gunpowder plot.
But he has no idea what will happen when the make-up artists suddenly clock his two-tone hair arrangements.
He says: ``They'll have to dye my hair ginger, or my beard blond.
``A blond beard would be better than ginger hair though.''
We'll next see Kevin drained of all colour this week in BBC2's ambitious new drama The Key, co-starring, in black and white, Dawn Steele.
He plays Duncan, a young engineer with a hidden love for poetry, who falls for mill-worker colleague Mary Corrigan (Steele).
Kevin appears in the first of the three-part series which spans an entire century and was filmed around Dumbarton late last year.
He says: ``It's a fascinating piece, very brave. The colour drains into it as time goes by and it has this epic feel.
``But I couldn't believe it when I saw that one of the techniques they used to get the authenticity of the period right was stretching a pair of tights across the camera lens.''
Although Kevin's based in England, he still hankers after Glasgow.
He says: ``It would be the best city in Europe if it wasn't for the rain.''
But even then his plan wouldn't be to move his wife Jane and children Joseph, three, and Iona, one, back north.
He says: ``I really love Glasgow, and miss it, but I'd love a wee cottage up near Elgin somewhere, one day. It's beautiful and it's where my folks are.''
Sounds ideal, Kevin. Just remember to take time out and enjoy it.
A person with special needs is a label that has conjured up a lot of misconceptions over the years.
They should be wrapped up in cotton wool, have no emotions, feelings, talent and are unable to fit in today’s society.
But beneath the individual, there is a normal person wanting to get out, with emotions, feelings, talents and through the help of their carers can look forward to an active and normal life.
Despite that, there are still people there who still need to be convinced.
This point is beautifully situated in a new Scottish film that has been made possible through Scottish Screen’s New Found Land Scheme.
Afterlife focuses on an inspiring journalist called Kenny (Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting, Anna Karenina, Dog Soldiers) who is on the brink of a story of a life time that could lead to a new career in America.
On the other side of the coin, on the Ayrshire Coast is Kenny’s Mother May (Lindsay Duncan), who spends her days looking after her pride and joy, daughter Roberta ( Paula Sage), a lively fun individual with Downs Syndrome, who is artistically gifted, with a passion for Chocolate and is a mercenary at Bingo.
For Mother and Daughter, life could not be better.
But Kenny gets a call from his mother to return home to help after she sprained her ankle and to look after the Roberta whilst she goes to the Doctors, which clashes with his big interview that he had been working towards.
And despite clashing with is mother over his family responsibilities, he is soon forced to make a life changing decision when he discovers that his mother is dying.
Will he rise up to his family responsibilities to Roberta as she has done for the last 20 years or will he walk away?
Written beautifully by Andrea Gibb, Afterlife is certain to strike a chord amongst family and carers of people with special needs.
The film is full of warmth, humour, and lots of emotion that is certainly set to tug the heart strings and is certain to change a lot of people’s attitudes.
Said Director Allison Peebles: “"This story has a broad appeal because of the way it spotlights the ynamics of the family.”
“It has been a very personal story for a lot of people in the cast and crew, either they knew someone or had someone in their family with a terminal illness while others found their family relationships were similar to characters in the film.”
“Kevin's character, Kenny has to choose between his career and looking after his sister, difficult choices like these confront people everyday. But in saying this, there is a lot of humour in this film, a lot of vitality brought through by the remarkable performances of the actors, especially Paula's.”“The issues in the film are challenging but it resonates with warmth and life."
AFTER the performance of his life in only his second movie, Scots actor Kevin McKidd was one of the rising stars of British films.
The tall Highlander with the pin-up looks had just been showered with praise for his moving part as a tragic heroin addict in Trainspotting and with a growing army of fans, looked set to follow co- stars Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor to the top.
But just months after the record-breaking film was released, the shell- shocked actor found himself out of work, convinced his career was over with no offers on the table. And while his Trainspotting colleagues were living the movie star life to the full in films with Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, McKidd was forced to start working as a bicycle courier to survive. It's only now, after seven years of hard work and endless smaller roles in various film and TV projects, that he has finally fought his way back to top billing and could be about to join the likes of McGregor and Dougray Scott as the next big Hollywood Scot.
He is being talked about as the next big thing after a series of acclaimed roles in hits like cult horror Dog Soldiers, John Cusack's thriller Max and the new period drama Nicholas Nickleby.
And while the likeable Scot is happy to be inundated with a string of high-profile work and offers, including a Hollywood movie with Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, he insists he has been too close to the dole to ever take any of it for granted.
He said: "I've been really lucky recently because the work has just been constantly going and that's the way I want it to be.
"But it's always been a leveller for me that when Trainspotting was released, I didn't have two beans to rub together, so I've always had a reality check. It came out eight months after we had filmed it so I had already spent my wages and was going through a lean period. When I went to the premiere party, I didn't even have any cash to buy a drink - I was just glad they were free.
"At that time, I didn't really do anything for about eight months and I worked as a cycle courier because I was so skint. Because I was inexperienced, I thought that was it.
"I was just new to the business and thought that everybody loves this film, but everybody must think I'm rubbish in it.
"I remember speaking to Ewen Bremner and Jonny Lee Miller and they both had a lean time as well. It turned out they were all thinking the same thing as me."
It was only after an eight-month period out of work that McKidd's performances in Trainspotting - he played tragic sportsman turned junkie and Aids victim Tommy - and debut film Small Faces started to bear out and he started getting big parts again.
And since starring in smaller but respected films like Scots war movie Regeneration and Kate Winslet's Hideous Kinky, he hasn't looked back, and has been working constantly ever since, with 18 films and several TV shows in the last seven years. His profile took a huge boost last year with the cult horror hit Dog Soldiers.
He can currently be seen in John Cusack's controversial Hitler drama Max and has an important role in the Dickens adaptation Nicholas Nickleby, alongside Jamie Bell, Christopher Plummer, Jim Broadbent, Alan Cumming and Tom Courtenay.
He has also just finished filming three independent Scots movies, Afterlife, 16 Years of Alcohol and The Purifiers, as well as starting work on big budget Hollywood film De-Lovely, about the life of songwriter Cole Porter, with Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd.
The busy Scot has gone from being a Kung Fu action hero to a Yorkshire nobleman, a blood- drenched soldier and a sleazy nightclub owner in the space of two years, and is just about to start work on a new West End musical with Andrew Lloyd Webber.
He said: "At the moment I'm just enjoying the work as it comes in, I haven't got a big master plan." Tommy's gruesome death in the first film has kept him out of any speculation surrounding a possible Trainspotting 2. He said: "I didn't think it would have the longevity it has had, but to be honest when I watch it, I think it's a little bit dated now, or maybe I'm just bored watching it.
"My hunch is that people will think that it was so good at the time that to try and repeat it would be a mistake."
Despite his rising stardom, the 29 year old says he has no plans to move his wife Jane and kids Joseph, three, and Iona, one, to America to crack Hollywood.
But he is heading to Los Angeles this year to get a Hollywood agent.
He said: "Trying to make it out there is something I've always meant to do but I've been so busy. Now I've decided at the end of the year I'm going to go out there and see what happens.
"I couldn't bring up my children in LA, I want to bring them up somewhere real.
"I don't want to end up with American kids."
dir-scr Neil Marshall
with Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Liam Cunningham, Emma Cleasby, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson, Tina Landini, Craig Conway, Ben Wright, Bryn Walters
release UK 10.May.02
Scotland. In an isolated glen, where only the occasional camper ventures, an inhumanly savage killer is loose. A couple in their tent are worse than slaughtered; their remains look like puree.
Four weeks later, a British Army platoon choppers into the same glen on a training exercise. No one's thrilled to be there — they're soldiers, but they're also just guys in camouflage uniforms, and they're going to miss a championship soccer match tonight, out in these godforsaken woods.
They have no idea just how godforsaken.
Radioman Cooper (Kevin McKidd, who powerfully played Tommy in Trainspotting, gang-leader Malky in Small Faces and the torrid Count Vronsky in the British Masterpiece Theatre miniseries Anna Karenina) is a grim stoic with a conscience. The four other privates — Terry (Leslie Simpson), Joe (Chris Robson), Bruce (Thomas Lockyer) and Spoon (Darren Morfitt) — are each a varying-degree combination of bored journeymen and adrenaline-rush adventurers. Sergeant Wells (Sean Pertwee, son of former Dr. Who star Jon Pertwee and a charismatic figure in Event Horizon, Soldier, Tales of the Mummy and other films) knows the routine — well aware that even in an exercise, nothing is routine.
Hardened as he is, the sergeant isn't immune to the toll that sudden death can have on a soldier — nor the to the toll of surprise, as a body unexpectedly slams into their campfire as if thrown there.
Springing to heightened alert, the men explore the area and discover something else unexpected: a special-ops platoon — or rather, their gruesome remains. What the hell are special ops with live ammo doing way out here during a training exercise? The one survivor, Capt. Ryan (Liam Cunningham, First Knight, the supernatural thriller Revelation, the miniseries Attila) is half-dead and in shock, muttering, "There was only supposed to be one!" The special-ops' radio has been shredded — and the platoon's own, ominously and perhaps deliberately, will not work.
"The exercise is well and truly over," the war-toughened sergeant announces. But the killing has only begun. By the time a woman (newcomer Emma Cleasby) arrives in a four-wheel drive — saying she's a zoologist who heard shots and that there's some hybrid beast out here you may as well call a werewolf — one soldier is dead, the Sarge has his guts hanging out, and their only refuge is a rural farmhouse.
From there, it's Night of the Living Dead. It's Assault on Precinct 13. It's close-quarters combat against a smart, unrelenting enemy, a vicious battle with honor, betrayal, suspense, sacrifice and completely logical surprises.
DOG SOLDIERS won both the Golden Raven Award and the Pegasus Audience Award at the 2002 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film. It also took the prestigious Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film at the Luxembourg International Film Festival/Cinenygma.
And its pedigree? DOG SOLDIERS producer Christopher Figg helped create an icon of modern horror by bringing Clive Barker's Hellraiser to the screen. His other films include the internationally acclaimed Trainspotting. Writer-director-editor Neil Marshall, who made a 20-minute zombie action film while at England's Newcastle Film School, wrote the screenplay for Columbia Pictures' gangster drama Killing Time. This is his auspicious directorial debut.
A "high octane werewolf movie...Kind of the Howling meets Rio Bravo in the Scottish Highlands, this first pic by writer-director Neil Marshall piles on the action during a long night of lyconthropic assault on a remote cottage, with spirited playing by a small cast and a refreshing lack of CGI that keeps the drama grounded." -- Variety
Kevin McKidd tries to appear in productions he’d not be embarrassed to watch with his friends and family.
Some movies look like they were great fun to make. Buddy movies. Heist movies. Anything with Cary Grant. But the last thing that springs to mind when you are sitting in the dark feeling scared and a bit sick, waiting for some unseen thing to take yet another victim, is what a good laugh it all must have been for the actors.
But for Kevin McKidd, best-known as Tommy in Trainspotting, the making of Dog Soldiers - think visceral Blair Witch Project meets Zulu in the Scottish Highlands - was the "happiest and most creative" shoot he’s ever been on.
"We all set ourselves up for a fall," says the Elgin-born actor, "We had such a good time making it that we all thought - oh man - the criticism would be bad. We thought they’d be snobby about it, especially the broadsheets, you know: ‘This isn’t what a British film should be doing, leave it to the Americans. we should be doing kitchen-sink dramas, stick to what they’re good at’ kind of thing."
But the film, about a platoon of squaddies hunted down by 7ft werewolves, got rave reviews. Empire and Total Film awarded it four stars and as for those broadsheets ... the Observer said it was "among the most watchable British movie of recent months". The Scotsman went one better, calling it "the most entertaining British movie of the year".
At the London PR company where we meet, McKidd has just discovered the movie’s co-star, Sean Pertwee, is in the building and goes off to greet him. I catch up with him over a buffet lunch and remark that, having seen the film, I’m in no mood to eat. In fact, I feel a bit shaky and sick - it’s quite gory. "Great!" he enthuses, "that’s good. Horror movies should make you feel like that."
The film is a change in direction for McKidd, 28, a veteran when it comes to playing life’s losers. From his film debut, as teenage gang leader Malky in Small Faces, to his fitness fanatic addict in Trainspotting through to corrupt barrister Billy Guthrie in Channel 4’s North Square, he has had a run of unheroic roles.
‘I’d rather go and ride round on a bike to pay my bills than do what I don’t believe I should be doing, purely for money’
In Dog Soldiers he plays the lead, rifleman Lawrence Cooper, a Boys Own action hero who defends his men to the end.
McKidd, who had to endure gruelling combat training to get himself into shape, broke a rib and a bone in his hand after insisting on doing all his own stunts. It was brilliant, he says.
"This guy is the action hero - which is brilliant to do, but I wouldn’t say it’s my Keanu Reeves Speed moment."
Playing heroes does make a difference, he says, but not to him. "It probably would, to people in the industry that I would consider to be shallow in their views," he says. "When I did Acid House, it’s all about this character that gets completely f***** over by his wife. He’s looking after the baby downstairs and just when you think he’s about to get out of it, he goes back for more - she says, let’s get back together and he says, OK. I remember a few people in the industry coming up to me and saying, ‘It doesn’t show you in a good light, its not a heroic part, you should be going for that now, this is the next step for you. You need to be a hero.’"I was, like, if I was doing it purely for profile, I’d go and get a part in EastEnders or Casualty or something."
The father-of-two, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, occasionally thumps the back of the couch, not in anger, more in mild disgust, reserved most often for those behind what he believes to be mediocre telly. Television is definitely not his bag, I discover.
"Personally, and its purely personal, not me trying to take the piss out of anybody, but if you’re interested in furthering your craft - whatever that means - you should be doing theatre and film. I’d rather go and ride round on a bike to pay my bills than do what I don’t believe I should be doing, purely for money."
McKidd, who was supplementing his income by working as a London bicycle courier only three years ago, has been busy since then. He has played the lead in Bedrooms and Hallways, performed Gilbert and Sullivan in Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy, played Vronsky in Channel 4’s Anna Karenina, and the lead in North Square. Meanwhile, he and wife Jane have moved out of London to the Bedfordshire countryside, to provide a bit of space for their two children, Joseph, two and two-month-old Iona.
When I ask whether, with Dog Soldiers, he has left his couriering days far behind, he is disarmingly honest, or humble, or perhaps both.
"The thing about this game is, if you’re talking about the likelihood of me getting work, I’m not a bankablename. I’m just a working actor. I’m too cynical about it to think that any film I make would make that big a difference. I see myself as exactly the same as I saw myself when I was doing mountain bike couriering. As far as being offered work, OK, it’s the lead guy and he’s a bit cool, so there is that difference, I suppose."
His own benchmark, McKidd says, is simple.
"It’s not some high falutin’ arty thing, just something I’d want to go and see, a play or a film. Most telly, I wouldn’t want to see. There’s an attitude. You can see it, it’s like ‘Oh I don’t really give a s*** about this piece of telly but I’ll do it anyway’. In this game, they dangle a big carrot in front of you, saying, We’ll give you three series and this much money … I’ve done it a couple of times and always not liked myself because of it. Even although I’ve earned decent money, I’ve thought, wait a minute I’ve just spent three or four months doing this thing and if I sat down with my mates and my wife in front of the telly I’d think it was a pile of pish, and turn it over, so why am I doing it?
"I don’t want to lie on my deathbed and go, I’m now a great television actor. I mean, no offence, but that’s where my ambitions lie. Great film actor and great theatre actor."
In Dog Soldiers, McKidd, Pertwee, and the other actors were involved in the creative process. First-time director, Neil Marshall, who also wrote the film, encouraged them to come up with ideas. The resultant movie, says Marshall, was "less gimmick-laden" and "more dramatic". McKidd loves the technical aspect of movies - "the dynamic of close-up" - and the collaboration and wants to explore writing and directing, but not quite yet. "I’ve got ideas in my head, but with two kids - Man, how do you get time to get to the computer and write?"
He admires actors such as the Oscar- winner Jim Broadbent, with whom he recently worked on a film of Nicholas Nickelby, and US actor John Cusack, whom he met on a film about an Second World War arts dealer, Max. In it, McKidd plays George Gross, real-life founder of the Dada movement.
"Jim Broadbent’s a great actor. He’s very unshowy about it all, that’s what I like about him - just comes in and does the job and does it really well, and is really good at what he does.
And Cusack - again, he tries to pick interesting stuff, not going down the obvious route, not going down the blockbuster route. I admire folk that are trying to make their own way through it instead of following the herd."
The son of a plumber and secretary, McKidd wanted to be an actor ever since he took part in school plays at "around six or seven." He dropped out of Edinburgh University, where he was studying engineering, to take up a drama course at Queen Margaret’s College, and from there was picked up by leading theatrical agency ICM.
Playing Tommy, Trainspotting’s anti-drug warning incarnate - somehow missed by those who criticised it as a pro-drugs movie - turned McKidd’s life around. At the age of 21 he became an actor people recognised - with the huge hit as his calling card.
It is time, I tell him, to nail the lie about the ubiquitous poster - the one that mysteriously has four blokes and a rather attractive woman on it, despite the fact that Kelly MacDonald was in the film for about five minutes, unlike him. McKidd has always muttered something about "being in Tunisia with his girlfriend" at the time of the publicity shoot as the reason he doesn’t appear.
"Oh yeah," he laughs, "It’s totally cynical. I don’t really know what happened. Originally they wanted six people, but basically I think the PR people and a few others decided it would be better to have a nice pretty lassie’s face on the front than my ugly mug. I could accept that."
He has vivid memories of standing at Waterloo station with his girlfriend on a trip to London at the time and her telling him to turn around "slowly" and look up at an enormous billboard carrying the legendary film poster. It must’ve hurt like hell at the time, but McKidd is pretty nonchalant about it these days.
"You can’t really regret things like that," he says. "In the end, the important thing was, I was in the film. People came up to me afterwards and said, "Oh your character really spoke to me, I’ve been through something like that myself. I mean, that’s what’s important really.
"Telling stories in an entertaining way."
This article: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/s2.cfm?id=527292002
Last updated: 16-May-02 01:00 BST
An Ultimate Pictures UK ltd Production Cast Ulrich Thomsen (The World is not Enough)
John Wood (Chocolat, An Ideal Husband, Richard 3rd)
Eddie Marsden (Gangs of New York, Gangster No 1)
Gary Lewis (Billy Elliot, My Name is Joe)
Kevin Mckidd (Trainspotting, Topsy Turvy)
Shauna Macdonald (Debut)
Location: Filmed primarily on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, near to where the true story of Gerhard Zucher’s rocket mail took place. Sections of filming took place on the Isle of Lewis, by Inverness, Aviemore and Argyll-shire. The village scenes were all filmed on the Isle of Taransay, in a specially constructed set.
Based on the true story of the German rocket scientist Gerhard Zucher, this is an action packed romance set in the Outer Hebrides during the 1930s.
After becoming frustrated with the lack of support for his research in Germany, Zucher is delighted when the British Government offer funding for his rocket science. Zucher heads for the remote Isle of Scarp in the Outer Hebrides with his companion Heinz Dombrowsky, to bridge remote island communities with the help of a mail rocket. They receive a frosty reception from the locals, with the exception of local MP Sir Wilson Ramsay, as memories of World War One are still fresh in their minds.
The local school teacher Catherine Mackay takes pity on the ‘strange Germans’ and convinces her uncle Angus to rent out a house to them. The initial hostility and suspicion soon gives way to trust as the local community become involved in the success of the Rocket Mail. As Zucher finds himself becoming increasingly accepted into the local community he also falls in love with Catherine, who is dating her childhood sweetheart, the local doctor. Zuchers feelings for Catherine are mutual, much to the disapproval of her Uncle Angus, who is sure he will only break her heart.
Meanwhile tensions between Germany and Britain are mounting and Zuchers compatriot Dombrowsky, a passionate National Socialist who despises the Island and its inhabitants, longs to return home to the fatherland. The German government demand that Zucher returns home and leaves Scarp forever. Zucher does not want his research to be used for military purposes and is forced to make the hardest decision of all, which has devastating consequences.
Filming took place in April, May and June of 2001, with a six week shoot in the Outer Hebrides and a two week shoot in various locations throughout mainland Scotland. With two weeks filming on the Isle of Taransay, it took a military style operation to get the 200-odd members of crew and cast on and off the island each day. A giant marquee was constructed which allowed for the canteen, seating area, make up and green room. All of the village buildings, including Angus’s croft and Zuchers house were constructed by the art department and dressed to look like the authentic article. Attention to detail was paramount and even the letters which were used for the rocket mail explosion were stamped and printed with the original marks. The weather was good for most of the shoot and this is captured in the incredible scenery shots which show the turquoise Hebridean waters and the rolling dark Harris Hills.
To find out about the real life story of Gerhard Zuchers adventures on the Isle of Scarp: http://www.filmhebrides.com/folio/rocket/story/
HE was the Trainspotter who didn't appear on the posters and who vanished into obscurity while Ewan McGregor soared to Star Wars superstardom.
But that is all about to change tonight when Kevin McKidd stars in North Square - Channel 4's new legal eagle drama series.
The show is set to become compulsive viewing and make Kevin a household name - four years after being left alone on the Trainspotting platform.
Kevin, 27, says: "I'm was just a sub on the bench while the likes of Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle fought it out on the big pitch, but now I've got my chance."
Kevin has been dogged by the Tommy Conspiracy ever since he failed to appear on the Trainspotting posters - he was on holiday in Tunisia at the time.
While McGregor, Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly MacDonald and Ewen Bremner became household names, Kevin - like his Trainspotting alter-ego Tommy - didn't last the distance.
He was also the only one to have next to no profile after the film became huge and hit rock bottom - even spending six months as a London bicycle courier last year.
This was at the same time McGregor was shooting Star Wars and Carlyle was about to appear in Bond film The World Is Not Enough.
But Kevin claims he's not bitter.
He said: "It was depressing watching everyone else going off to do other stuff, but they'd all been acting for yonks.
"I was working with these people I had seen on television. I was just the new boy. They were all experienced actors.
"Sure, if some huge film came my way and I got the part, then fine. But I don't lie awake dreaming about it or thinking about what might be."
Kevin was forced to work as a parcel courier after the taxman said he owed thousands. And he had to work before marrying girlfriend Jane.
His film career was revived with a part in Mike Leigh's Gilbert and Sullivan musical, Topsy Turvy, followed by a lead role in Channel 4's Anna Karenina.
BUT Kevin's biggest role to date is being a dad. Joseph George McKidd was born this year and has changed his actor dad's life.
Ecstatic Kevin said: "He was born in June and he is amazing.
"I have just about got through the knackered stage. For the first few weeks, he just cried all night and I was working on North Square, having to get up really early.
"Then, at about two months, he began to smile at me - and that makes it all totally worthwhile."
Joseph, who was brought up in and around Elgin, Moray, is thinking of moving from suburban Surrey to the countryside. He lived on the edge of an RAF estate near the Lossiemouth air base and wants Joseph to enjoy the same rural pleasures.
Kevin said: "I am busy doing loads of DIY at our house in Camberwell. When it's all done, we want to sell it and get a place in the countryside.
"I don't want my kid growing up in London. I want to give him the same kind of childhood that I had, running around in the fields."
In North Square, Kevin plays Billy, a barrister, whose partner, Rose, is heavily pregnant. There is a touch-and-go car chase to the hospital as she goes into labour.
Kevin said: "It wasn't quite that dramatic with Jane, but North Square is set in Leeds, so we had a cottage up in the hills while I was working there. There was a bit of a mad car journey when I heard Jane was in labour. I was on the set and had to get back to get her to St James's Hospital, where our son was born."
His face lit up as he described how parenthood had radically changed his outlook on life.
He said: "I feel as though I have suddenly become part of the human race. Before that, you've been this kind of alien.
"If you're on your own, then you are just on your own and that's it. But by having your own child, you are handing on the baton. "
As a new dad, Kevin says he could totally identify with his character, Billy, and what he has to go through. Kevin said: "He is very idealistic at the outset, but he becomes beaten down and destroyed.
"He gets so concerned about his son's future that he allows himself to be blackmailed - otherwise he is worried he might lose his livelihood.
"When you have a baby, you suddenly have to realise it's not just you anymore. You have to become more responsible - kids aren't just for Christmas and all that."
The son of a plumber and a secretary, Kevin was bitten by the acting bug at 14 when he joined a Scottish Opera for Youth workshop.
But he still went to Edinburgh University to study engineering until he realised that he preferred doing the plays at the Bedlam Theatre Company to studying.
HE dropped out, went to the Queen Margaret Drama School and, after graduating in 1994, was given a role in Small Faces before landing his big break in Trainspotting.
Now, at last, North Square will give him his rightful place among Scotland's best- known actors.
North Square has already been compared to cult series This Life because it features a good-looking young cast of professionals who do more than their fair share of drinking and sleeping around.
It's a comparison Kevin hates - he thinks North Square is much more interesting than that
Kevin said: "This Life was a relationship series with a backdrop of being solicitors. It became all about people lying in the bath and having sex. It was good telly - but this is not the same."
North Square is faster moving, with a turf war between rival Chambers, where, it seems, anything goes as far as poaching the legal talent is concerned.
Kevin said: "It's not patronising. You have to keep up with it. These people are so bright and intelligent, they are thinking as they talk and the scenes are really alive because the actors don't pause. There is no slowing down of the pace so that viewers can catch up."
As for the future, rather than being a household name, Kevin is once again thinking babies.
He is so hooked on parenthood that he is already thinking about a brother, or sister, for Joseph George.
He said: "I definitely want more kiddies. I get really passionate about the whole thing - it is like a drug."
How poster power made five famous
WAS in Shallow Grave before playing Renton in Trainspotting. Bared all in The Pillow Book, starred with Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma and Cameron Diaz in A Life Less Ordinary. And as the young Obi Wan-Kenobi in Star Wars, he became a mega-star
ROBERT was a household name when he played psycho Begbie in Trainspotting, thanks to TV series Hamish Macbeth and films Riff-Raff and Safe. He has since starred in the phenomenal The Full Monty, The Beach and The World Is Not Enough
AS the only girl , playing Diane, her look was copied by girls all over the country. She has worked in films such as Stella Does Tricks, Cousin Bette with Jessica Lange, Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett and Entropy with U2. At present, the face of a TV deodorant ad
JONNY LEE MILLER
HE had already tasted Hollywood in Hackers with now ex-wife Angelina Jolie. After Trainspotting, he starred in Afterglow with Julie Christie and Plunkett & Macleane with Robert Caryle. He is about to star is Wes Craven's Dracula 2000
Ewen played speed-freak Spud. He was in The Secret Life of Michael Fry and Guy Ritchie's Snatch. Next year he'll star as Ben Affleck's co-pilot in the pounds 100 million Pearl Harbour
LIFE reflected art for Kevin McKidd earlier this year when he heard his baby boy was about to be born.
The Elgin-born star of Trainspotting and Topsy-Turvy was filming on the set of his new drama series, North Square, when the crucial phone call came from his wife, Jane.
"I had to zoom off from the set in Leeds, out to the cottage in the hills where we were staying, and found Jane on all fours. Then we had this mad car journey into the centre of Leeds again, to St James's hospital - but everything turned out okay."
Joseph George McKidd - named after his parents' grandfathers - was born on June 18. Only a month before that, Kevin had filmed a scene in North Square in which his character, hotshot barrister Billy Guthrie, has to make a last-minute dash to hospital with his girlfriend Rose (Helen McCrory), due to give birth at any moment.
"Maybe it was a dress rehearsal," says 27-year-old Kevin, who is beaming with parental pride, and mentions his son whenever he can.
"I've just come through the knackered stage," he says. "He's four months old now, and he's just starting to sleep. He only wakes up once in the night.
"The first month, you're like the missing link. I was coming into work at 6.00am, and the make-up girl would look at me and say: 'God, what am I going to do with you?' But once they smile at about two months, it makes it all worthwhile."
This has been quite a year for Kevin McKidd. As well as fatherhood, he has made two high-profile Channel 4 drama serials - Anna Karenina, in which he played Count Vronsky to Helen McCrory's heroine, and now North Square, in which they are reunited again as a screen couple.
"It was quite surreal, working with Helen again in such a total change of drama," he concedes. "It was really nice, as we get on so well - we're good pals, and these two (Billy and Rose) are really good pals. They're lovers, but that's not the focus of the relationship, it's more a practical relationship. Anna Karenina was high romance, this is high domesticity, if you like. It was nice to have that change of tack with the same actress."
North Square centres on a group of young, irreverent, successful legal eagles. It aims to lift the lid on the law in a different way from the likes of Kavanagh QC and Rumpole.
"I expect we'll get compared to This Life, if only because it's about a bunch of young professionals getting on with their lives, but really, the series are quite different," says Kevin, who trained at Queen Margaret's College, Edinburgh, after dropping out of an engineering degree course.
"This Life was a relationship series with a backdrop of being solicitors. North Square, first of all, is about barristers, and the work is crucial to the plots."
Kevin's character, Billy Guthrie, is something of a dreamer and idealist. "I like to think of him as William Wallace with a bee in his wig," he laughs. "He is best mates with Alex (Phil Davis), the chief clerk of North Square chambers. Billy gets off on Alex's lack of morals because he couldn't live that way.
"Billy's not just a barrister for the glory, he believes in the fight for right over wrong. He's also a one-woman man, being very much in love with Rose."
Just like Kevin, fatherhood completely changes Billy Guthrie. "He's at this point in his life where everything is re- evaluated," says Kevin. "I know, just having had my first baby, you do leave the planet for a few months, so I really related to that. He's very idealistic at the start - a strong character - but by the end he is destroyed. His relationship with Rose disintegrates because of all the deceit. He starts lying to people and he's being blackmailed.
"He becomes corrupted professionally because he is such a good father - he is concerned about his son's future and earning enough money. Suddenly, life's not about you anymore - it's about your child."
Kevin is on a career high at the moment but it didn't always look that way. He secured his breakthrough role as the doomed Tommy in Trainspotting after director Danny Boyle spotted him in Gilles Mackinnon's Small Faces.
But while Trainspotting kickstarted the careers of Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Johnny Lee Miller, Kevin remained a "jobbing" actor in Britain. He was also the only member of the Trainspotting team not to appear on the poster campaign.
The late '90s have been a lot kinder to Kevin. He was the leading man in the ensemble sex comedy Bedrooms and Hallways, starred in another Irving Welsh movie The Acid House, and performed Gilbert and Sullivan in Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy.
Now that North Square is in the can, Kevin is enjoying some much needed time off at home, although at the moment he is up to his elbows in paintbrushes and orange boxes.
"I'm decorating our house to sell it," he says. "We live in Peckham, South London, which I love, but we don't want Joseph to grow up there. I was brought up in the countryside, in Elgin, and I have this urge to give him the same kind of childhood that I had, so he can run about in fields."
Kevin married Jane in July, 1999. They'd met at a Christmas company party for the Almeida Theatre the previous year. "I just clapped my eyes on her and thought she was absolutely beautiful," he says.
"Jane's parents are from Harrow in north-west London, mine are still up in Elgin, so it's tough," he says. I want Joseph to know both sets of grandparents, so where do you live? Eventually, I'd love to get a place in the north-east of Scotland so we can see my mum and dad, and they can enjoy being grandparents."
As for the prospect of having more children, Kevin and Jane have no doubts whatsoever. "We're planning on it already," says Kevin. "It's best to wait a year or so, so Jane's body can get back to normal.
"But it's weird, once you have a kid, you think: 'What's going to pop out next time? What can we make next.'
"You get really passionate about it. It's like a bit of a drug, it's addictive. Jane actually misses being pregnant, she misses the bump - and I even thought she was more beautiful at the time."
Sunday October 1, 2000
Kevin McKidd stands out. The white curls, blue eyes, pale ageless face (he's 27). He secured his signature part as the doomed Tommy in Trainspotting after director Danny Boyle spotted him in Gilles MacKinnon's Small Faces . It wasn't the first time he'd been picked out. A few years earlier, having ditched an engineering degree at Edinburgh in favour of drama, maverick political theatre director John McGrath pulled McKidd out of lectures and gave him his first professional job at Glasgow Citizen's Theatre.
McKidd's ability to be both voluble and vulnerable helped kickstart his career with a number of parts as tough working-class Scots. (In fact, he grew up on a council estate near Inverness, the son of a plumber and a secretary.) But now he's donning a wig and gown to head the cast of Channel 4's new Leeds-set drama about barristers, North Square.
His career ascendency hasn't been straightforward. He was the only member of the Trainspotting team not to appear on the poster campaign and it's been claimed the hit Brit film led him into the DSS rather than the A-list.
McKidd says he chose a place in the real sun, as opposed to the metaphorical one.'I'd never been abroad and both Small Faces and Trainspotting required I look really ill, so afterwards I bought a 250-quid package deal and went off to Tunisia. I remember being shocked when I saw the others on the billboards on return to Waterloo. I thought, "You idiot, what have you done." But in the end it doesn't matter, I played the role in the film.'
And though he watched co-stars Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle prosper he's pragmatic. 'It was depressing watching everyone else going off to do other stuff but they'd all been acting for yonks. You have to have a body of work behind you before you get some consistency of employment going.'
McKidd certainly has that now. He was the leading man in Rose Troache's Bedrooms and Hallways, performed Gilbert and Sullivan in Mike Leigh's Topsy Turvy and perfected a rakish swagger as Vronsky in C4's Anna Karenina. Reunited for a third time with Karenina co-star Helen McCrory in North Square, McKidd sees his character Billy as a chance to emulate his hero. 'I'm a Jimmie Stewart wannabe with an expanding waistline. I tried to model Billy on him a bit, little Jimmie Stewart touches. That's what I'm good at, as opposed to doing a De Niro.'
McKidd, now a husband and father, says his latest role is in keeping with where he's reached in life. 'I was really intense and political for a long time,' he says. 'I wouldn't speak to journalists and if I spoke about myself at all I felt compromised and beat myself up about it. Since I've had a child everything's come into a different perspective... All the anguished artist thing has lifted because I'm happy.'
Five things you should know about Kevin McKidd
1 He besieged his agent with phone calls insisting she put him up for a part as a stormtrooper in The Phantom Menace .
2 Last year he worked as a mountain bike courier and in a pub as a Bloody Mary chef.
3 His favourite film is Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy.
4 His view of the current British film scene is 'Brit gangster patronising bollocks. Films for Sun readers.'
5 His wife Jane had their baby, Joseph, in Leeds while McKidd was filming North Square. • North Square starts 18 October
Channel 4 wanted a "no hats" policy for its version of Anna Karenina. "The idea is that no one wears hats in contemporary Britain, so viewers will be able to relate better to these characters if they're generally bare-headed," explains Matthew Bird, the producer of the new four-part drama, who is defiantly breaking the edict and wearing a furry Russian hat himself. I suppose we can let him off; after all, it is Poland in January and we're shivering in sub-zero temperatures.
"We're steering clear of things that are pretty for pretty's sake," he continues. "If you put actors in stiff hats and clothes, they start to stand more correctly and walk and talk more deliberately. We're trying to avoid that and make things a bit more relaxed, a little less formal."
They've certainly succeeded in that; the drama is more about bonking than bonnets. In that, it takes great liberties with Leo Tolstoy's text - if not his spirit. You can scarcely imagine the 19th- century Russian author being allowed to get away with the sort of graphic bodice-ripping Anna (Helen McCrory) and Vronsky (Kevin McKidd) indulge in during their first coupling in C4's adaptation. Oral sex also plays a rather larger role in the TV version than it ever did in the novel.
This freedom with the source-material is reflected in the fluidity of the direction of David Blair, a filmmaker previously best-known for such in-your-face modern dramas as The Lakes and Takin' Over the Asylum. His version of Anna Karenina has none of the starchy formality that characterises so many costume dramas.
"The emotion in Anna Karenina is a contemporary emotion," says Blair, who claims to have deliberately avoided reading the novel before shooting. "I never allowed myself to think, `how do I realise this in a period way?' I didn't want to be inhibited by the genre. I always try to find a style, not to impose it, and the important thing for me is to capture those moments which advance the story dramatically. I wanted to make a film, not a novel." And if that entails a bit of rampant, knock-the-bowl-of-fruit-off-the- kitchen- table- while-in-the-throes-of-ecstacy sex, then so be it.
But before Tolstoy purists start apoplectically dipping their quill-pens in green ink, I ought to point out that however free Blair and adaptor Allan Cubitt have been with the sacred text, they have not tampered with its essential vivacity. A classic love triangle between the fiery Anna, her cold-fish husband, Karenin (Stephen Dillane), and Vronsky, the smouldering cavalry officer, this is a work which drips with desire - both on the page and on the screen. It is said that every work of literature is ultimately about sex and death, but that applies to Anna Karenina more than most.
Bird is showing me round the location his crew has apparently conjured out of thin air. We are in Wroclaw, one of the grimmer industrial towns in western Poland, as the good gentlemen of the Russian Mafia have made it prohibitively expensive to shoot in Moscow. Destroyed during the war, the Polish town was rebuilt as the sort of concrete jungle that Krzysztof Kieslowski used to such effect in his films about disaffected youths murdering taxi drivers for no apparent reason.
But with the help of just a few artful wooden frontages, two steam engines, a pair of horse and traps, a hundred-odd Polish extras, and several tons of fake snow pumped in by the local fire brigade, the Anna Karenina designers have converted this alienating modern urban sprawl into Moscow's elegant central station circa 1878.
It all looks splendid, but Bird emphasises that this production is not aiming to dwell on external details. Passion, he tells me, is the focus of this Anna Karenina. "It's easy to turn any great novel into Mills & Boon, and Tolstoy purists have had to put up with an awful lot of bad adaptations in the past," he laughs, referring to the Vivien Leigh version, which one critic described as "lifeless", and more recent doomed interpretations starring Jacqueline Bisset and Sophie Marceau. "But we want to underline that at its heart this is the most fantastic love story. Viewers have got to believe in the central relationship. Anna falls hook, line and sinker for Vronsky. She commits 150 per cent to the relationship, and that's what destroys her."
Tolstoy famously remarked that he wrote only for himself, but he made a pretty good job of simultaneously writing for everybody else, too. His characters still speak to us across huge barriers of language, period and culture. Some commentators have gone so far as to call Anna Karenina the greatest novel ever written.
"It's certainly up there," Bird agrees, "if only because it continues to have such contemporary resonance. The themes of family conflict, man versus machine and town versus country, are still highly relevant.
"And look at the idea of the destructiveness of new technology. Tolstoy saw the train as a necessary evil, so that's why it's used as a machine of death in the book. Anna wants to embrace the new future, but in the end she is destroyed by it."
Sitting in the station waiting-room before her sequence in a railway- carriage with Anna, Sara Kestelman, who plays Vronsky's mother, Countess Vronskaya, chimes in that the work will touch a nerve with audiences today. "It seems so modern because the emotional responses don't change," she says.
"The feelings we experience are exactly the same; love, hatred, jealousy and pride will always be there. That's why we love these great period dramas. We're curious to revisit the past and amazed by how little has changed - apart from e-mail instead of messengers."
McKidd is in his caravan donning his immaculate grey military uniform in preparation for his big scene where his character, Vronsky, first meets Anna on the train. He, too, believes that the story will strike a chord with contemporary viewers. "Everyone will be able to relate to Anna and Vronsky - they are the sort of middle- class couple you might see in Hampstead today. Everyone will have found themselves at a similar crossroads, thinking, `who am I?'.
"Most people with a partner and two kids have met someone - at an office party, say - and said to themselves `would it be worth risking everything to go off with this person?' Even though there is that fascination of playing with fire or plucking forbidden fruit, they usually take the safe option. In a voyeuristic sense, it is fascinating to watch Anna and Vronsky take the hell's-kitchen choice and destroy themselves. But what is most intriguing of all is that Tolstoy never says `this is what they should have done'. He is not a judgemental writer."
Gub Neal, C4's head of drama, takes up the theme: "Anna Karenina is, in many ways, a very modern piece. In most of the big novels of the 19th century, the burning issue in people's lives is, `are they going to get married?', but Tolstoy takes us beyond that. Anna Karenina is about a world where all that has already happened. It's about what happens after the big wedding and the first baby. It probably has more in common with Thirtysomething than with your average breeches and bonnets classic serial."
Being advertised as "costume drama unplugged", this Anna Karenina is certainly rather different from the run-of-the-mill, by-the-yard period piece. Bird concludes that "this is made like a contemporary drama which just happens to be set in 1878 Russia. There was a discussion about whether to set it in the present day, like Clueless, but you have to be really careful about that because it can look naff.
"However, now I have such in-depth knowledge of the book, maybe I should make a contemporary version of it anyway. How about Carry on Karenina? Or Queer as Karenina, the alternative Channel 4 version where Vronsky runs off with Karenin?"
`Anna Karenina' starts on C4 on Tuesday, 9pm
Sun 11 Jul 2004
KEVIN McKidd will probably hate me for this, but I’m going to mention it. What’s more, it’s coming right now, in the opening paragraph. Here we go... Trainspotting. If only references to the Scots actor’s big break were like actual trains - unfortunately they operate on a more frequent service, and always arrive bang on time.
As intros go, he could have fared worse: I might have called him "Trainspotting actor Kevin McKidd" or "Kevin McKidd, the actor best-known for Trainspotting". And he should appreciate that I’m mentioning the movie of Irvine Welsh’s radge odyssey now, to get it out of the way early, and also to illustrate just how far he’s come in the intervening eight years.
We meet in Bedfordshire, where McKidd lives. It’s an unfashionable corner of England’s south-east but he likes the rolling countryside because it reminds him of his native Morayshire and also because it provides a safe environment for his two young children. He has more going on in his life than just acting, but there’s still acting.
As you read this, he’ll be in Hollywood for "a couple of meetings", an accurate description of his business there, no doubt, but "meetings" always makes Tinseltown sound such a mundane, anywhere kind of place. He’s too modest to say that his appearances in Rome and Kingdom of Heaven, two forthcoming historical epics, have created a bit of a buzz for him, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. So, as he exposes his Caledonian features to California’s burning rays, he’ll be enabling some more movie types to put a peely-wally face to a name.
Rome wasn’t filmed in a day and this TV series about Caesar’s geezers isn’t finished yet. Work on the 150m production for America’s Home Box-Office network resumes, in Rome, later this week and McKidd is taking his wife Jane and children Joseph and Iona with him. They’re not scheduled to give up their villa with pool until next February.
More of Rome later, but even if the sun doesn’t agree with him, he’s looking good on having turned 30, abandoned a "lager, lager" lifestyle and accepted his most important role with glee - that of father.
He vaguely reminds me of Boris Becker - it must be the hair, not too blond not too "ging-er". At our country hotel rendezvous, he removes his bomber-jacket to reveal a sweatshirt-stretching physique that will soon be rippling behind a Roman centurion’s breastplate, and right away I discover that he mistrusts flash. When our chat in the grounds is interrupted by a City-type who drops by for lunch, in a helicopter, he mutters: "Pure wanker."
Let’s begin by shunting Trainspotting further down the tracks. This time next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the shoot, and doubtless a flurry of reappraisal (The best Scottish film ever? Better than Whisky Galore!, Gregory’s Girl... even, michty me, Brigadoon?).
It’s pretty obvious that McKidd, who played Tommy, won’t be at the head of the queue for rent-an-anecdote. "I’m bored by Trainspotting," he says. "I’m not saying I’d rather have started my career doing loads and loads of Taggarts but I don’t think I’ve watched it for seven years and every time it’s mentioned I’m like, ‘Oh for f***’s sake...’"
Ewan McGregor was the pretty one, Bobby Carlyle was the scary one, Ewen Bremner was the geeky one, Jonny Lee Miller was the hip one... and McKidd was the one who died, the smack casualty, who got missed off the iconic poster because he was on holiday. That’s the quicky, easy roll-call of Trainspotting but McKidd insists that if his profile subsequently has not been as high as the others, this hasn’t bothered him.
"The first year after Trainspotting was terrible. I couldn’t get any acting work so I had to do stints as a barman and a courier to pay the bills. I did wonder if folk were saying to themselves: ‘This guy’s no’ very good.’ I did think: ‘Maybe I am shit.’
"But my old drama school, Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh, had drummed into me that this is a crummy business - you can be hot one week, not the next - and that if you aren’t strong enough to take the knocks, you should get out. I’m lucky enough to have had sound advice all through my career."
McKidd in turn has some advice for the Trainspotting revivalists: fantastic film and all that, but be careful how you remember it. He says there was a big comedown, a price to pay for its runaway success.
"To be honest, I think Trainspotting did a lot of damage, not just to the Scottish film industry but the whole British movie scene because it gave everyone this big, false sense of bravado." Britpop was dominating the charts in the mid-1990s and it seemed that draping yourself with a Union Jack could get you just about anywhere. "There was the whole Cool Britannia thing, and the Cool Caledonia thing as well, but the movie industry got a rude awakening after a few years of hedonism when Channel 4 Films went bust.
"Too much money was pumped into too few movies. Millions were blown on flops. Then there were films like The Match which never even got released. Not surprisingly, the financiers lost confidence in the industry. They thought: ‘Wait a minute, these guys don’t know what the f*** they’re doing. They’re just having a big party and getting pished and trying to look cool."
Some might detect resonances with 1978, a previous occasion when Scotland was dead cocky, and our footballers returned from Argentina without the World Cup. This analogy gains more credence when you remember how in Trainspotting a video of Archie Gemmill’s wonder goal against Holland gets mixed up with one of McKidd displaying a different kind of ball skill, but the actor suggests a more recent football comparison, when our game was flooded with cheap foreign imports and local talent was stifled. "The budget for a crap movie that nobody ever saw could have funded four smaller films and got first-time writers and directors on their feet. If the grass roots aren’t nourished, the thing will die."
McKidd’s latest film, 16 Years of Alcohol, is the work of one such debutante movie-maker, former punk rocker Richard Jobson, and is as small as films get. I’m pretty certain of this because its humble Edinburgh locations include my alma mater, Broughton High School, and my old church, St Stephen’s. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of Jobson’s violent childhood and adolescence as a member of a street-gang, and for anyone else whose youth club disco was terrorised by Crombie-coated, Clockwork Orange-style thuggery, it will send a shiver down the spine.
A self-styled renaissance man who tried poetry and modelling after the break-up of The Skids, Jobson has made an unashamedly arty film. McKidd, who plays the leader of the bovver boys, admits he’s probably in for a kicking.
"It’s not your Ken Loach, kitchen-sink treatment of a working-class upbringing, that’s for sure," he says. "It’s European and lyrical and you can hang yourself out to dry using that approach. Some of the previews have called it self-indulgent and pretentious.
"But Richard’s not shy. He could have made a movie that was more accessible, but there are lots of folk out there trying to make a hit film, a ‘nice romantic comedy with a bit of an edge’. There’s not much boldness being displayed but that’s why I respect Richard: he’s a risk-taker."
McKidd did the movie for "less than the minimum wage" and likewise the rewards gained from another forthcoming small Scottish feature, Afterlife, cannot be measured in the size of the cheque. Directed by Andrea Gibb, and like 16 Years an award-winner from last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, this one celebrates the life of a Down’s syndrome girl.
"Paula Sage is this little Down’s girl who’s the film’s lifeforce," he says. "She had a ball being in it and the rest of the cast just take a back seat." McKidd’s mum recently became administrator of Out Of The Darkness, a theatre group in Elgin for people with learning difficulties. "She used my name to get the gig so some good has come from me being an actor," he says, laughing. "She did a lot of crappy jobs to pay for of us growing up, so it was a nice feeling to be able to help her get one which provides so much fulfilment."
McKidd’s parents and brother still live in Elgin and he gives the impression that, in his head, he hasn’t really left his home town. It’s the kind of place - they’re dotted all over Scotland - that is left hugely unimpressed by most things, especially the grandiose.
"Whenever I go back - and I love visiting my family and friends - I get still stick from all the guys who were arseholes at school. They go: ‘You think you’re something special.’ No I don’t. I can’t be bothered with that attitude, or those tired, archaic conversations about Celtic versus Rangers and Edinburgh versus Glasgow. Scotland can be kind of backward when it adopts that ‘Dinnae get above yourself’ stance. I mean, I love my country but when I hear that stuff I remember why I left."
This sounds very much like McKidd’s version of Ewan McGregor’s "Scotland is shite" diatribe from Trainspotting and he displays the same dour cynicism towards both the acting profession and the film business. For instance, he can’t resist a sneer at all the actors who formed production companies only to disband them without ever making a movie. "Everyone was at it. All you needed was some headed notepaper. ‘What, you don’t have a production company?’ No, I’m just an actor."
More of that useful advice came McKidd’s way when, by his own admission, he started to ride the Trainspotting express too energetically for his own good. "I was spending too many nights getting pished in Soho when my agent told me that the actors who were out drinking all the time were the ones who weren’t working. You could smell their fear, their desperation."
You can understand McKidd going off the rails for a while; he’s a small-town boy and, in truth, proud of it and the bright lights of Showbizland dazzled him. "Growing up, Elgin was the centre of my universe. Aberdeen was a place for the occasional day-trip, Edinburgh seemed like a million miles away and I was 21 before I visited London for the first time. Then, before I knew it, I was living there."
Although he never had 16 years of alcohol he grew up in a booze culture where being able to "take a drink" was regarded as proof of acceptance if not a badge of honour. "I think that’s one of the cultural differences between Scots and the English. A guy who they would term an alcoholic is someone who, in our eyes, can ‘take a drink’.
"There were no alcohol problems in our family although most nights my grandad could be found lying halfway between the Bonnie Earl pub and his house. He took a good drink all his life and died when he was 84. If you didn’t drink, it was reckoned there was something wrong with you. ‘What, you dinnae drink? At all?’ I can still hear my dad say that."
Some actors graduate to the profession from being the class clown but McKidd was the shy lad who used it to find his voice. At Edinburgh University, he chose the safe, sensible option of engineering, but shed some of his innate caution when he joined the theatre group.
"I was a withdrawn character but when you’re given a script suddenly your future - for the hour-and-a-half you’re on stage - becomes pre-ordained. The first play to have a big impact on me was Bent. It showed me how drama can move people."
McKidd is an odd mixture of soft-natured and wildy outspoken and you might call him typically, schizophrenically Scottish. He misses Elgin but can see it far enough. He loves acting but could give it up for a singing career, lugging a guitar round the pubs. And even though he says small-town reserve exasperates him, he can still turn up on a film set and think of himself as the "teuchter" - his description - just doon frae the Spey Valley. This, of course, is entirely in his favour.
We’re talking trailers now, and while the creature comforts for Trainspotting amounted to a solitary campervan ("The boys got changed first, then Kelly Macdonald") and were practically non-existent for 16 Years, he now gets one to call his own.
"I’ve never had a trailer all to myself before and I’m not used to this sort of treatment." He got it for Kingdom of Heaven, a big budget job about the Crusades shot in Morocco and Spain and co-starring Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons, and he’s getting it again for Rome.
"This is your actual sword-and-sandals epic," he says. "With The Sopranos and Sex and the City finished, HBO needed another big number so they’ve gone all the way back to Ancient Rome. It’s set in 50BC, at the point when Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon, and I play Lucius Vorenus, a foot-soldier and a kind of everyman, and the story is told through his eyes."
Not for the first time today, McKidd says he’s still learning how to be an actor. But slowly and quietly, as is his style, he’s putting a bit of distance between himself and Trainspotting.
This incarnation of Rome is even further away from Elgin. The set started out re-creating the Forum on the plot used for Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and ended up expanding the site to double the size. I’m about to ask how the small-town boy gets around when our fly-guy re-activates his rotors. "Well, not by f****** helicopter, that’s for sure."
16 Years of Alcohol opens on July 30
This article: http://living.scotsman.com/film.cfm?id=791872004
Last updated: 10-Jul-04 00:27 BST
Alexey Vronsky is an aristocrat, a soldier, and a charmer with good looks that his comrades envy. In the midst of wooing Kitty, he falls in love with Anna Karenina and pursues a love affair with her that ultimately destroys them both.
When Kevin McKidd first read the script of Anna Karenina, he knew he could not play Vronsky as a straight romantic lead. "I'm not an actor who's interested in making good, clean characters who are meant to be perfect human beings. I find it embarrassing. And it's patronizing to the audience when filmmakers decide that people who are deeply in love have to be beautiful. People will just switch off because they think, 'Wait a minute. I'm just a normal person, and I feel things deeply, so why do they have to be beautiful on screen before they're allowed to be passionate?'"
For all his insistence on realism, McKidd has no problem with the idea of love at first sight. "The minute Vronsky and Anna meet, their affair is inevitable. I met my wife that way at a party and I just knew my whole life had changed. These things don't just happen in books." McKidd's film credits include roles as the tragic gentle giant Tommy in Trainspotting (1996) and as Durward Lely in Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy (1999).
KEVIN McKIDD became the forgotten one of the famous five who, four years ago, helped make Trainspotting the biggest Britpic of the decade.
Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle went on to greater things while Jonny Lee Miller and Kelly Macdonald have been kept busy with a string of smaller films here and in Hollywood.
But now, after years of struggling to make ends meet, McKidd's career has soared to new heights - operatic heights, to be precise - in the acclaimed film Topsy-Turvy.
The Elgin-born actor says: "I play an opera singer and it's completely intense and amazing. I had sung before, but not as well as this.
"At the audition, we had to get up and sing. That's worse than acting. You feel really naked standing up singing a song from Pirates of Penzance."
In Trainspotting, McKidd played tragic Tommy, who was a fan of Iggy Pop. It's a far cry from thrashy New York rock to belting out opera with a 70-piece orchestra - but, with the help of vocal training, Kevin discovered a depth of talent he didn't know he possessed.
And the critics have been lavish in their praise of his singing and acting skills.
Kevin's aunt is particularly looking forward to Topsy-Turvy, a film about the life of the opera composing team Gilbert and Sullivan - she's a member of the Elgin Operatic Society.
"I think she played Yum Yum, the most beautiful woman in the world for The Mikado when she was about 45," he says. "She's delighted I'm doing this because she's such a G&S buff."
To research the role, Kevin, 26, spent time with real opera singers.
"They're a different breed from actors," he says. "Some of them are real prima donnas. It was interesting to watch them.
"And I found myself getting really protective of my own voice. When you're not a full- on opera singer, one morning you wake up,you can sing it and it sounds great. Then the next morning it sounds as if you're slowly strangling a cat to death.
"So you do get very paranoid and you can understand why these opera singers get very precious about their voices, because to sing on that level and be perfect all the time is a very hard thing to achieve. I did find myself gargling with salt water."
Since he plays a real-life Scots tenor called Durward Lely, the handsome actor went to the singer's birthplace in Arbroath and was thrilled to discover his letters and memoirs.
He also tracked down one of Lely's relations, who presented him with the singer's own lucky charm, given to her by the tenor when she was a girl.
It's work he's proud of - which means that this is a rare occasion when he can watch himself on-screen
Kevin says: "I'm usually really critical of myself. I just sit and cringe and just can't bear it. I think `Why did I do that, why did I act that scene that way.'"
Topsy-Turvy marks a watershed for Kevin, who not so long ago was so down on his luck that he was glad of the chance to play a leprechaun.
The hard-up actor agreed to play the Irish pixie opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Kieran Culkin - Macaulay's little brother - because he was desperate to get his own pot of gold so he could stop his house being repossessed. Last year, the actor didn't work for months.
As his bank account slid into the red, the final straw arrived when the tax man delivered a whopping final reminder.
To make ends meet, Kevin took jobs pulling pints in bars and delivering packages around London on his bike.
"Work had dried up," he explains. "I thought that was it - then the leprechaun thing came up and I thought `I'll do it, just give me the money'." It was a good laugh, though."
Kevin played Jericho O'Grady in The Magical Legend Of The Leprechaun, made for American TV. Former Who singer Roger Daltrey played the fairy prince.
"It was an Easter Sunday TV extravaganza with a big budget," says Kevin. "But it wasn't exactly high art."
After the success of Trainspotting, Kevin was out of work for almost a year. Filmmakers presumed he was snowed under with other offers and didn't get in touch. But despite the close brush with poverty, last year wasn't all bad.
In July he tied the knot, marrying Jane who works in the box office at the London theatre where he was starring opposite Diana Rigg in Britannicus.
Kevin proposed while he was working in New York, just before his financial problems began. Now he's looking forward to starting a family.
As someone who works with actors, Jane understood Kevin's career ups and downs - although he admits she doesn't like all his films. In particular, she raised objections when he played a bisexual in Bedrooms And Hallways, and "hated" seeing him kissing a man.
Otherwise, Kevin seemed to have a charmed life as an actor.
The son of a plumber and a secretary for the local lemonade company, he first got fired up about acting when he watched a waddling alien and his boy buddy.
"When I was a little kid, I saw ET and I remember really wanting to be Elliott and have an alien as a best mate," he recalls. "I caught the acting bug at an early age. I always wanted to do it. I could make people laugh - probably because I was fat. I could never play football. I didn't have any self-esteem. I think acting gave me a bit of that."
Encouraged by his family, Kevin went on to work his way through youth theatre.
At 21, he got the break that got him noticed - playing a hardman gang leader in Small Faces opposite The Crow Road's Joe McFadden.
Each day on set, he led a gang of non-actors into battle with their rival faction. To his embarrassment, his followers began to treat him as their leader on and off the screen.
"Inside I was thinking, `Oh my God - these guys could really sort me out, if they knew how much of a wimp I am," he laughs.
Kevin also co-starred with McFadden in Dad Savage, in which Star Trek's Patrick Stewart stars as a ruthless criminal on the trail of his son's killer.
These days, Kevin is in peak physical condition - thanks to Richard and Judy. He swears he hates pumping iron at the gym, but his mum came to the rescue.
"She sent me a diet sheet from Richard and Judy from This Morning which was some male diet. So Richard and Judy are responsible for my weight loss. I swear by them," he jokes.
Kevin is next to be seen in a Channel 4 production of Anna Karenina, which is still filming but is due on our screens in autumn. Kevin will play the tragic heroine's caddish lover Vronski, and has spent this winter filming in the bitter cold of Poland.
Although now based in London, Kevin returns regularly to visit his family in the Moray town, where he's seen as something of a local hero.
"People are proud of you," he says. "They feel they're are trapped in this small town and there's nothing really to do, no hope."
But, even in Elgin, you can close your eyes and dream of becoming a famous opera singer.
He became a leprechaun to keep the tax man at bay. Now Kevin McKidd has gone from myth to music and a film about Gilbert and Sullivan.
YOU might imagine that starring in a string of acclaimed movies would be the fast-lane to cash heaven, but not for Kevin McKidd. The 26-year-old Scots actor had to dress up as a leprechaun to get his hands on a pot of gold. Having spent the first half of last year out of work and in the red, McKidd leaped at the chance of playing Jericho O'Grady in The Magical Legend Of The Leprechauns, a US mini- series starring Whoopi Goldberg and Randy Quaid.
"Basically I had spent six months working in pubs in London and doing mountain bike couriering for #3 a package because the tax man had got me," says McKidd in the deep but soft tones that reveal his roots in the north-east of Scotland. "He totally cleaned me out. I didn't have a bean and I was about to have my house taken off me. Work had dried up for some reason. No meetings, no nothing. I thought that was it. Then this leprechaun thing came up and I thought: 'Right! I don't give a s**t, I'll do it. Just f****** give me the money.' So it was one of them, a doing it for the money job.
"It was good laugh, though. Roger Daltrey was playing the fairy prince. It was one of those Easter Sunday NBC television extravaganzas. It had a big, big budget but it wasn't exactly high art."
Today, McKidd is thankfully free of ginger whiskers and emerald green knickerbockers. Instead, he's plainly but fashionably dressed in a grey jumper, baggy carpenter jeans and a pair of white Adidas trainers. His curly hair is impossibly blonde. He's reclining on a couch looking surprisingly relaxed and amused as he relates the story of how penury forced him into such an unusual career choice.
And, make no mistake, it is bizarre. This, after all, is the man who played Tommy in Trainspotting, a critical and commercial smash, not to mention a cultural touchstone. Yet he's far from embarrassed about his turn as a little 'Oirish' fella. "I'm just a jobbing actor, really," he shrugs, humbly. "I'm at the stage now where I'm a bit more sensible with my money. That's one of the dangers for young actors - you get a bit of financial success and you go mental and blow it all. But I've managed to get myself back on an even keel. I know that I can hold out through dry patches now and I won't have to take any more leprechaun jobs for a while."
This is putting it mildly. McKidd has two major projects coming up - he plays Vronsky in a Channel 4 adaptation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and, from Friday, you can see him (and fellow Trainspotting veteran Shirley Henderson) in Topsy-Turvy, Mike Leigh's biopic of light opera legends Gilbert and Sullivan.
Leigh, a Gilbert and Sullivan fanatic, focuses on the preparations for the world premiere of The Mikado in 1885. McKidd plays Durward Lely, an Arbroath-born singer and lead tenor in the company. His backstage bitching with Richard Temple (Timothy Spall) is one of the delights of the film.
"Durward Lely's dad was the factor and housekeeper of this big estate just outside Arbroath owned by a rich landowner," says McKidd, who before filming spent months thoroughly researching his character in order to cope with Leigh's demanding improvisational methods. "One day the landowner heard him singing in church and sent him, as a young man, to Milan for eight years to learn to become an opera singer. He came back and had some success in London before joining the D'Oyly Carte company."
McKidd's research took him to Arbroath where he discovered a vault full of original letters which Durward Lely sent from Milan to his father and benefactor. "And there were his memoirs, which have never been published, sitting on a shelf of this mansion house which he was brought up in. It was just pure luck. I just went up there to look about and all this stuff turned up. "I managed to track down one of his relations who is still alive. This woman was given this lucky charm when she was a little, little girl by Durward Lely when he was an old man. It was a little ivory horse that he wore around his neck whenever he was on stage. And she gave me that as a present because I was playing this part."
MIKE Leigh is full of praise for McKidd's research: "Kevin decided off his own bat to jump on a plane and go up to Arbroath. He went there and pottered around and said: 'I'm playing this guy called Durward Lely, is there anything on him?' and someone said: 'Actually, there's an unpublished autobiography in the drawer.' Your Gilbert and Sullivan freaks will be furious because they would pay huge amounts of money for something like that and there it was and nobody had ever heard of it."
McKidd's career is shifting up a gear and the same can be said of his personal life. His resume is packed with doomed lovers and his own relationships have been similarly fraught - "I've had some pretty complex ones along the way, some ups and downs and turbulence" - but is currently very happy. He got married in July last year to a girl who works in the box office of London's Royal Court Theatre. They met six months before that and McKidd proposed in January while he was in New York starring in an Almeida Theatre production of Racine's Brittanicus. He says that although he often still thinks of himself as very young, being married makes him feel more grown up: "You realise that you've got to work. It was okay not being able to have a mortgage when I was on my own, but I have a bit more responsibility now." But he admits to being slightly freaked out by the idea that any children they have are going to be English and jokes he'll have to give his "Cockney kid" Scottish voice-coaching.
For all the diversity of McKidd's work, he may be forever doomed to be known as that guy in Trainspotting who wasn't on the poster. He finds this irritating but also acknowledges it's pretty good shorthand for explaining who he is. "I met Tom Hanks yesterday," he says with an admirable lack of emphasis, "and he was like: 'Hey, I saw you in Topsy-Turvy, what else have you been in?' I told him I was in Trainspotting and when he asked what part I said: 'I was the guy who wasn't on the poster.' He was 'Oh sure! okay!'."
McKIDD was in talks with the Oscar-bagging actor about a part in Bandit Brothers, an American TV adaptation of Saving Private Ryan which Hanks will direct. It's a glamour job for sure, but McKidd's favourite role of his own remains Johnny, the cuckolded husband in The Soft Touch, one of The Acid House triptych of films. The Acid House was a flop, but McKidd's performance was extraordinary, providing a beating heart in a film which was otherwise pronounced dead on arrival.
"What I liked about it was that it was about a Scottish male lead who wasn't macho," he says. "There are a lot of Scottish characters written as cheeky chappies or hard men, but nothing's ever done about the thousands of guys who work in Safeways and what kind of life they have.
"I thought it was a really valid piece of work but it was slated. I think it was Loaded [he sneers out the title] who said that by the end of it you couldn't stand this character because he's such a f****** wimp that he deserved everything he got. But I don't think that was the point of the film at all. It was about a bloke who was brought up quite traditionally in Scotland and was basically born in the wrong place. Probably if he'd had a middle-class upbringing he'd have been very f****** brainy and doing great guns and having a great life. But he was just brought up on the wrong side of the f****** tracks."
If you think that this rant is a little overboard as a response to a critical drubbing, you should be aware that McKidd feels the material has personal resonance. "It's not like I had an abusive time when I was a kid," he says. "I had a great childhood but I always felt different. I was brought up on a council estate but I never felt that was where I was going to end up. But Johnny does end up there even though he knows he has the ability to get out, and he ends up getting f***** over because he is trying to be a good person."
There's a lot of passion and seriousness there. McKidd may shrug off praise and nonchalantly describe himself as a jobbing actor, but he is undeniably proud of his film, TV and stage work. "Yeah, I am," he admits. "By no means have I got connections in the right places. I'm not part of the Oxford crew like a lot of actors are, and I was never part of the Glasgow fraternity, that whole network there, because I'm from Elgin. I'm kind of doing it on my own.
"I'm proud that I was never sucked into those little clubs and cliques. There's been plenty of them along the way that I have witnessed and always kept away from. That's from my childhood as well. It's not that I was a loner, but I always kept to my own way."
Kevin McKidd, then. Whether playing a junkie, a leprechaun or a famous tenor, he's an actor you can always rely on to strike the right note.
Topsy-Turvy opens on Friday l Review, Pages 8 and 9 Born in Elgin in 1973, Kevin McKidd is a graduate of Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh. He earned his stripes in theatre, acting for the likes of Wildcat. However, his breakthrough came thanks to a double whammy of roles in Trainspotting and Small Faces.
Topsy-Turvy is his latest film and he can be seen later this year in a Channel 4 adaptation of Anna Karenina
GLASGOW and martial arts never looked so elegant than in Richard Jobson’s latest effort. The city is put on display - its shiny, glowing armadillo concert hall and glass and steel science centre. It is Glasgow, polished and bright.
To the novice, Kung Fu can appear to be merely a series of kicks, chops and punches, but writer/director Jobson and actor/choreographer Gordon Alexander turned this punishing sport into ballet. The well-crafted fight scenes are shot from a variety of angles and at different speeds.
"I really love East Asian action films, essentially Korean films - 1950s and '60s Kung Fu movies," says Jobson. "I really wanted to do that kind of film here in the UK, and definitely in Scotland."
The film puts a shine on the sport, Glasgow and the participants. Not only is it the first Scottish martial-arts film, it is a Scottish movie where everyone is good-looking.
Veteran Scottish actor Kevin McKidd, who starred in Jobson’s 16 Years of Alcohol, plays Moses, Glasgow’s gang warlord. The self-proclaimed saviour of the disposed is a mean-spirited, power-hungry figure. Looking dapper in his suit and tie, he could almost pass for Rangers manager Alex McLeish in looks - but McKidd’s role is a lot more fiery.
"Kevin was working on another film when he starting working with me," Jobson says, "where he was involved in perhaps three slates (or scene set-ups) a day. In the four-week filming of The Purifiers, Kevin worked on about 90 a day.
"Kevin in some way understands how my mind works," he adds. "I feel safe with him."Moses’s attempts to combine the city’s gangs under his rule are rejected by The Purifiers, a bunch of well-heeled young men and women who cleanse their turf from crime. Alexander plays their leader, John, who finds his group in a struggle for survival the moment his members turn their back on Moses’s offer.
Battles across the city give martial-arts fans an action-packed feast for the eyes. Few of The Purifiers and the Moses-led disciples are spared the taste of a Doc Marten size-ten boot. The confrontations and the talented group of artists who act them out are what make this an enjoyable film for the younger set. The script is less important.
"It’s the kind of movie where the story plays second-fiddle to the action," confides Jobson. "I wanted to tell a story about people who are of a certain generation who are proactive and are part of their community - in an old fashioned, heroic way - but set in a near-future Glasgow."
The story ends with a tangled tango of fists, feet and blood involving the main characters. Revenge - and, yes, sequel - is on every film-watcher’s mind.
"We tried something new with this film," Jobson says, "and I hope it’s the beginning of something. I hope there’s a load of other filmmakers out there of any age whose heart beats in a particular kind of way that will have the courage to go out and have a go in making a pop culture film."
Will there be a sequel?
"Absolutely. I’d like to do a raft of these cool, action 'B' movies. I really want to do loads and loads of those films," Jobson says.
This is not a brilliant film, yet it’s also not Kung Fu Cops.
It’s a good film for a young audience. Guys will like it for the violence, which is tame by Hollywood standards, and the sprinkling of skateboard and motorcycle scenes. As well, women will enjoy seeing an equal number of female Purifiers pounding away at opposing gang members.
The film is already a success in the countries that know a thing or two about the martial-arts genre – Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia – as well as North America.
"I’m actually proud of that because I made a film that was borne from their culture (and made) in my culture, and they bought it because they thought it was really good," he offers.
"I think the new martial-arts films are the new western. It’s an eastern version of the western."
He's played a junkie in Trainspotting, a gang leader in Small Faces and now a skinhead. Kevin McKidd tells Skye Sherwin why he can't resist acting the brute
Tuesday July 27, 2004
Kevin McKidd: 'I didn't actually enjoy the shoot of Trainspotting. I felt like a fish out of water.' Photo: David Sillitoe
As big breaks go, Trainspotting is one mother of a calling card. But for Scottish actor Kevin McKidd, the film has cast a long shadow. He was only 21 when he played Tommy, the good-hearted health fanatic turned heroin casualty. Unsure of his next move, McKidd opted out of the global spotlight and famously missed the photocall for the film's iconic poster because, for the first time in his life, he had taken a holiday abroad. "It wasn't premeditated. Every molecule in my body kept pulling away from it. Now it's just so boring, you know? Here we go again, let's dredge that one up."
Eight years on, McKidd is a redheaded, pale-skinned, raw hulk of a man, turning heads in a film world overrun with boyish waifs. He is a straight-talking sort of bloke: a ham-sandwich-and-packet-of-crisps man, which is his lunch order at the fancy country house hotel in Bedfordshire where we meet. The venue is McKidd's choice, but he doesn't seem too impressed with the clientele. At another table an elderly lady discusses the Queen, while a city boy arrives in his own private helicopter. "T-wat!" mutters McKidd under his breath. "I wouldn't have the brass neck to land at a hotel in a fucking helicopter. Even if I flew by helicopter, I would land at the bottom of the grounds so nobody would see that it was me." He gives a low chuckle. "Hee, hee, hee".
The genteel southern flash of the hotel is certainly far from the world with which McKidd has been associated since his early roles, in Trainspotting and Small Faces, where he played a Glaswegian gang leader. In the past nine years he has developed his presence across a range of gutsy British films. This month sees the release of two idiosyncratic, and very different, Scottish films. In 16 Years of Alcohol and in Afterlife he plays a macho soul-searcher: in the first a reformed skinhead, and the second a hard-nosed tabloid journalist looking after his teenage sister, who has Down's syndrome.
Both movies attempt to bring Scottish film out of the urban grime: the former is a lyrical vision of Edinburgh's punk and skinhead subculture in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while the latter is a rural tragicomedy about family bonds. "I think a few years ago, after Trainspotting, there was too much confidence and there was a lot of money wasted," says McKidd. "Everybody was slapping themselves on the back and it all went tits up because of it. When FilmFour went under, that was a big wake-up call from those hedonistic few years. I think that's why people have gone back to basics again, doing lower-budget stuff to get grassroots people going. It's less of an in-club than it used to be."
McKidd is heading the queue, using his talent to open doors for new directors. Written and directed by former Skids frontman Richard Jobson, 16 Years of Alcohol has a lead character, Frankie Mac, who combines elements of Jobson himself and of his brother. This kind of identity-forming, macho brutality was the stuff of myth to McKidd, who as a teenager was a self-confessed hippy-throwback-cum-heavy-metal-head. "Kevin had never even been in a fight before, never mind having to do something as revolting as smashing a hammer into somebody's head," says Jobson. "He wanted to know every detail about the more dangerous things."
On screen, McKidd's performance transcends the character's autobiographical roots. His poetic voiceover carries the material with an exquisite, bruising authenticity. "I thought Mac looked like a guy," says Jobson. "A lot of British actors don't really look like men to me, and I wanted an old-fashioned, masculine, powerful force: a Robert Mitchum/ Lee Marvin type, a real brute male, who had a lot of subtlety."
In contrast, Afterlife, directed by Alison Peebles, is an intimate story written by Andrea Gibb for her sister, who has Down's syndrome. Again, McKidd was the leading man they had imagined from day one. As an unscrupulous tabloid snake rediscovering his family, McKidd tunes his performance to harmonise with an equally forceful and charismatic actor, Paula Sage, who plays his sister. Gibb and Peebles fought hard to cast an actor with Down's syndrome, resisting pressure to rewrite the part to fit a "prettier disability", as McKidd explains. "None of us knew what Paula would be capable of," he says. "Even she didn't know whether she'd freeze or rise to the attention, but she became a real diva in the best possible sense. She loved the fact that all the men were asking her if she'd like a cup of tea, what clothes she'd like to wear, and what props. Paula likes her boys."
Now McKidd is making a name for himself internationally. There have been prestigious career highs, such as his lead in Mike Leigh's Gilbert and Sullivan film Topsy-Turvy, and another musical role in the Cole Porter biopic De Lovely, with Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. He has just wrapped the Ridley Scott crusades epic, Kingdom of Heaven, and is currently shooting Rome, an equally lavish historical piece for the American cable channel HBO.
Yet it is the personal, low-budget projects that he is drawn to - the unknown quantities that most actors wouldn't bother to look at. In addition to his Scottish films, the cult horror Dog Soldiers is a prime example of McKidd's fearlessness. The script found its way to the actor in a brown paper envelope left outside his dressing room one night, when he was performing in a Caryl Churchill play directed by Stephen Daldry in London's West End. Two weeks later, the highbrow play over, McKidd wentoff to shoot a werewolf film. "Dog Soldiers was a blast," he says. "I didn't actually enjoy the shoot of Trainspotting. I felt like a fish out of water."
It's ironic that an actor such as McKidd, with such a distinctive identity, should still be tied to one movie. Now aged 30, he says he wants to do bigger projects and take control. "If I'd tried to chase it nine years ago, I might have got burned by it all. I feel ready for it now."
Not that he's selling out his scene. There are two more Scottish films with Jobson in the pipeline: a skateboarding/kung-fu kids' film called The Purifiers, and Woman in Winter, a sci-fi romance set in Edinburgh. "We've really bonded, me and Richard," he says fondly. While he and Jobson come from the Scottish east coast, both now live in the south of England - coincidentally, only a few minutes away from each other.
He laughs off the way the media won't let go of his decision to decamp south. "They always find their own way of getting round to that question. It's like, for God's sake, give it up, you know? That and talking about Trainspotting. Is it ever going to stop?"
· 16 Years of Alcohol is released on Friday. Afterlife is released on August 13.
left to right, Iain Robertson as Nellie, Jamie Sives as Fitz, Neve McIntosh as Barbara and Kevin McKidd as Seany.
Scott plays a cameo role in One Last Chance: that of Frankie the Fence, a small-time criminal who paves the way to a surprise happy ending. But there was never any question of him playing a lead. “It would have upset the balance,” says Svaasand. “There is a dynamic between the three main characters and having someone who is a star in there would have upset it.”
“THERE’S SOMETHING QUITE QUIRKY ABOUT THE HIGHLANDS: PEOPLE GO THERE TO ESCAPE. BUT I WANTED TO SHOW ANOTHER SIDE: THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE ARE THEMSELVES DESPERATE TO ESCAPE”
And anyway, Hero Films’ role as co-producer (along with Norwegian company Motlys) was far more crucial in getting One Last Chance made. With Momentum Films chipping in as UK distributor, and international production and sales company Myriad taking worldwide rights, pre-production began last September in and around the Morayshire town of Tomintoul, with the shoot running through November and December.
One Last Chance focuses on three friends: Fitz (Jamie Sives), who is trying to raise the money to get his elderly father into a decent retirement home; Nellie (Iain Robertson), who is barman at the Tullybridge pub; and Seany (Kevin McKidd), who drives a mobile shop round the local villages. To say they are not fulfilled would be a major understatement. Then, by not entirely legal means, they come across a lump of gold which looks like it could change their lives for ever. This, not surprisingly, is where Frankie the Fence (Scott) comes in - and so do Harry, the local hard man (Jimmy Chisholm), who for some reason is keen to co-opt Seany into the curling club of which his father had been a star player; and Big John (James Cosmo), who is several rungs higher up the hard-man ladder than Harry and to whom the trio end up owing £2,000. There is also a pushy businessman in a four-wheel drive who arrives from down south and threatens to upset their plans, But he meets with an unfortunate - and highly comic - accident. Which is where the frozen loch comes in.
Svaasand began casting One Last Chance some two years before shooting began, with Robertson - who was in Band of Brothers and who won a Scottish BAFTA Award for his performance in Gillies MacKinnon’s Small Faces - the first to sign on. McKidd (who was also in Small Faces) is probably best-known for playing Tommy in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. And Sives, who plays the lead, has since achieved international recognition in the title role of comedy Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, for which he was named a ‘European Shooting Star’ at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
“It’s a film about escape,” says Svaasand. “There’s something quite quirky about the highlands: people go there to escape. But I wanted to show another side: the people who live there are themselves desperate to escape. Normally when you have a story about people trying to get out of a small town, it’s because they’re going to go on and be famous - doctors or artists or something. But this is just ordinary people looking for an opportunity in life. And they’re not going to find it in Tullybridge.”
Svaasand is not from the highlands himself. He is definitely Scottish, though, despite the name (his grandfather came over from Norway). He grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a fitter in the oil industry (which is the kind of job you might really want to escape from). And he relishes the irony that his first feature should, like him, be a Norwegian-Scottish co-production.
Not that the link-up is all that strange: there seems to be a definite cinematic affinity between Scotland and the Nordic countries, dating back (at least) to Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, and including Wilbur and Hans Petter Moland’s recent Aberdeen.
“Anyway,” adds Svaasand, “I’d known the Norwegian producer, Orjan Karlsen, for quite a few years. I’d worked over in Norway and had a relationship with his company. I think people from Scandinavia culturally really understand the Scottish landscape and people: there are a lot of isolated small towns and they share that classic Northern European cold-country attitude.”
Svaasand expects to have One Last Chance finished “by the end of May”, and then plans to go “straight back into writing”, with another script for Scott’s Hero Films: a comedy called Curious Moments. One way or the other, it looks as though his own escape route is pretty much mapped out.
Set in and around a small Yorkshire village in the middle sixties. Tommy is a seven year old boy from a single parent home and as a result finds both himself and his mother alienated from those around them. In a bid to compensate Tommy has filled in the emotional gaps in his life by believing that God is his dad and therefore he must be like Jesus Christ, which is of course why they are treated differently to everyone else.
Winner and Nominee of ten international awards for his most recent short Does God Play Football, writer/director Mike Walker started his career editing dramas and documentaries for the BBC. Leaving to work independently Michael has gone on to write both shorts and feature films, with produced work selected for the London Film Festival, invited for selection at the BAFTA short film awards, nominated Best Newcomer Directors Guild Award as well as many other accolades at national and international festivals.
Does God Play Football has now screened at over thirty international film festivals; including coming runner-up at Berlin, winning Cinemagic in Belfast, winning the Special Jury Award at Houston, Best of Festival in Virginia and screening in competition at other prestigious festivals such as Tribecca, the Academy recognised AFI, Palm Springs and Chicago film festivals.
Through his short films Michael was selected for ‘The Performing Arts Writers Lab’, where his first feature screenplay The Fall was developed and later produced by Movie Screen Entertainment. Michael has gone onto develop three more feature screenplays, with options taken by both UK and European production companies. With Bright Colour, Cold Sunshine accepted for a nine month script development programme, run by the Script Factory and The Whisper of Angels selected by the UK Film Council/Screen South for a trade mission to the US to meet with the Los Angeles film industry.
Michael has recently been commissioned to develop an original feature film project Easy Money, through Great Meadows productions and is working on a number of drama series ideas for Greenlit productions.
Updated Sept. 2007
The Independent (London): 21 Jan 2001.
The actor Kevin McKidd, 27, made his first film appearance as Tommy in Trainspotting. He has most recently starred in Channel 4's North Square and is now appearing on stage in Far Away, in the West End.
What's the worst job you've ever had?
I was a motorcycle courier for a while. After 12 hours on my bike, I'd be almost unable to walk.
That's a far cry from acting in `Britannicus' with Diana Rigg in New York
Working in America was pretty amazing - I'd never been before. I proposed to my wife Jane in New York, so it is very special. The theatre we were working in, though, was very small with a sort of distressed decor effect. It looked as though it had been given a makeover by Changing Rooms.
Have you ever had a DIY disaster?
One night when I was pissed, I decided to paint the spare room and for some reason, chose football-shirt green. I spent the whole of the following day repainting it white.
How do you relax?
By playing the guitar. I used to play in a band with some mates, but now our schedules are too hectic, so I strum mainly for my own amusement.
Do you still admit to being a James Taylor fan?
Oh yeah. I know it's cheesy, but I'm a big fan of his Seventies stuff.
What's `Far Away' all about?
It's by Top Girls writer Caryl Churchill and it's about a young girl during a war. We fall for each other and go back to examine her past. I play Todd, a milliner in a slightly odd hat factory.
What makes you laugh?
The Royle Family because it's so similar to the way I grew up, and Woody Allen films, especially A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy.
Do you miss Scotland?
Yes. I really want to go back. Apart from anything else, I don't want my son to grow up with an English accent.
Do you have any particularly vivid memories from your childhood?
Going to see ET with my dad when I was about four. It got me interested in acting. I used to lie in the bath and imagine Steven Spielberg driving up to our council estate, knocking on the door and saying he wanted me to play Elliot in the sequel. I couldn't imagine anything better than being best mates with an alien.
"The painted drop sugget an idyllic retreat; a whitewashed cottage nestling in the hills. Playwright Caryl Churchill, however, has something spookier in mind. In its three brief scenes, ‘Far Away’ recalls Pinter’s ‘Party Time’, as well as Orwell’s ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’. Churchill has never written anything more chilling than the first scene in which a poised young girl, Joan, comes down from her bedroom dragging her soft toy behind her. Linda Bassett as her aunt sits sewing by the light of a single lap. Like some juvenile Jeremy Paxman, the girl starts to ask questions about what she has seen. The aunt tries, unsuccessfully, to fob her off. Remorselessly, our perception of the cottage changes from cosy hideaway to hostile outpost where lorry loads of people arrive secretly to an uncertain fate.
"Next, an older Joan is making hats. A sedate, unthreatening profession surely? But it slowly emerges that she and Todd, her workmate, are expending their talent on creations to be worn in a terrible fashion. They moan about their working conditions but have little interest in the wider barbarities in which they are themselves involved and which, by the final scene have led to a complete breakdown of both the environment and society with some very strange alliances being formed.
"This final nightmarish vision of a world in which ‘the cats have come in on the side of the French’ is s o bizarre that to some extent I ruptures the Hitchcock-like tension that precedes it. But before that, Churchill and director Stephen Daldry create a dystopia that will be hard to forget. Information drops out in a tortuous fashion. Daldry switches form the epic to the intimate with astonishing ease and extracts a profoundly troubling performance from Bassett as the judgemental aunt, seething with hatred and fear."
"Caryl Churchill’s Far Away is a terrible play, the Yeatsian sense of terrible beauty. It is only 45 minutes long, but it packs the substance of several full-length dramas. It is an apocalyptic play, a play of Armageddon created by its victims. The hats may be a metaphor, as Todd says, but not, as he things, ephemeral. Humanity can prey upon itself like monsters of the deep, but in the meantime it is quite capable of manufacturing gewgaws and fretting about contracts. It is a question of silent consent, of turning a blind eye, of not standing up for any body until, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, there is nobody left to stand up for you.
"The German philosopher Theodor Adorno declared that, after Auschwitz, all literature was garbage: a majestic cop-out, and a flabby self-pitying moral surrender apart from also dismissing, in advance, the works of Miller and Below, Beckett and Pinter, Pasternak and Marquez. Perhaps he meant that man has no metaphor to illuminate the indescribably. I wonder what he would think of this play, its simple moral confidence and its bizarre, terrifying ending, in which nations, plants and animal species are at war with each other: the foxglove is as murderous as bleach, the cats come in on the side of the French, and the mallards are in alliance with elephants and the Koreans.
"Stephen Daldry, returning to the Royal Court to direct, has created a performance of shocking restraint. The actors work with a calm, brutal simplicity. You emerge shaken, but not too numb to think.. There’s nothing like this play around today."
"Here, as in previous plays, Churchill moves into new territory by inventing new speech habits; in this case, a prosaic acceptance of extreme horror coupled with the old language of middle-class values which lingers on like a twinge in a phantom limb. Daldry’s cast — Katherine Tozer, Kevin McKidd and the phlegmatically sinsiter Linda Bassett — grasp the style as a new instrument, and make it sing; not lease in creating comdey from a universal death rattle."
"It’s hard to think of a more finger-on-the-theatrical pulse combination thatn the talents involved with Far Away. The post-Billy Elliot Stephen Daldry returns to the stage to direct a political play by Caryl Churchill, who skewered the Thatcher era in Top Girls and Serious Money. Together they supply an exmaple of a genre which the Royal Court has pioneered: tableau theatre, in which installation art is given motion and voice."
SCOTS actors sent temperatures soaring during the filming of Channel 4's latest steamy bodice ripper.
Anna Karenina is being billed as even raunchier than Madame Bovary, the BBC1 period drama which had viewers turning on in record numbers to watch explicit sex scenes - some of which were filmed in a forest.
This time, Scots are taking the lead roles in the four-parter set in Russia, which Channel Four is billing as a raw and sexy adaptation of the classic Tolstoy novel.
Russian fiction was never as sexy as this ...
Scots actress Helen McCrory appears in the title role as the doomed aristocrat who falls in love and kills herself.
Also starring as her lover Count Vronsky is Trainspotting's Kevin McKidd, with Douglas Henshall as country landowner Levin.
Scots director David Blair is responsible for creating the passionate love scenes, which include Helen and Kevin romping in 19th century Russian forests and spending carefree moments in a steaming hot tub.
But the climate did nothing to help the rising passions - the series was filmed in sub-zero Poland between October and February last year.
Helen, whose Glaswegian father Iain travelled all around the world for his work in the Foreign Office and who still has family in the city, said of her steamy role: "I hope Anna Karenina inspires audiences.
"It is one of the greatest passionate, sensual, intimate relationships in literature.
"The director has filmed it so that it resembles moments, sounds and smells of the time.
"He gives an impression of what's happening because the camera goes out of focus - but it makes you feel like you've been there with them."
Helen has her own theory about why so many Scots were involved in the telling of the story.
She said: "It was very cold doing these scenes. Perhaps there are so many Scots in the series because we have the same Celtic passion as the Russians - and the ability to stand in the snow all day."
Co-star Kevin helped raise the temperature, but laughed when it was suggested he will do for military uniforms what Colin Firth did for britches in Pride And Prejudice.
He said: "The sex scenes are implicit in a beautiful way. They are done in such a way your mind creates what happens.
"There were no bottoms shown, maybe a thigh. But it was quite tough because it was so cold.
"Sex scenes are always hard to do. You've just got to act it. It is sex, but it is also a scene, so I treat it as a scene.
"Other actors get embarrassed. But they don't talk it through and are therefore never convincing.
"But you have to talk and that's what Helen and I did to get it right and make it look good."
Kevin had his own secret way of getting in the mood before shooting the sex scenes.
He said: "We had a couple of vodkas before we went on. I was very wound up because it is embarrassing. But I think the crew are more embarrassed than you."
In the first episode, Anna, who is married with a small son, travels from her home in St Petersburg to Moscow to sort out a family crisis.
At a Moscow railway station, she meets army officer Count Vronsky and embarks on a reckless affair.
The classic book is famous for the final scene where the tragic heroine commits suicide.
Helen said: "Anna destroys herself, but it is a glamorous destruction. She kills herself for love by jumping under a train."
But the poetry of her death took the phrase "suffering for one's art" to great extremes.
Helen had to do the scene dozens of times and ended up so terrified of trains it took her months before she would ride on the tube when she returned to London.
She explained: "We filmed it at night in the countryside. It was a full moon and I'd never seen a steam train before. It looked amazing at first with the red lights coming towards you and the steam.
"But it took 12 hours to finish the scene with the train coming towards me slowly and me throwing myself on to a mattress by the track pretending to kill myself.
"I didn't realise how huge these steam trains were. By the end, I was terrified of this train.
"It has taken me three months to pluck up the courage to go on the tube again.
"And even now I wait by the back tunnel wall until the doors open before I get in."
Helen, who spent an idyllic childhood travelling in countries such as Norway, West Africa, East Africa and France with her father, found it hard to understand how anyone could commit suicide.
She said: "I've never wanted to take my own life, but I knew there would be people watching who know people who have.
"So I wanted to play her with all the complexity I could muster.
"I didn't want to skip it and back off. I found that a terrifying concept. I just thought about being alone. That terrifies me.
"So I was doing this scene for 12 hours feeling alone and by the end of it, I wondered if the train had hit me."
Filming the dramatic role in such severe conditions took its toll on the Scots actress.
Luckily, her boyfriend Dominic immediately took her for a week's holiday in the Caribbean to "thaw out".
The role of Anna Karenina is not only a classic in literature, it is also a classic on the silver screen.
Helen is following in the footsteps of Greta Garbo and Sophie Marceau, who have given terrific performances as the great Russian heroine.
But Helen dismisses any fears she might have had about taking on such a historic role.
She said: "It is terrifying because Anna is one of the greatest Russian heroines in Russian literature. But I wasn't bothered about who'd played her before.
"I've played Lady Macbeth before and lots of great actresses have been in that part before me.
"I watched the Garbo version and took on board what she'd done, then walked on set and, with the rest of my research, threw it away and started from scratch."
Helen read the famous book half a dozen times, but as well as studying the character, she also had to learn how to ride side-saddle and to waltz.
Both she and Kevin had lucky escapes on the back of horses - but for Kevin, it could have been a serious problem.
He spent two months learning to ride and for one scene, he and Helen had to gallop through the forest.
Kevin said: "The horse bolted as it was frightened by a squirrel, of all things. I was on the back of it as it charged off and careered into these trees.
"My face hit branches and was all torn up. They treated it on set and patched me up with Polyfilla and make-up."
Helen also had her problems. Although she knew how to ride, she'd never practised side saddle before.
She found it very uncomfortable and asked the trainer what made horses nervous. He replied "snow".
Unfortunately, on the day she was meant to be riding, she opened her curtains and it had snowed.
She recalled: "I walked out and there was this horse with its ears back and its eyes rolling in its head.
"When I got on, it reared back and I nearly fell off. Luckily, I gripped the reins and didn't fall."
Unlike Kevin, she didn't hurt herself during the horse-riding scenes - but that didn't mean she didn't suffer during filming.
She said: "I've got chilblain scars. But then everyone got chilblains.
"It was in Poland, in the winter and it was very, very cold. Minus 17 was like a summer's day over there."
The dance scenes are some of the most sensual ever filmed for British television - and look very different from the usual period drama routines.
It took Helen and Kevin five hours to get the dance scenes right, but the chemistry which burns throughout the series meant they didn't add to their injuries by stepping on each other's toes.
In fact, so strong was the on-screen relationship between Kevin and Helen on Anna Karenina that Channel 4 have teamed them up for a quirky new comedy called Lawzone, which is filming in Leeds.
Kevin revealed: "Helen and I fitted in well together. It was quite easy.
"In other period dance scenes, it is very exact. But our choreographer said it was actually to do with connections being made by these usually stiff-acting aristocrats.
"So it becomes this very sexual experience.
"Underneath the veneer, there's this passionate sexuality which really comes through."
KEVIN McKidd was in danger of becoming typecast after Trainspotting.
He'd played tragic footballer, Tommy, who dies of AIDS in the hard-hitting film set in the sordid world of the Scots drug scene.
He was also a drug dealer in Looking After Jo-Jo and was a shelf-stacker in the Soft Touch part of The Acid House.
All Scots - all losers.
Kevin, 25, said: "I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm good at being corrupted in films.
"It seems to happen all the time. Either that or I've got a face that people want to beat up."
But for his new film, Bedrooms and Hallways, he is nothing like the other characters he's played.
For a start, he's English, middle class and gay.
Kevin is the loveless Leo who is encouraged by air stewardess Angie, played by Scots actress Julie Graham, and Darren (Tom Hollander) to join a New Age men's group.
It's chaired by Keith, played with embarrassing earnestness by Simon Callow, of Four Weddings And A Funeral fame.
As the men pass round the honesty stone, Leo confesses to the gathering that he's attracted to Brendan (James Purefoy), one of the other members of the group.
After a weekend of male bonding in the woods, Brendan seems more willing. But then who should turn up but Leo's long-lost childhood sweetheart played by Jennifer Ehle, who also happens to be Brendan's ex.
But there are no syringes, Scottish estates or bad clothes in sight.
Kevin was shocked at being offered the part in the first place, but it was partly because he wasn't too flashy that he was so right for the part.
Director Rose Troche didn't want his character to be a "screaming queen".
All the same, the part was demanding.
Kevin explained: "It was such a change. Normally I do things on Glasgow housing estates.
"It was a joy to play a terribly middle class, terribly affluent person who has enough time to worry about his sexuality, rather than how he was going to get bread in his mouth.
"The script is funny and totally different from anything else I'd done."
In his past films there have been certain challenges - from learning to inject himself to losing enough weight to look gaunt and ill.
His biggest challenge in Bedrooms and Hallways was kissing another man.
Kevin admits it wasn't easy.
He said: "I had to kiss James Purefoy and it was horrible, but purely because he had really bad stubble. I now understand why women complain.
"With James it wasn't that difficult. He's straight and I'm straight."
Apart from that kiss, there's another first for Kevin. This is the first time he's played the lead role in a film and that has given him a lot of valuable experience.
Kevin said: "I know it's an ensemble piece, but getting the chance to play a lead part was great, because it's very difficult playing a lead.
"I really wanted to see if I could do it."
The film might not appeal to everyone and it won't be as successful as Trainspotting.
But for Kevin it is a chance to show that he can play different characters.
He has come a long way fromthe Elgin council estate where he grew up. There, he dreamed of being Elliot in Steven Spielberg's ET. A self-confessed fat kid, he first tasted fame in a school play.
He made a big impression, the audience laughed.
Kevin says: "Either because I was fat, or because I was being funny, I wasn't sure.
"But it was a good buzz and I just knew that's what I wanted to do."
His big break came as Malky in Small Faces, which was followed by Trainspotting.
Before Ewan McGregor made it fashionable, Kevin went back to the theatre last year with Diana Rigg.
In the title role of Britannicus, he also went to New York with the production.
So, having gained some recognition on the East Coast of America, does he have dreams of conquering Hollywood?
Kevin laughs: "If there was some big action film, I'd do it. But I don't have a six-pack and stunning good looks, so I'm not US leading man status."
Paton, Morris. "Choose sex." The Sunday Herald. 7 March 1999.
Morris Paton meets Kevin McKidd, who has emerged from that film as the innocent, clear-eyed golden boy of the stage and screenhere should, by rights, have been six grimacing faces staring out of the orange, black and white poster for Trainspotting. Tommy (the nice one, the innocent, who never made it through the night) alias Kevin McKidd, chose life. He went to Tunisia with his girlfriend instead of posing with Begbie, Diane, Renton, Sick Boy and Spud.
"I am still kicking myself over my stupidity," says McKidd. "Of course nobody knew how big that film would be, and I had promised my girlfriend this holiday whenever we finished filming. We'd booked it, flights and all, so we just went off and I missed the photo- shoot for the ad. Now it's one of those archetypal student posters, and I'm not on it."
His absence from the poster was to become a metaphor for his life, post-Trainspotting; McKidd was resting for a year. But that was just a momentary glitch in a film career that is now very much back on track. From a series of smaller supporting and cameo roles, in three films directed by Gillies MacKinnon - Regeneration, Small Faces and the recently released Hideous Kinky - he has moved on to the lead part in Bedrooms and Hallways.
McKidd plays Leo, sexually ambiguous, and a catalyst at the centre of an intricate web of relationships. It's a cute title. McKidd is in mischievous form as he explains with a wide grin how sex may take place in bedrooms but the decision to make love is often taken in hallways. "It's brilliant, and the best thing is it's a film about people in their twenties trying to choose what their whole life is about, who they are, and that entails dealing with their sexuality. It's fun, but at the same time, it makes you think."
It's the closing gala dinner of the Dinard Film Festival, Brittany, held in the town's casino high above the windswept beaches of this charming seaside resort. McKidd has swept in from London, where he is appearing in a play with Diana Rigg. Despite the copious quantities of French Bordeaux consumed over dinner, he is in a boisterous mood. In search of a quiet corner we disentangle ourselves from the mass of tightly-arranged tables and make our way through an eclectic assortment of directors, producers, actors and celebs (including Stephen Fry and Julie Walters). McKidd is friendspotting and perhaps potential employer spotting as he nods and smiles in acknowledgement. Gillies Mackinnon proffers a hearty Scottish handshake and laughingly teases with "och, you're no away to speak to him?" "It's easy being slotted into the young actor mould," says McKidd, ''but I'm not interested in doing just the young, blond, juvenile lead, because I'm not that good looking." He reaches for another glass of wine and looks thoughtful. "I am only 25 you know," he offers helpfully, as if that answers his dilemma.
His easy, infectious laugh betrays a touch of self-mockery and beneath the curly mop of golden hair his eyes reveal a sense of serious determination. There's much to endear you to this new potential star in the Scottish firmament and we joke and exchange anecdotes about Scottish drama schools and the business in general. While McKidd may prefer not to be typecast as the handsome, juvenile lead (everyone has their cross to bear) that's the way casting directors have perceived him thus far, and on leaving Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh in 1994, John McGrath immediately cast him for a stage production of Neil Gunn's The Silver Darlings.
"He wanted someone young, with blond hair and from the north of Scotland," he shrugs modestly. "I looked the part and I come from Elgin." This theatre debut led to Gillies MacKinnon snapping him up immediately to play Malky in Small Faces, his film about Glasgow gang warfare in the Sixties. Then along came the role of Tommy in the now legendary Trainspotting. McKidd was as surprised as everyone else with the film's success and acknowledges that it opened a door of opportunity within the business. "If I hadn't done Trainspotting, people would just have seen this teuchter and not seen past that. I got rid of a lot of preconceptions about who I am and it's given me a shout and opened a few doors."
One such door to have opened was the title role in the recent Almeida production of Racine's Britannicus, the classic French revenge tragedy in which Diana Rigg played his mother, Agrippina. Set in modern dress, with a new translation by Robert David Macdonald of the Citizens, McKidd was directed by Jonathan Kent who, he says, has really stretched his work. "The part of Britannicus is far removed from my Scottish accent and I speak in BBC English. There's a real stigma when people just see you as a Scottish actor, rather than an actor who happens to come from Scotland." Britannicus is not the hero of the play but the focus and cornerstone. McKidd plays him as innocent but clear-eyed, "a golden boy" with his pride and dignity bruised but intact. The production played in London for a couple of months in the autumn before transferring to New York for a limited run in January of this year.
And now in marked contrast, golden boy takes on the central role of Leo in Bedrooms and Hallways. The plot quite simply is this: Sally breaks up with Brendan. Darren is crazy about Jeremy. Leo falls in love with Brendan, but he's also attracted to Sally (played by Jennifer Ehle). "It was great. I really enjoyed that part. The whole film gears around Leo, who at the start is very much gay, yet becomes involved again with his very first girlfriend. What I liked about the story is that it makes you realise that all your preconceived ideas about your own sexuality and any preconceived ideas about how you lead your life are not necessarily the way you have to do things." The American director, Rose Troche, specifically sought a straight actor to play Leo. "I didn't want a camp, cloney kind of guy. It was very important that he was just as comfortable on screen with women as with men. When we saw Kevin, we knew he had the look and the skill to bring out the complex and important questions associated with sexual identity."
Of course sexual exploration is never off our TV screens whether it's four Prada clad girls enjoying Sex and the City, or three lads investigating what it is to be Queer as Folk. Following the same gender-bending track, Robert Farrar, who wrote the screenplay for Bedrooms and Hallways, says the story was an act of self-revelation. "I wanted to explore the whole theme of masculinity and gay identity. I wanted to create a world in which characters swap sexual identities and forget all that divisive ghetto-ised stuff about either being gay or being straight. We are open to make choices and it's not confined to rigid stereotypes."
If the Nineties have meant anything, it's that sexual politics have finally come of age, when Mel B can proudly declare that of course she'd snog a woman if she fancied her, and Kevin Kline's schoolteacher character, outed on national television in In and Out, can be a box office hit in America. Bedrooms and Hallways co-stars Simon Callow as Keith, the leader of the men's group, involved in wild-man bonding weekends. Harriet Walter is his feminist wife, Sybil. "I identified immediately with Leo's quest for romantic fulfilment, so I couldn't resist the part," says McKidd. "He reminded me very much of myself in certain ways. Leo is someone who doesn't take risks, who has complete control of his life but isn't happy. Then when he takes a proactive step, by admitting he fancies Brendan at the men's group, everything careers out of control and suddenly all those boxes he'd put his life into are split apart. The film takes sexual identity and our notions of gender one step into the future."
McKidd's future would certainly appear bright. He cuts a confident dash and profile with his honed physique and chiselled jaw. Yet, dressed in designer black and delicately nursing the remnants of red Bordeaux, he confesses to pangs of rampant insecurity, wrestling with the paradigm, common amongst professional actors, of success equals failure. He talks of the turmoil and angst that grips him every time the phone rings. "I don't know if I could say I'm taking it all in my stride. In fact I'm absolutely shitting myself every time I take on a new job. I just wish I knew how to cope with it better and learn to accept the work as it comes. At the moment I think I expect too much of myself."
And he's not the only one, having recently finished work on Mike Leigh's latest film project, Untitled 1998. Leigh, notorious for his improvisational methods of putting actors through the gears at a gruelling and demanding pace, commands the respect of a drill sergeant, entrusted with a willing cast of artistic souls. The passing out of this particular project, in customary Leigh style, is shrouded with the determination of a military secret and McKidd has been trained well. A loyal disciple to Leigh's artistic process, he would not be drawn to reveal further details - suffice to say it's set in London around 1885 and has something to do with Gilbert and Sullivan. "It was brilliant, just amazing to work with Mike Leigh. It's difficult to describe working with him because so much of the script is improvised. You learn such a lot as an actor. I mean what is amazing about Mike is that he pushes you right to the end of your possible limit. Most of us have a safety zone and you don't go past it. He says: 'No, I want you to go on. Stand as if you were right on the edge of the cliffs. See what happens when you are right at the limit, to the extent that you don't feel comfortable'. That's what's so unique about being directed by him. You really feel on the edge but at the same time there is a structure, created by him, so you do feel safe. "The thing is with other films I know what my performance will look like but with this, I don't have a clue, because when you're acting with him, your mind is not on how you look, it's absolutely trying to be in the moment for as long as you possibly can be."
McKidd is now determined to keep working at improving his acting and would consider turning down future film work for more stage work. "British film is fantastic just now, but because there's so little finance, you only get three days rehearsal. You're not learning anything about your acting, giving out but not improving anything. After a bit, you think, 'Come on, I'm running on empty here'. So when the Almeida part came along I grabbed at it and I hope over the next few years to go back into theatre."
At the moment he's resting again and looking at film scripts. After all, he can take it easy; he's come a long way fast in what is often a viper-infested business. Yet there's still a hint of highland reserve about him and, starring roles aside, he believes he will always be the local lad back home, an Elgin loonie. "I don't think any actor could ask for more, you know. I am only 25 so I don't know it all," says McKidd. "I mean I haven't been married and done a lot in life yet. I just want to do my bloody best."
Amid the sound of roulette tables and the background din of the casino in Dinard, there is an intrinsic pause, while he ruffles his blond locks reflectively and adds: "Mind you, that's if I ever do anything again. You never know in this business!" From above, a French voice, sensorial in tone, is heard calling what we instinctively know to be, "place your bets please, place you bets."
Bedrooms and Hallways is released on April 9
HE owes his early fame to his role in Trainspotting - and his recent weight loss to Richard and Judy.
Now Kevin McKidd is coming to terms with fatherhood, but only in his new film out this week, The Acid House, writer Irvine Welsh's latest excursion on to the big screen.
The actor, last seen on our screens as Basil in BBC Scotland's drama Looking After JoJo, plays nice- but-nerdy Johnny. His wife deserts him for his neighbour, leaving Johnny literally holding baby Chantelle.
The 25-year-old actor gives a convincing performance as a first-time dad - and he speaks highly of his tiny co- star's performance.
He says: "There's a scene where the baby is crying and I'm trying to change her. That was the first day I met him - because the baby's actually not a her, it's a him.
"Really, I thought he played the part very well - his transformation was incredible.
"I've often thought about this poor kid when he's about 20 and is told to watch The Acid House and goes `My god, I'm a girl. And I'm called Chantelle. I don't even have a decent name'.
"On the first day, he was really wary of me and was screaming and shouting. Whenever I was around, I spent time with the baby, feeding him and sitting with him. Now I'm the perfect new man.
"I know how to change nappies and all that. We got on great - it got to the point where he would scream and shout when I gave him back to his mum."
His successful relationship with his screen child even made single guy Kevin a little broody.
He adds hastily: "Not too broody. I was happy to have him for an hour or so, but still happy to hand him back. Just being an uncle is probably good enough for me for now."
Kevin found himself having to watch his weight after filming finished. He'd deliberately let himself get out of condition and piled on the pounds to play Johnny.
But his first lead role, in the movie Bedrooms And Hallways, required him to look lean and chiselled. He needed to get in shape fast, but hated going to the gym to pump iron.
His mum came up with the solution: "She sent me a diet sheet from This Morning. So Richard and Judy are responsible for my weight loss. I swear by them."
Kevin was brought up in Elgin, Moray, the son of a plumber and a secretary for the local lemonade company. At seven, he got fired up about acting when he first saw ET.
He said: "I remember wanting to be Elliott and have an alien as a best mate. I caught the acting bug at an early age. I always wanted to do it.
"I was quite a fat kid, but I could make people laugh - probably because I was fat. I could never play football. I had no self- esteem. I think acting gave me a bit of that."
Kevin went on to work his way through youth theatre. Then he got his movie break at 21, as a hardman gang leader in Small Faces alongside The Crow Road's Joe McFadden.
Each day on the set, he led a gang of non-actors into battle with their rival
gang. To his embarrassment, his followers began to treat him as their leader on and off the screen.
He laughed: "Inside I was thinking `Oh my God, these guys could really sort me out if they knew how much of a wimp I am'."
Kevin's biggest film so far has been Trainspotting, the movie that sent the careers of Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Kelly MacDonald into orbit. Even the poster is a cult object, featuring mug shots of five of the unforgettable Scots stars - but not Kevin.
Instead of appearing on one of the most famous movie posters of the 90s, Kevin chose to get a life - and go on holiday with his then- girlfriend.
Their bags were packed for the two-week break when the film's producer rang to ask Kevin to do a photo session with the rest of the cast to promote the movie. Kevin turned him down.
He says: "I'd already booked my holiday. I knew if I cancelled it, I wouldn't get my money back and I wasn't particularly flush. I just had to go on holiday, so that was it."
He admits he was "gutted" when he first saw the movie poster and the film took off. But he reckons things have worked out anyway and he seems happy to keep a lower profile than his co- star Ewan McGregor.
After the success of Trainspotting, he was out of work for almost a year. Film- makers reckoned Kevin would already have been deluged by movie offers.
Now he's back on track and 1999 looks like being a bumper year for Kevin, with two other big British films in the pipeline and a successful theatre run starring in Britannicus opposite Diana Rigg.
But he's keeping his feet on the ground. Shyly, he confesses he hates watching himself on screen.
He admits: "I'm usually really, really critical of myself in anything I see. I think `Why did I do that? Why did I act that scene that way?' I just sit and cringe and just can't bear it."
Bedrooms And Hallways gave him another new challenge - his first screen kiss with a man.
He shudders: "I had to kiss James Purefoy and it was horrible. But purely because he had really bad stubble and I now understand why women complain. I shave regularly now because of that experience."
Although now based in London, Kevin goes back regularly to visit his family in Elgin, where he's seen as something of a local hero.
He says: "People are proud of you. They feel they're trapped in this small town and there's nothing really to do, no hope.
"A lot of people came up last Christmas and told me it's good I'm doing this."
What's the name of the band, and how did you come up with the name? MEMIL - it's the name of the bass player in our old band who went off to travel the world and never came back!
What are the individual members names and what do they play?
Kevin McKidd- guitar & vox
Cam - drums & vox
Bert - bass & vox
Jamie Reid - guitar & vox
How did you meet? We're all from the same labour camp
How long have you been together? In one form or another "nigh' on forty years"
Where is the band based? The mean location between London & Aberdeen so for arguments sake let's say....Scotch Corner.
Who or what inspired you to become a musician? Bingo - the magical singing fox who comes to us only in dreams!
What bands are you listening to at the moment? Weezer, The Cardigans, The Super Furry Animals, Travis, Longpigs, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, Jeff Buckley, The Boys of much Beastlieness, Supergrasso, Beck, Arnold, James Talyor (all that Kevin ever listens to) and an adundance to boot!
What are some of your favourite songs? At the moment Travis' "Writing to Reach You" is pretty unbeatable if it's a Kwality song you want though "Marvel Hill" off the Cardigan's new album's good......and anything by James Taylor for Kevin (especially if it contains the line "I'm tellin' yah" or "I'm sayin'" or something along those lines)
Do you prefer to play in the studio or live gigs? Laying tracks in the studio is fun and it's good for invention but we can never afford to do it.
Playing live is really spledid and always over too quickly......I'm tellin' yah
Describe your sound. Like the moving and bubbling of gastric juices after a good meal whilst sitting in a comfortable chair.
What do you like about being a part of 25 Records? They're warm yet straight from the chiller cabinet kind of people.
What are most of your songs about? (love, partying, political, beer, etc.) Why do nice girls hate me!
Give us an interesting story that happened either at a gig, or while writing or recording a song. Once we wanted to go for a drink after rehearsal but it was too late unless we went to a hotel and pretended to be guests. We did this and were asked for our room number although we insisted in paying with cash. I looked at Bert, Bert looked at me and we claimed that we were from room 213, the barman tried to put this in to the digital till but alas there wasn't a room 213. We were doomed............until all of Babybird walked into the bar, for this was their dwelling for the night, we gave them the money, they bought us drinks and put it on their tab. Not only that but we'd given them £20 instead of £10 without realising. 5 minutes later their guitarist came up to us with the tenner and told us we'd given him too much money........what an honest band I'm tellin' yah! Our next demo was called Room 213.
Do you play any weird or unusual instruments? No but we play our instruments in weird and unusual ways - we don't really.
Have you been in other bands? Not really. The band has had many different names and line ups. Plan 9, Sideshow Bob, 7 Zark 7 and MEMIL
Do you have any interesting stories involving the police or breaking the law? ( That we can post on the site) Our mascot proceeded to rip its light off much to the annoyance of the policemen in it. He also watched a couple having sex through the skylight of their caravan. When spotted he tried to run away, forgot he was on top of a carvan and plummited earthwards injuring himself....twofold when the bloke came out of the caravan and started to kick the shit out of him.
Does anyone in the band have any strange or unusual habits or superstitions? Cam thinks he's a normal member of society.
This is Hardcore!!!!!!
Here are a few questions we got out of Melody Maker from a Jarvis Cocker [Pulp] interview.
When did you lose your virginity? We never lost it, we know exactly where we left it!
Would you be willing to give up sex for five years if you could have graphic erotic dreams any time you wished? That would be an adequate trade foe the two years of enforced celibacy I have had to endure. When Cam wants to have an erotic fantasy he just goes to the pub and finds a girl - oh to be a drummer - I'm sayin'