Ahead of his appearance in this week’s episode of Doctor Who, playing the legendary Vincent van Gogh, ReelScotland spoke to Tony Curran from his home in Los Angeles to discuss the intense preparation he did for his guest appearance, as well as his wide-ranging body of work which takes in everything from motion capture lieutenants, invisible men and the first vampire to troubled Glasgow souls.
ReelScotland: Jumping back to the beginning of your career, Taggart seems to be a rite of passage for Scottish actors, were you in it and can you remember your role?
Tony Curran: Yeah, I actually did it. I did the old there’s been a murder¦ in the toon! I did Taggart twice. I think the first time I did it I was about 16 or 17 and I played James MacPherson’s [DCI Jardine] younger brother. I was a bit of a wild child, drinking and a wee bit out of line.
What I do remember about it was getting smacked across the face by James MacPherson and it wasn’t a stage punch, or a slap! It was one of those unfortunate ‘let’s shoot the rehearsal’ and, wow, I never saw that comin’! That must be, God, 20 years ago and that was the first time I did it, playing his unruly younger brother. I did it again, I came back a few years later and I was in another episode which was about religious fanaticism and he never actually smacked me in that episode.
Same character both times?
It was the same character but he’d obviously changed quite a bit. The first time I did it Mark McManus was alive but the second time I did Mark had unfortunately passed away. My character went from unruly child to religious sect! So there was no middle ground for that kid, he went from out of the frying pan into the fire! So that was my Taggart days.
It does seem to be the one shared experience every Scottish actor seems to have: a stint on Taggart.
I never actually got to be in, what was it called? The show they used to shoot beside Loch Lomond?
Take The High Road, yeah! I never managed Take The High Road. I never got to, which would have been nice because I like Loch Lomond, you know?
Maybe they’ll bring it back – you can tick it off the list?
The first role that really brought you to people’s attention was This Life, in which your role was one of the first mainstream TV examples of a ‘real’ gay person, rather than a stereotype. Were you proud to be a part of that show and that character? Did you enjoy working on it?
Yeah, it’s a good point you make. That was the whole idea: there’s nothing wrong with being overtly camp and fabulous, but one doesn’t have to be. The fact was he was just a guy who just happened to be a gay man.
On the outside he seemed somewhat heterosexual, if you will, but cut to him and Ferdy in the shower and he turned out to be a homosexual man. It was nice to play that side where he’s just a regular guy who turns out to be a guy who prefers other men!
Not quite what you expect of the character.
I think that’s what people obviously liked about that character, and the whole show. There’s a lot of gay and lesbian men and women out there that aren’t as camp as a lot of others but it was nice to break that stereotypical side.
A lot of gay people have come up to me, gay and lesbian friends back in the UK, and they always like the fact that the character came through on television, and didn’t have to be so ‘queer’, if I can put it like that in the most PC way. I liked that part of it.
I met Andy Lincoln [Egg from This Life] recently in a hotel in Atlanta, Georgia and we had a round of golf and were harking back to the days of This Life, which now must be 15 years ago at least. Another actor, Jack Davenport [Miles from This Life] lives in Los Angeles now. He lives down in Venice with Michelle Gomez, who’s another lovely Scottish actress.
Looking down your CV, you’ve worked with a number of massive name directors: Guillermo Del Toro, Michael Mann, Steven Soderbergh, Neil Jordan, Ridley Scott Are there any favourite directors you’ve worked with, or would like to work with again?
Well, yeah. Everyone you’ve just mentioned, I’d like to work with again! Absolutely! Recently I’ve worked with Ridley again on The Pillars of the Earth, which he produced but he didn’t actually direct. Guillermo’s doing The Hobbit.
Not any more, actually. It was announced this week.
Oh, really? That’s a shame. There must have been some changes there then, eh?
As far as I know, it’s because of the delays caused by all this legal shite going on in the background.
It’s good to hear someone say shite! It’s all shit over here! That’s a shame though. That is shite. They had the new Bond movie, which closed down as well. Indefinitely. For Barbara Broccoli to do that, it’s a stonewall blockbuster! Every time there is a Bond movie made, people go and see it so it’s amazing that the money was pulled out of that as well.
I’d love to work with Andrea Arnold again. Arguably, for me personally, that film I did with her [Red Road] was the most interesting piece of work that I’ve done. It’s quite intense and subtle at the same time.
There’s a guy I worked with called Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, who directed The Pillars of the Earth. I’d love to work with him again. He was a great director who worked with Spielberg on Schindler’s List, he was his first AD. Subsequently after that, he became his right-hand man on Minority Report and a bunch of other Spielberg movies. To work with him again would be great, and anybody that’s willing to give me another job, really!
We’ve all read about the rumblings on the set of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Sean Connery is quoted as threatening to punch director Stephen Norrington. How did you get on with Sir Sean as the two Scots on set? What do you remember of your time on the shoot?
I definitely got on with Sean, we had a good laugh. I don’t know of any Scottish actor, or any actor as a whole, getting the opportunity to work with Big Tam who wouldn’t be inspired. It would be a joy for most people. I mean, if they got on with him.
Me and Jason Flemyng became good friends on that film and Sean’s assistant said to us one day, “I must give you a piece of advice. There’s two things you must never do in front of Sean.”
We said, “What’s that?” She said, “The first thing is you must never do The Voice. The second thing is NEVER do The Voice.”
So, at the first read-through me and Flemyng just couldn’t help ourselves and we were like [adopts faux-Sean Connery voice], “How you doin’ big fella? Nice to see you, eh!” Sean was like [Connery voice], “Shut the fuck up!”
Anyway, we got on very well and had a good laugh. He was quite wonderfully sarcastic and good fun. If he was dishing out patter, he certainly liked it when people dished it back to him. I think he preferred it when people would riff with him and have a good laugh.
He was dancing with my mother one night and he said [Connery voice], “Mary, you’re the spitting image of your boy”, and my mum said, “Yeah, Sean, thank you, I get that a lot… apart from the beard!”
Apparently Sean said, “Well that’s only a matter of time!,” which is very naughty, but very funny at the same time.
I’d imagine that gets told around a lot of family dinner tables!
My mother tells that one and, at first, people go, “Oh! What?” Then they start laughing!
I had a fun time on that and it’s a shame. Sean and Stephen Norrington got on really well at first, but then after a while I think the pressure of the whole production got on Stephen’s shoulders. I guess he began to behave in a way that wasn’t very agreeable to Sean, and it began to irk him and piss him off.
God knows how many films Connery’s done: 70 odd? He’s easy going; he doesn’t have a big entourage, any of that nonsense. Crikey! It was the last film that he did, which is not something that I’m proud to be a part of. “What was Connery’s last film? Oh, I was in it, I was the invisible guy.”
It’s a shame that he felt that upset with what happened with him and Stephen that he hasn’t done a film since. So, that’s a shame really. I don’t know if you’ve seen Harry Brown?
I have, yeah.
I really liked it. I thought it was a really powerful piece of British cinema and directed really well. The performance of everybody in it is fantastic. To be honest, it’s the best thing I’ve seen Michael Caine do for a long time.
You’ve also got Clint Eastwood still doing stuff like Gran Torino.
That was a strange film, wasn’t it? Some of the kids in that were awful. I thought “How did he cast these people?” Did you see The Offence back in the day?
That’s probably my favourite Sean Connery film. Sidney Lumet.
Sidney Lumet! It’s amazing, isn’t it? We watched it again; it was on the other night. In stuff like that he’s so charismatic and so intense and you just think “What a bloody shame he hasn’t worked for a while.” He’s in his seventies, pushing eighty now, but it would be nice if he came back.
He’s voiced an animated Scottish film called Sir Billi, we interviewed the producer of it.
Is he playing a dragon or something? What is it he’s doing?
He’s playing a vet, of all things.
A vet? A VET? A human being?
A human being who looks remarkably similar to Sean Connery.
A young Sean Connery?
The age he is now possibly¦
[Connery voice] Distinguished! It would be good if he did some other stuff. Stephen Norrington; I don’t think he’s really directed very much since that either. When you have a good time with some people, it’s a shame that they don’t work again.
Jesus! You work with some directors and you get on, then suddenly they don’t work again, it’s a shame for him, Stephen Norrington, artistically. He’s a fantastically talented guy. He did the first Blade, and so on. C’est la vie.
Although now based in LA, you still seem to come back to Scotland for roles like No Holds Bard, Red Road and a film called Hotel Caledonia, which is listed on your IMDb.
Hotel Caledonia? I don’t know what that is to be honest. Just one of these rumours they put on there and I’m like “Yeah, sure, I’d like to do that”. I don’t know what it is.
Do you still enjoy working on smaller stuff back over here?
There’s a film I shot, Ondine, which actually opens in LA tonight: a Neil Jordan movie with Colin Farrell. I shot that in Cork, over in Ireland, and it was nice to work with Neil Jordan obviously. I’m in the process of getting my green card over here but I’ve still got my agent in London.
I was having a drink with some friends on the South Bank the other night and it’s lovely to come back and be in London. At the moment I guess my base is here in Los Angeles.
Recently I was back and had the pleasure to work with Richard Curtis. He wrote the episode of Doctor Who that I did, which was great. We actually shot that in Croatia, which was nice – in a place called Trogir, near Dubrovnik and we shot in Wales. I love coming back and working in the UK. I guess I just haven’t done it enough.
What can you tell us about your episode of Doctor Who, ‘Vincent and the Doctor’?
It seemed to have got a good write-up in the Radio Times. At first I think they mentioned the fact that it’s somewhat of a surprise hearing van Gogh’s Scottish burr. I thought “My God, here we go!” They end up saying something like “The casting was a masterstroke and the episode’s got a lot of heart, and a lot of soul,” which is a good thing.
In the read-through for that I was saying to Richard and the director Jonny [Campbell] that I’d like to do it with a Dutch accent, or go down that road. Not quite like a sort of Dutch football manager-esque but [adopts Dutch accent] something with a bit of a sort of flavour!
I did the accent and I think Richard liked it but he said I don’t want to sound like a Bond villain. He then said to me, we didn’t cast you for an accent, we cast you for you. So that was good and as long as people get an idea of the man and his soul and what he was like then I think, unless you’re a very picky purist, hopefully the accent works.
So, you haven’t gone for a Dutch accent in your role. Is his Scottish accent explained?
I remember at college I was doing some Shakespeare class, with a woman called Janet Suzman. I was doing a Benedict speech and a lot of it was talking about women and how he relates to them. From the rehearsal I was doing it in a very Received Pronunciation accent. After a while I was working with Ted Argent, who was the head of RSAMD at the time, who said to me, Tony, why don’t you just do it in your own accent? I was like, really?
We’ve got these wonderful, expressive, soulful, flavourful accents in Scotland, or in the UK as a whole; regional accents. I mean, Shakespeare back in the day they wouldn’t have been speaking [adopts RP accent] like that, you know? They would have had these wonderful regional accents to speak the verse and the prose.
For me, to do a part like Vincent van Gogh in my own accent was like a full circle from drama school. As long as you get the sentiment, and the nuances, and the spirit of the man, or woman, or whoever you’re playing, then it can be a good thing to do it in your own accent. I think that’s what I’m saying, it’s not a hindrance!
To be honest, when I’m over here speaking in English, American, Russian accents, the more that I can do in my own accent is great. There’s a universality that sometimes has to come to TV or film, where the individual doesn’t have to have this generic sound to him, or her. It can be the flavour of it. Our accent is refined, and it’s cool, and it’s different, and it’s sexy, and it’s unique. There’s five million of us in the country, but there’s a Hell of a lot more of us around the world. It’s a shout out for the Celts!
It’s been said this series of Doctor Who has been given a Scottish makeover (Steven Moffat, Karen Gillan, Bill Paterson, Neve McIntosh, and Annette Crosbie, now you). Are you happy to be included in that? Do you think there is a tartan agenda there?
If there is, I don’t know if it’s by design or by chance. Steven Moffat’s obviously a very talented writer; Neve McIntosh, who’s a lovely lady and a very good actress of course; Bill Paterson, what can you say about him? Working will Bill Forsyth and everybody else for years. Hey, we’re all on that same little island. Definitely Karen, from what I’ve seen so far on Doctor Who, is beautiful and charming and funny. It’s nice to see, I guess. Long may it continue!
How did you approach the role of playing Vincent van Gogh in Doctor Who?
It’s frightening seeing bits of it I’ve seen because I resemble a lot of the self portraits. We’re very similar looking.
I read a lot of literature on it. There were some very stunning truths that I learned. He was born in 1853 and, a little known fact: the first child of the van Gogh family died in childbirth the year before the Vincent van Gogh that we know was born. There was another child born and his name was also Vincent Willem van Gogh. The day he died, a year later, was the day that the van Gogh was born.
It’s a bit odd because the family would take van Gogh go to the graveside of the Vincent van Gogh who died each year on Vincent’s birthday: his dead brother, his other self, if you like. He’d stand there on his birthday every year and his parents would stand there crying. He’d be standing there going “Happy Birthday to me!” That’s not a good start, is it? It’s bizarre.
Then obviously with his epilepsy that he had and his bipolar, depressive disorder, a lot of people just thought he was crazy. I’m sure part was his eccentric side, but he was definitely a tortured genius in a lot of people’s eyes. There was no treatment for what was actually wrong with him at the time. He was 37 when he shot himself it was almost like a cry for help. He burnt himself with a candle once. Obviously everybody knows about how he mutilated his own ear.
A lot of what I’ve read was almost like he was a man who wanted someone to pay attention, not just to him but his work. People did pay attention to it, but obviously it was too late. The bullet that he shot himself with wasn’t a direct hit. It wasn’t right into the heart, it apparently bounced off his chest and he bled to death basically. It was almost like it was a cry for help in some ways.
Neve McIntosh told us a couple of weeks ago that she was delighted she was getting to play a creature, do you wish you had gotten to be plastered in latex?
No! [Laughs] I’m quite happy! My mate Jason Flemyng coined the phrase, on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: ‘Prosthetic depression’. He was a 180 pound actor who, when he put on his fat suit as Mr Hyde, weighed like 350 in all his make-up.
I was wandering about looking like a Smurf with my blue spandex and my white face and you’re like, “I’m getting paid for this?” It was great fun, don’t get me wrong. Doing Blade II and Underworld: Evolution, I was in prosthetics for months as well. To actually come on set and just have a beard and put on some fantastic costumes was great! I was quite happy not to! To actually see your face, and not be all covered in rubber, you know?
I’m sure maybe Neve mentioned it, or anyone who plays a creature in prosthetics, it’s almost like a full day’s work before you actually go to work because you’re in the make-up chair for 5-6 hours then you get in front of the camera.
I remember on Underworld: Evolution I was six hours in the chair the first time, before I went on camera. Then I had to practice speaking because I basically had 32 extra teeth in my mouth. Basically, I had to over-exaggerate everything that I said. At first you sounded like a bit of an arse, then you were like “Jesus, I’m playing the oldest vampire who ever lived, I better make sure they can understand me!” I love doing prosthetic work as well but it was definitely fun to do Doctor Who and play a tortured artist like Vincent.
It looks like a lot of his famous works were recreated in real life for the show. How was it to act inside these iconic images?
I’ve actually got one of them up in my spare bedroom. They gave me one of the self portraits. It was fascinating. I was working in Vienna at the time and I went to quite a few of the galleries there and I saw quite a lot of his work. It was just amazing to go in and see the hand, as it were.
There was an amazing thing in Vienna, a little red box that had these little woollen balls in it. It was actually his box, displayed in a plastic case, that he would open up and take out the strands and put strands next to other strands on the canvas just to give himself an idea of what colour he wanted to put next to that colour, or blend it together. Just to see a box that he had in 1885 or something was truly fascinating.
To see a lot of his work as well, every time you saw his name next to a painting you were like “My God, that’s Vincent’s work!” I mean, 37 years of age, he was such a young man.
It was great because that’s the way the episode basically starts is the Church at Auvers, and the Doctor sees something in the painting. I won’t say too much, but he sees something in the painting that makes him and Amy have to go back in time to do certain things, or to help Vincent van Gogh from what he saw as his demons or whatever it was. There’s a thing in the episode that sort of represents that.
From what I’ve seen there’s very intense moments, definite moments which I obviously wanted to have in there, also Richard Curtis. Obviously a lot of kids are going to see this, but he does get very intense and he loses it a few times. There’s moments where they’re fighting certain things and it becomes very fun too, obviously, but I was glad there are a couple of moments in the episode where they touch on the darker side of van Gogh’s genius.
If kids like his paintings, if they appreciate what he did for art, and at the same time realise that there’s a lot of people out there today, artists or whatever they do in life, who have unfortunate manic depressive symptoms. It’s good if young people can realise, and have it highlighted, that sometimes people behave in certain ways and it may be perceived as unacceptable but one must realise what’s behind that.
It’s not just madness but there’s something darker and deeper wrong with an individual that doesn’t stem from them personally, but something deeper within them. I hope they get that idea. I hope that makes sense.
It’s clear that despite this being an hour-long sci-fi show on a Saturday evening, you’ve looked into the character and there’s something a lot deeper going on there than you might think.
He’s such a huge iconic, artistic figure that if it can be brought to kids with a bit of fun and charm, but also with an informative nature about art as well, then that’s a wonderful way to educate people. I’m sure not just kids, but other people as well who maybe don’t know that much about van Gogh.
It’s great to play a character like this man in such an incredible show like Doctor Who, in the genre that it is. From Pertwee to Baker to Tennant, it’s great to be part of that. For me personally to work with Richard Curtis and Jonny Campbell at the same time was a joy.
Working with Karen and working with Matt was a total blast. They’re really talented young actors and they bounce off each other so well. Did you see the first episode [‘The Eleventh Hour’], where he’s talking to the young Amy? With that young Scottish girl? I thought that was hilarious. The fish fingers with the custard! “Are you alright Mister?”
I think that girl, little did Karen know, turned out to be Karen’s cousin or something. They showed it over here at a place called The Landmark and I was in the audience with a few friends, then Karen and Matt came in. They basically ran up because they knew that old Vincent was in the audience! They ran up and gave me a hug. Afterwards Karen said to me, that was my little cousin in that playing [me] as a child! I think Karen didn’t actually realise she was her cousin until she was doing it. It’s kind of bizarre; serendipitous I’d imagine!
You worked on ITV’s Doctor Who rival, Primeval, as well. Which do you prefer?
I think I preferred obviously working on Doctor Who but I had a great time working with Jason Flemyng on Primeval. It was good fun. I enjoyed both of them but I’ve got a foot in both camps! It was fun doing Primeval, I mean it’s quite a popular show as well. Jeez, Dougie Henshall did it for quite a while, another wonderful Scottish actor. Then Jason Flemyng stepped in and now Jason’s stepped away and someone else has gone in. I enjoyed doing that but I have to say there was more to get one’s teeth into, and more challenging, playing van Gogh.
Having worked on British dramas as well as stuff like 24, Medium, Numb3rs and The Mentalist, what are the differences between UK and US drama in terms of working practices as well as output itself?
When I’ve worked on shows in the UK, you’re brought up with it and you’re used to it. Over here it’s a bit more challenging at first, for me, coming to the States. A friend of mine said to me, your American accent is so much better now than when you first came here six years ago. You sounded kind of funny. So, that was very honest of some friends of mine!
For me the differences were that it was a bit more challenging here trying to just fit in. It’s very quick as well. It’s the same with a lot of British TV. When you get on set you do a rehearsal and, bang, you’re straight into it.
For me, I guess the biggest difference was getting into a new zone: a lot of time going up for parts and being an American character, as opposed to just playing things in my own accent. Some actors like Kevin McKidd or Ewan McGregor, or other Scottish and British actors that are working over here, sometimes make it look quite effortless but losing the Scottish burr is harder than it looks! A lot of the time it’s keeping the rolling of the Rs out! A lot of it for me was to do with accent, the difference was that, but it’s pretty much the same thing. I can’t see there being too much of a difference.
Now 24‘s all finished, are you glad you got to be on the receiving end of a Jack Bauer kill?
A Jack Bauer kicking, yeah! Absolutely, it was good to be on that show. In the same year I worked with Keifer and Donald Sutherland, which was quite interesting. I was playing the Russian gangster and I go for my gun and Jack Bauer pulls the gun on me and says, drop it! He puts the gun up towards me and I’m holding for what one might call dramatic effect, and I pause, and then [Keifer] goes, “Okay, cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Cut! Listen man, I would have shot ya!”
I was like, “Sorry, what, man?” and the director was like, “What happened?” Keifer goes, “I told him to drop it, he didn’t drop it, I woulda shot him.” I thought “A couple of more beats maybe? Is he gonna pull it? Is he not gonna pull it?” I was about to drop the gun but Keifer just cut the scene and said “Sorry buddy, I woulda shot ya.” Okay, but this is a TV show! We’re making drama here!
I like Keifer, he was cool, but he takes it very seriously, and so he should. He takes it wonderfully seriously. He’s so into Jack Bauer’s character, he’s very intense in that role. I think that’s what made it such a success though. It’s a Hell of a popular show though, eh?
You worked with Gerard Butler on Beowulf & Grendel. Is there a network of Scottish actors out in LA you get together with?
It’s funny, me and Gerry went to Scottish Youth Theatre together in 1985. We’ve known each other since we were 14 and I’m chuffed to bits for him. I think it’s great. I see him now and again out here but I don’t really hang out with, or see, many Scottish actors that are out here.
Now and again you meet the odd British actor here-and-there. I did a film called Golf in the Kingdom last year with Malcolm McDowell and Julian Sands, which was a job that got me started playing golf. David O’Hara, he was in that as well, I see him sometimes over here.
There’s not really a core where I hang out and we sing Flower of Scotland or quote some Burns! I sometimes wish there was “ more friends of mine from the UK had made the move over here. I think that would be nice.
The celebrity thing is sort of lost on me, to be perfectly honest. It’s nice to work over here, to have California, to have the beach and the mountains. The quality of life over here I think is fantastic but there’s a lot more to Los Angeles than the ‘it’ life; all that sort of nonsense. It’s a great place to live if you’ve got friends that you love and people that you like and that’s a part of it that I’ve focused on more than “I want to be famous!”
Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to keep chipping away doing jobs because recently it’s been quite tough for writers, directors, producers, everybody in the business. It was hard for everybody. I don’t take it for granted I’m working, put it that way!
You CV impressively spans films ranging from Red Road to Underworld, is there a role you’re proudest of?
Both those roles, I really quite enjoyed watching! A lot of times actors will tell you “I don’t watch my work” – Paul Higgins actually, another wonderful Scottish actor. He’s wonderful in Red Road and I said to him, “Oh, did you see it? When it came out.” “Naw, naw, Tony, I didnae. I don’t really like watching myself.” Fair enough.
I think you never stop learning and if you watch your performance in an objective manner without going “Look how horrible, or how wonderful, or how pretty, I look,” and just look at it as the character and learn from it, then I think watching your own work can be a good thing.
When I watched Red Road as a whole, I was very proud of that film and of being part of that character, Clyde. I would say that was definitely something I was very proud of.
On the other end of the spectrum, playing Markus in Underworld was another job that I did where I think that I nailed it, as it were!
[Laughs] Staked it! Exactly! That’s a more relevant term! I’m also hoping that of Doctor Who, and a Scotsman playing the King of England in The Pillars of the Earth. I hope that’s going to be fun as well. What I’ve seen of it looks really intense and fantastic. I think Channel 4 have got their hands on The Pillars of the Earth. It opens here [in the US] on a network called Starz on July 23rd. I don’t know when it’s going to open in the UK.
Red Road and Underworld are definitely jobs I’m proud of.
Is there one you’re least proud of?
[Laughs] Yes, there is! [Laughs]
We’ll say no more!
There was one job I did where I enjoyed doing it and being part of it but then when I saw it I was like, “Wow, man, that was way off the mark!”
With films like Shuttle and The Midnight Meat Train, are you carving out a bit of a niche for yourself as a horror actor?
Interesting little films they are! What did you think of those, did you like them?
I did actually. Shuttle was something I knew little about but was intrigued by your presence in it. It was surprising to see a Scottish actor playing an ‘American Psycho’, as it were.
Yeah, I quite enjoyed doing Shuttle. It was shot in 5-6 weeks of nights in Boston with friend of mine, the director Edward Anderson. I had a fun time on that actually. It was a fun little gig that some people now-and-again say, oh, hey, I saw you in that! For me, it’s nice to build up your resume, or showreel, with some more parts that are American.
I thought The Midnight Meat Train was a wonderful little horror-drama-mystery as well. I thought old Vinnie did a good job!
I think it’s maybe the best thing I’ve seen him in. He was really good in it.
He was! Old Mahogany!
What can you tell us, if anything, about Tintin? Do you have a big role? Who did you work with?
I’ve got not a bad role in it. I was there for about a week and Steven Spielberg’s obviously directing it, and Peter Jackson was directing it as well. It was a really fun experience with the old motion capture suit on, where you’re basically looking like a speed skater! Andy Serkis said that “In black spandex, you look like you should be in the Russian gymnastics team or something!”
Yeah, that was a lot of fun that show, but I think I spoke to some newspaper about that once and then it was out. The next day I got a phonecall from the studio saying, “Hey, don’t talk about this! Don’t say anything about it!”
There was a bunch of people in that: Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig was in it, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jamie Bell. I was only on it for a week but it was a fun gig. Motion capture’s a strange way of working but once you forget about people that have got all those dots on their face and a Madonna-type mic, which is actually a camera and a helmet attached to their head, you try to get into the character and the part you’re playing.
Then you actually look at yourself on a screen that’s behind where you’re acting and you can see your animated image of your physical self, which is quite cool. You’re like, “Wow, that’s what I’m going to look like.” It was a fun job.
What else have you been working on?
I just got back from Atlanta, Georgia. I was shooting Big Momma’s House 3 and Atlanta is a great place for golf, so that was cool.
Big Momma’s House 3? That’s not on your IMDb.
Maybe there’s a reason for that! No, I just finished shooting it last week. It was a good laugh.
So are all the same faces on board? Martin Lawrence?
Yeah Martin Lawrence is. That’s about it really. It’s called ‘Like Father, Like Son’, so he’s got a son who’s wanting to be an undercover cop as well and gets into the fat suit. Maybe I shouldn’t be saying too much, but he dresses up and goes undercover as well, to help his dad. My unfortunate character’s name is Cherkoff.
I can see where that’s leading!
Sure! He’s a Russian mobster, Vladimir Dmitri. I was shooting out there for about a month. It was good fun.
You appeared in a lot of Scottish comedy early in your career, is that an area you would like to do more in, or was it just a case of taking what you could get early in your career?
That’s a good point. It is taking opportunities that come your way. Like Big Momma’s House 3, it’s a comedy where we’re playing sort of serious characters but I was having a bit of a laugh with Martin Lawrence and he kept saying to me, man, you should do more comedy and it’s definitely something I’d like to do more of but recently some of the roles I’ve played are a bit more intense and ‘Bad Guy #3’, or whatever.
Definitely comedy’s something that I’d like to get involved in more. One of the producers of Big Momma’s House, David Friendly, gave me a script called Q School which I think Dennis Quaid is going to do. It’s a movie about golfers going into a place called Q School where they learn to become better golfers and get their PGA tour card.
There’s a part in it of a guy called Scruff, who’s a Scottish caddy, so he gave me that to have a look at and it’s really quite an amusing character. Although he’s meant to be in his sixties and, obviously, I’m not there yet! I’m thinking if I have a good meeting with them, hopefully they might make him a bit younger.
I like doing stuff like Underworld: Evolution and doing a bit of the odd Doctor Whos and stuff like that and, you know, films like Red Road. It’s nice to mix things up. Comedy’s definitely something that I’ve hopefully got a future in doing, as well as more intimidating, intense characters. I’d love to do more comedy.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a few meetings lined-up, a few jobs. I’ve got Pillars coming out. I’m getting married next year to my girl, Mai. We’re getting married in California so that will be nice to get the family over. Apart from that I’m just excited about the future and what lies ahead, which is always interesting and terrifying at the same time. What’s gonna happen next?
Thanks to Tony for his time.
Tony’s Doctor Who episode, ‘Vincent and the Doctor’, is on Saturday 5 June at 6.40pm on BBC One.