Kelly Macdonald: ‘I’m beyond sex scenes now. I just play detectives’

Why did the actor who shot to fame in Trainspotting panic about her new Line of Duty role?

By Emma Brockes | Irish Times

Kelly Macdonald’s roles are typically quiet and fraught with internal conflict, and entailing journeys that are more reflective than active. As a grieving mother in The Child in Time, a gangster’s wife in Boardwalk Empire and the titular role in The Girl in the Cafe, the 45-year-old has, over the past 25 years, become known for the kind of thoughtful performances signified by the image of a woman staring out of a window. All of which makes our encounter today doubly surprising: that Macdonald, appearing via Zoom from her home in Glasgow, is here to talk about Line of Duty, possibly the least reflective television show ever made; and that she is a complete hoot.

Her role in Line of Duty has, over the course of the Belfast-filmed show’s six seasons, become a coveted one in British television – that of the guest star brought on as a no-good cop to be investigated by AC-12, the show’s now iconic anti-corruption unit. (Previous incumbents in the just-how-bent-is-she role include Keeley Hawes and Thandie Newton.) Line of Duty’s twists are renowned and the embargoes fierce, and, following the roller coaster of season five – in which we grappled, briefly, with the possibility that Supt Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) was bent – we meet Macdonald in season six as DCI Jo Davidson, getting stuck into a case. And that is pretty much all, ahead of transmission, the BBC will permit either of us to reveal, which makes Macdonald crack up every time she thinks of it. “It’s hilarious that they sent me a list of things I’m not to talk about, when I can’t remember any of it.”

They sent the first episode while I was on the train and I managed to download it and immediately got freaked out at the intensity

This is partly down to scattiness. Macdonald forgets words, dates, times. She has been known to rock up to auditions having failed entirely to study the script. “I’m horrible,” she says, cheerful in a chunky knit sweater, which is, she says, one notch up from her customary lockdown hoodie. “I’m just rubbish at reading the emails.” At home she’ll look up from whatever she’s doing and catch her sons, eight-year-old Theodore and, in particular, 12-year-old Freddie, regarding her with incredulity. “My son sits over there, plugged in on his iPad, and I’m on the phone and I just see the way he looks at me. I still remember thinking my mum was a fool, such a fool, about technology.”

It is there in her performances, this guileless good humour. Macdonald once described acting as “not brain surgery” – not a view shared by most actors at her level – a delight in the absurdity of it all that has been visible on screen since her first, explosive role, as Diane in Trainspotting. That was released in 1996, when Macdonald turned 20, and, as it turned out, Diane – brazen, impulsive, outrageous – was atypical of the work that would follow.

Continue reading

Trainspotting at 25: How it shook up Edinburgh, took the world by storm and transformed the film industry

It was the box-office smash that turned a Scottish literary sensation into one of the most iconic British movies of all-time.

A quarter of a century after Trainspotting arrived in cinemas, its influence is still strongly felt, from the streets of Leith to Scotland’s film festivals. It is still regularly voted one of the best British films of all-time.

Released during a mid-1990s golden age for Scottish cinema, just months after Braveheart, Trainspotting was unlike anything that had been seen on screen before.

Launched with multiple premieres on the one night in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and a star-studded party in Cannes, its impact on Scottish culture has certainly not been surpassed since.

Although it will forever be linked to the Cool Britannia era of mid-1990s culture in the UK – partly thanks to the presence of Britpop bands like Pulp, Blur, Elastica and Sleeper on its soundtrack – its origins were in the late 1980s and early 1990s underground rave and publishing scenes in Edinburgh.

Leith-born Irvine Welsh drew on his experiences of being brought up in the Muirhouse estate for Trainspotting, extracts of which were published in the magazine Rebel Inc, before the book was released to critical acclaim and huge word-of-mouth buzz in 1993.

Less than two years later, an Edinburgh-set thriller, Shallow Grave, announced the arrival of new British director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, screenwriter John Hodge and Scottish star Ewan McGregor. All four were to reunite for Trainspotting, along Ewen Bremner, who had starred in the stage adaptation of Welsh’s book, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle and Kelly Macdonald, a total newcomer who had an answered an advert for a open casting session. The success of the book and Shallow Grave, combined with a striking poster campaign, meant expectations were sky high.

Allan Hunter, film critic and co-director of the Glasgow Film Festival, recalled: “Trainspotting felt like an explosion of fireworks on a dull grey sky when it arrived.

“Danny Boyle’s bravura direction brings such energy and drive to the story. It made British films (and Scottish films) seem cool. The marketing was so slick and unforgettable. It became the film that everyone wanted to be associated with.

“It really was a hurricane that blew all the cobwebs away and it became a symbol of social and political change in a country heading towards the election of Tony Blair and the giddy days of Cool Britannia.”

Filmmaker Mark Cousins, director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival from 1996-97, said: “It felt that a spotlight was put on Edinburgh.

“People knew that the city was cultured, beautiful, and a place of festivals, but we were seen as a bit Brigadoon – sleepy then bursting into life in August.

“Trainspotting was hyper, local, fizzy and surreal. It made me feel young, cinematic and dangerous.”

Continue reading

Ewen Bremner on life after Trainspotting, new film Renegades … and his love of The Muppets

EWEN Bremner is sitting in the parking lot of a truck stop in rural New Mexico when I call. “The wild west,” he says. “It’s the only place I can get a phone signal around here.”

A phone signal that stutters and drops out more than once over the next half hour. On those moments when Bremner’s soft Edinburgh accent drops away I find myself trying to jerry-rig a metaphor out of our communication difficulties. Something along the lines of Bremner having a career that has been blinking in and out of visibility ever since he made his name on some film back in the 1990s … What was it called again? Oh yes, that’s right Trainspotting [ . . . ]

Source: Ewen Bremner on life after Trainspotting, new film Renegades … and his love of The Muppets

Ewan McGregor: ‘What if I’m not Scottish enough any more?’

Twenty years after Trainspotting made him a star – and the poster boy of 90s excess – could Ewan McGregor become Renton again?

The characters were people you felt you already knew. There was Begbie, played by Robert Carlyle, the booze-fuelled, unpredictable psycho, a small-town Scottish version of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. Spud (Ewen Bremner): hapless, surreal, a lovable, smackhead loser. Sexy Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), out for whatever he could get, mostly women and drugs. And Renton, played by Ewan McGregor, the heroined-up antihero, who kept kicking drugs and then going back, and doing the same to his mates, until he finally robbed them all (except Spud) and ran away. [ . . . ] Read Full Story: Ewan McGregor: ‘What if I’m not Scottish enough any more?’ | Film | The Guardian