27 January 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
04 Mar 2014 : Paul Byrne
It’s been quite a year for Andrew Scott, what with ‘Sherlock’, working with Ken Loach and now making his first big Hollywood blockbuster. Making ‘The Stag’, the Dublin actor tells Paul Byrne, was “like a welcome trip back home, and reality”.

Andrew Scott has been doing a lot of night shoots over the last few weeks. “So, you know, if I start talking gibberish, be kind in the edit,” he smiles. With a career that’s been steadily rising over the last few years though - thanks, in no small part, to Scott’s arresting turn as Moriarty in the BBC’s acclaimed ‘Sherlock’ TV series - any gibberish Scott might indulge in could just as easily be the result of a little vertigo. For many people, the Dublin actor is already a star. Over the coming year, the rest of the planet are destined to catch up.

The movie that’s keeping Andrew Scott from his regular night sleeps is ‘Frankenstein’, Mary Shelley’s classic creation getting yet another big-screen makeover, with Paul McGuigan (Gangster No. 1, The Reckoning, Sherlock) behind the camera, and joining our boy out front, James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe and Jessica Brown Findlay. Scott came to ‘Frankenstein’ after having just shot ‘Pride’, alongside Bill Nighy, and Jimmy’s Law, alongside Brian F. O’Byrne and Jim Norton, for working class hero Ken Loach. So, a little gibberish is only to be expected from the guy who made his screen debut 19 years ago, in Cathal Black’s ‘Korea’, before working his way up the food chain with the likes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (as ‘Soldier on the Beach’) and Pat Murphy’s mildly ridiculous ‘Nora’ (Ewan McGregor as James Joyce; yowsa), plus TV outings ‘My Life In Film’, ‘John Adams’, ‘Lennon Naked’ (playing Macca) and ‘The Town’. Throw in oodles of acclaimed theatre work, and you’ve got yourself someone who clearly knows what they’re doing. And where they’re going.

It was Peter McDonald, along with another old friend, writer/director John Butler, who came up with the idea for ‘The Stag’, kicking the script into shape before taking it to Treasure Entertainment. Scott plays the best friend to the highly metrosexual Fionnan (a well-cast Hugh O’Conor), none too crazy about organising the groom-to-be’s wild weekend in the country for two strong reasons - one, the bride-to-be’s macho brother The Machine (McDonald) is coming along, and two, even though they broke up six years ago, Davin is still very much in love with Ruth (Amy Huberman). The bride-to-be. So, amidst all the burning tent and electric fence slapstick, there’s some deep, down emotional issues to be resolved here. Judd Apatow would be proud to call ‘The Stag’ his own. As would Ealing Studios.

PAUL BYRNE: I’m hoping that your busy schedules and night shoots might actually reveal more than you intend to here, but, suffice to say, being too busy as an actor is a wonderful complaint.
ANDREW SCOTT: It is. There’s a part of it, even though you’re constantly on the go, constantly on sets, there’s a part of it that feels great. Like you’re at the party, and you just don’t want to go home. Next week, I start rehearsals on a new play, and there’s a bit of an overlap, because we don’t finish shooting on ‘Frankenstein’ until St. Patrick’s Day, the 17th. So, that’s where it gets a little crazy, when you’ve got two roles swimming around in your head.

This must all feel like a big wave is heading towards you, given that you are constantly in work, constantly in demand. With the likes of ‘Sherlock’ and now the big-budget ‘Frankenstein’ movie comes a degree of fame.
I feel very grateful that, you now, I have this amount of success, but I think it’s important too not to put too much scrutiny on what’s going on outside of the work. I don’t think it’s a very healthy thing for young actors, because you don’t get to experiment, or to see who you are. Either as a person, or an actor. The idea of success too is abstract; you just feel glad to be in work. And there are plenty of actors who are constantly in work who don’t make it onto the cover of magazines. Having said that, it’s really nice to have a little momentum, and after ‘Sherlock’, because of the nature of the work I’ve done before, I’ve been determined about doing as many different kinds of roles that I can. A lot of different characters, lots of different accents; just push myself as much as I can into new areas. I’ve just finished the new Ken Loach movie, I’m in the middle of this big blockbuster, and then I’ll go and do the play - that’s always the kind of career that I dreamed of. Just mixing it up as much as possible. And so, in that sense, it certainly doesn’t feel like excrement to me.

Given the cult of celebrity, that early analysis can be hard to avoid, even if it is akin to sitting down on your third date and discussing your future plans together.
Yeah, you don’t want to lay out a path too early. I’m very suspicious of people with career plans, as an actor, because you have to work with what you have, and try and make good choices along the way. And I don’t believe in being competitive with other actors, because this is a collaborative process. Without the other actor, you’re usually doomed. And it is a case of looking at what you’ve just done and deciding then what would be a really fun thing to do next. That’s why the play following ‘Frankenstein’ is a real kick. And it was in my mind to work here in Ireland again. I felt that I hadn’t worked here properly in a good few years, and I recognised the characters in ‘The Stag’ straight away. These are people that I know and grew up with. Shooting here felt like a welcome trip back home, and to reality. I’m guessing it might have been an ad-lib, but, at one point, Peter refers to you as “Hey, Photoshop!”, which just reflects that, like me, you’re a handsome devil. How’s that side of the job working out for you? Keen to not always play the guy who gets the girl?
I think those parts tend to be the duller ones, whereas the guy who wants to be the girl, that’s usually more fun. Having said that, if the right role came along, something that let me be myself a little more, and use my own accent, that can be a real challenge. Instinctively, I resist definition. For whatever reason, I do like to feel that I’m not really playing any stereotypes.

Davin’s quite a heavy role in the middle of a light comedy. John and Peter felt the emotional centre of the film was Davin being in love with regret, so much so that you take the whole movie down to a whisper as you sing Raglan Road acappella around a campfire. Tough day’s shoot?
It’s so funny that you should ask me that, because one of the main reasons I was so excited about playing this part was that I got to sing Raglan Road on screen. To get to sing and have it tell you more about the character than anything else in the film, that was different. So, I was listening to Raglan Road on loop on my iPod - I’m sure I drove the rest of the guys nuts. It was really important to me that I was able to act/sing it, as it were, so you could hopefully understand Davin’s story through the song. And the guys gave me all the time in the world to just sing that song, and I think it’s an audacious move that they held the camera for as long as it did. I think it turns the tone of the movie in a different way, and I think it’s all the better for that.

You mentioned having that desire to shoot here in Ireland again when this came along - is that a national pride thing, or do you just want to help the Irish film industry...?
Both. You love your country, and its film industry, so, you want to be part of it. Being Irish is so much a part of who I am, and when you’re abroad, you become even more aware of that, actually. You identify even more strongly with being Irish because everyone else around you isn’t. And I still believe that the storytelling culture in Ireland is really strong, and it’s important that we make Irish films that Irish people will go and watch. And that’s why it was really interesting to listen to John and Pete when we first starting talking about it. “This is an Irish film we want Irish people to actually go and watch” - and that’s a good approach to have. Please the audience, give them something they can truly enjoy, because often Irish films fail at the Irish box-office. And some of them are wonderful films...

And some of them aren’t. Which may explain the caution from cinema-goers here.
Yeah, some of them aren’t. Which is why when a good film comes along, we really have to push it out there. I’ve got to say, it was a pleasure just being around these people too. I know a lot of the guys, from the theatre in Dublin. Hugh was a couple of years ahead of me in school, obviously I had worked with Pete in theatre and on film before, and I had worked with Andrew [Bennett, co-star] too... It just felt like a bunch of friends, having some fun in the country. And we had a pared down crew, which actually helped. I’m reluctant to say that not having a big budget was a plus - big budgets are wonderful too - but we used it to our advantage, and just pulled together off-screen and on.

Being out in the Irish cold brings people together. Even if it’s just for the body heat.
Absolutely. And it helped that the script was strong. It’s incredible when you’re on a big set, with all the luxuries and bells and whistles you could ever want, and everyone’s unhappy. Because the script is dreadful.

Hollywood can be a fickle mistress - any wariness of being sucked in and spat out? It’s happened to one or two fine Irish actors before.
Yeah, it has crossed my mind. I had an opportunity at the end of last year to do a television series, and I chose not to do it in the end - not because I didn’t think there was great value in the project, but I have to accept that the only work I should do is that which gives me the biggest buzz. You only have so much time, and you have to use it wisely. Three months, for me, is long enough to be one thing, for now. And TV could hold onto you for seven, eight years. Having said that, I do think we’re in a golden age of television, there’s no doubt about that, but one has to look at what you’re good at, and what would make you happy. It’s difficult to turn down work, of course, but it does free you up. And interestingly, as soon as I turned down that opportunity, I signed on for my first big studio picture. So, the grass is, of course, not always greener on the other side of the fence. And I always say to actors that the greatest thrill is often doing in a play above a pub, even if, every now and then, it feels great to be able to pick up the cheque in a restaurant. Once you believe in your work, nothing else truly matters.

There’s nothing wrong either with doing one for the studios and bank managers every now and then.
Sure. I think there’s a snobbery about ‘commercial’ films, and yet, they can be wonderful. Comedy, in particular, gets a rough ride, as though it’s just not in the same league as a drama.

De Niro is a great example of that. Going off the rails, deep and wonderful; having fun bringing a bounty across country, light and frothy.
I think homework gets overpraised in this profession. If you have someone who puts on loads of weight, or loses loads of weight, for a role, I’m not really sure that that’s any of the audience’s business. You can pretend. Each to his own process though. I don’t do a huge amount of research, because I believe in keeping that playful quality to the job. Sometimes if you know much more than the audience, you lose the focus for that audience of who that character is.

You’ve got the Ken Loach movie, ‘Jimmy’s Hall’, and ‘Pride’, with Bill Nighy, coming out this year, plus there’s the current ‘Frankenstein’ shoot, with Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy. At this pivotal point, the choices you make could dictate your entire career...
True. Over the last year, I’ve had to weigh that up a bit, as your time becomes that bit more precious. I realised too that you don’t always have to be the main guy in the movie. A good part is a good part; you don’t have to be on every page of the script. I think that’s really important as well. If you get to work with brilliant, brilliant people, that’s all that matters. I did this movie last year that was great fun, called Locke. Tom Hardy is in a car, and myself and Olivia Coleman and Ruth Wilson, and a couple of other actors, play these voices that call him on his answering machine, and we filmed it live. And that was an extraordinary way of shooting. Tom went out in his car, and we let the cameras roll as we were holed up in a dodgy hotel, ringing him in real time. It was a fascinating way of working. So, sometimes you just have to throw yourself into a role. The deep end is always the place to be...

‘The Stag’ hits Irish screens on March 7th

Watch the trailer for 'The Stag' below:

Producer Jason Forde on bringing Bagatelle to Irish screens in new TG4 documentary
“These people aren't saying what I think, they're saying what they think, so it's their truth and their reality that you represent;” Director Luke McManus on the Journey of North Circular
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