All posts by IanW


“You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham…” snarled the Arctic Monkeys on the track that first got them noticed, Fake Tales Of San Francisco. Back in the heady days of 2005, a grim Northern town like Rotherham was the very antithesis of The City That Never Sleeps. These days, though, thanks to the success of The Arctic Monkeys, The Kaiser Chiefs and Corinne Bailey Rae, Yorkshire is quite possibly the coolest spot on Earth. Rotherham’s still a dump, mind…

Unlike other celebrated UK scenes such as Madchester or Merseybeat, the Yorkshire explosion is harder to categorise. This is partly due to the sheer size of the county (close to 6,000 square miles) and, annoyingly for lazy, pigeonholing hacks, the fact that the talent refuses to be isolated to one town. But the major difference isn’t where it’s happening, but when.

“The internet has enabled more of a DIY element to surface and prosper,” says David Dunn, music journalist for Sheffield’s Star newspaper. “It fuelled the initial rise of Arctic Monkeys on an underground global scale ahead of the rest of the world getting the picture. Similarly, it’s spread the word for Little Man Tate [also Sheffield based], leading to rapid fanbase growth and overseas interest, including a short US tour and a sold out show in Tokyo.”

Yorkshire’s equivalent to John Peel, BBC Radio’s Alan Raw, agrees:

Alan Raw

“It won’t be like Manchester – that sort of thing will never happen again. The internet has made everything so international. But because of the optimism in the area there are loads more bands popping up. I got 15 demo CDs a week five years ago and I’m now getting a hundred.”

Rivalling Sheffield as Yorkshire’s musical flagship is Leeds, home to both The Kaiser Chiefs and Corinne Bailey-Rae. Simon Rix, the Kaisers’ bassist, is of the opinion that, in his city at least, there’s always been a scene.

“We spent eight years struggling in Leeds before our recent success,” he says. “Early on, it was good for us, because in Leeds we were popular for a long time. For years and years we could have had a gig in Leeds and we’d know a crowd would turn up.”

Rix looks back on Leeds in the 1990s with great fondness.

Corinne Bailey-Rae

“We all met at a club called the Underground. It closed a few years back but it was great for all sorts of music. And,” he adds, “they had Corinne [Bailey-Rae] as a cloakroom attendant.”

The Underground might have shut its doors, but another of the Kaisers’ hangouts, The Cockpit, is still going strong.

Simon Rix

“Every Friday was Brighton Beach [now relocated to Leeds University] and everyone there was in a band. It’s still like that now as far as I can tell. Leeds has always been a great musical city. I can go to any of the venues several times a month and see bands that are good. You can say that about lots of Yorkshire towns. Basically, Northerners like their live music.”

Yes, cyberspace is important, but for a scene to truly thrive, it needs a network of decent venues. Once again, Yorkshire scores highly in this department. The likes of The Welly Club in Hull, the Sheffield Leadmill, the newly revamped Faversham in Leeds and Fibbers in York (part of the hugely successful Barfly chain), have all achieved near legendary status. In addition, the hunger for live music in the wake of the Arctic Monkeys’ popularity has seen new venues springing up all over the county, such as the brilliant Plug in Sheffield. In addition to this, the number of live music festivals in the region has grown exponentially.

Similarly, recent years have seen hundreds of independent promoters setting up shop across the county. Leeds-based Ash Kollakowski is typical of this fearlessly entrepreneurial new breed. As well as being a DJ and head of promotions at the Faversham, he’s the co-owner of record label Bad Sneakers, home to hot indie outfit Wild Beasts, whose debut single recently won Steve Lamacq’s Rebel Playlist on BBC 6 Music. Needless to say, Kollakowski is also the Beasts’ manager.

“I think the music scene in the North is more cutting edge because it’s so bleak up here,” he announces, displaying a talent for melodrama. “I know other places are bleak, but up here you’re so fenced in that you’ve got to make it yourself, you’ve got to release a record.”

Kollakowski is also one of several pundits encountered by Music Week who, though fiercely loyal to Yorkshire, dismiss the sudden emergence of a ‘scene’ as a media invention.

The Arctic Monkeys in 2006

“It’s always been there,” he insists. “It’s just lazy journalism because of the Arctic Monkeys and the Kaisers. If they’d bothered to come here 10 years ago they’d have found much the same.”

Alan Raw, like many others, take the opposing view.

“Yes, the ‘scene’ itself has been going for years,” he says, “and now the media have caught onto to it there’s an awful lot for them to get their teeth into.”

The Kaisers’ Rix concurs:

“I don’t think the media have invented it, but I think now they’re onto it, they’re making it even bigger.”

Raw goes further, painting a picture that suggests Yorkshire is being taken more seriously by the industry than any previous music scene.

“I was interviewing Melvin Benn, the managing director of Mean Fiddler on my show and I asked him if the industry was taking a bigger interest in Yorkshire now. He said as far as he knew the UK music industry had moved to Yorkshire. He knew of a lot of companies that were selling up in Soho to come to Leeds and Hull.”

Whether there’s any truth to this apocryphal story, there remains one indisputable fact: Yorkshire is full to bursting with new bands. And the one thing they have in common is that they have nothing in common; every genre of music gets a look in.

“There are a lot of Arctic Monkeys clones,” admits Alan Raw, “which can be a bit boring. But aside from them, there are so many different bands. For instance, there’s a very heavy hip hop outfit called Breaking The Illusion. And they’re from Hull.”

The Pigeon Detectives

Everyone Music Week speaks to has a dozen recommendations, with the same name rarely cropping up. Amongst those universally admired are indie rockers The Pigeon Detectives (soon to be supporting the Kaiser Chiefs), aforementioned Little Man Tate, metallers Bring Me The Horizon (a favourite with Kerrang! magazine) and Four Day Hombre (“Amazing,” according to the NME, “like Elbow with bigger beards and better dreams”). Without a doubt, though, the band most touted are Tiny Dancers.

“They’re likely to break this year,” reckons Plug manager and evangelical fan Mike Forrest. “Very interesting, almost kind of They’re signed to Parlophone and supported Bob Dylan and Richard Ashcroft in 2006, as well as producing a really solid album.”

Tiny Dancers

Much of the Dancers’ potential lies at the feet of their awe-inspiring frontman, David Kay. And from where does this future rock ‘n’ roll icon hail? You guessed it. He’s not from New York City. He’s from Rotherham.

This article first appeared in Musicweek in 2007.


Something Wicker This Way Comes…

Ahead of a new re-mastered release, Ian Winterton chats paganism, Christopher Lee and Nicolas Cage in a bear-suit with Wicker Man director Robin Hardy.

Though consistently rated as one of the best horror films ever, that epithet doesn’t quite do The Wicker Man justice. It’s horrifying in places, for sure, but there’s barely a splash of fake blood in sight.

Telling the story of a devout Christian police sergeant (played by the inestimable Edward Woodward) investigating a suspected pagan sacrifice on a remote Scottish island, it’s more unsettling than horrifying, but the creeping dread it instils stays with the audience for, well, 40 years.

Its director, Robin Hardy, now an avuncular and infectiously cheerful 83, confesses he can’t quite believe people are still asking him about it.

“I’m immensely proud of it, of course, but I’ve done many other things beside. I’m a novelist and I’ve made and written other films. Day to day, though, it’s not a large factor in my life.”

That may be how it feels to Hardy but to the wider world – especially those who access information via the internet – that little movie he made in 1973 is the definitive work of his life. On the movie website IMDb his credits are 99 per cent Wicker Man related – he’s either appearing ‘as himself’ in making-of documentaries or he’s writing and directing sequels. One, The Wicker Tree, was released in 2011 and based on Cowboys For Christ, a novel by Hardy. It was universally savaged by the critics and even the hardcore fans stayed away. It was, by all accounts, a troubled project.

“It’s incredibly difficult to get a film made,” says Hardy. “Raising finance and so on. But getting The Wicker Tree together took far longer than it should have.”

The final nail in the coffin, many would say, was when Christopher Lee was forced to drop out due to injury.

“It was a real blow,” admits Hardy. “Christopher was filming in New Mexico, on a movie called The Resident. He tripped over cables, I understand, and has had to walk with a cane since. Back injuries don’t go away easily. And also they’re very difficult to operate on because if something goes wrong your spine, well…so you put up with the pain. He only has a cameo in The Wicker Tree but he was going to play the main adversary.”

Hardy’s disappointment at losing Lee – whose charismatic but, frankly, bonkers Lord Summerisle is the perfect counterpoint to Woodward’s dour copper – remains palpable. It’s fair to say Lee has a reputation for being a bit of a diva. This reporter was once told, by Robert ‘Freddy Kruger’ Englund no less, that Lee “feels most genre films” – i.e. all The Hammer horrors that made his name – “are beneath an actor of his talents”.

“I can’t comment on that,” says Hardy. “All I can say is Christopher was a joy to work with. Apart from everything else he brought to the part, he understood The Wicker Man and what it was about, and it’s about a great many things and he understood them all. He knew a lot about the associated mythology before he came on board.”

It probably helped the part was written with Lee in mind.

“Perhaps, yes,” chuckles Hardy.

The Wicker ManThe original film came about as a collaboration between Hardy and screenwriter and playwright Anthony Shaffer, best known for penning the play Sleuth and its 1972 Michael Caine/Laurence Olivier outing on the silver screen. Because Hardy did the lion’s share of the research into the pagan beliefs featured in the film, he has occasionally come under attack from modern pagans who feel the film helps perpetuate negative connotations towards their beliefs. Hardy finds this bemusing.

“I don’t think The Wicker Man has a negative attitude to their religions at all and I know Shaffer didn’t. I mean, pagans on this island and throughout Europe did practice human sacrifice. But I’m by no means anti-pagan. Lots of things in our culture date back to before Christianity. A lot of my research came from The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer and we did rely heavily on that. Ironically, when that book was published [in 1890] it offended Christians because it dared to approach and catalogue Christianity equally and on a par with other religions.

“I think,” he continues, “our film showed paganism as it really was [rather than] all those rather hokey things which are about witchcraft and all the rest that are supposedly based on paganism in the Hammer Films. I would have thought they’d have been much more angry about that.”

“Nicholas Cage is a good actor but in this he just looks ridiculous, especially when he’s disguised as a bear… Oh good grief. A bear!”

Mention of anger brings me neatly to the Hollywood remake of The Wicker Man. Directed by Neil LaBute and starring Nicolas Cage, it’s execrable in the extreme. Hardy is quick to agree.

“I have a theory about it which I think will amuse you,” he says, mock-conspiratorially. “You see, Shaffer died a few years ago and I think he put a proper old-fashioned curse on any projects based on his scripts he doesn’t approve of. I mean, I don’t know if you saw Sleuth, the [2007] remake. It’s directed by Kenneth Brannagh and the screenplay’s by Harold Pinter, for goodness’ sake. All these very talented people and it’s awful. A complete disaster. I think there’s some supernatural force that makes all these talented people make fools of themselves.

“It’s the same with Neil LaBute’s Wicker Man. He’s very interested in transgender issues but putting them into the Wicker Man doesn’t really make any sense, although we had Christopher Lee kitted out in a dress at one point. Nicholas Cage is a good actor but in this he just looks ridiculous, especially when he’s disguised as a bear.” Hardy breaks into a warm giggle. “Oh good grief. A bear!”

I’m too polite, and too charmed by this lovely octogenarian, to suggest that Shaffer’s curse perhaps put the kibosh on The Wicker Tree, too. Because, whatever Shaffer’s ghost felt about that project, he evidently approves of Hardy’s restoration of The Wicker Man.

“It was amazing when the news came in that they’d found a 35mm print at the Harvard Film Archive,” says Hardy. “We’ve basically scanned it in digitally from that. It’s been laborious but painless. We’ve also inserted a sequence that got left out of the original cut. I can’t wait for people to see it.”

It might have been 40 years, he might have done a lot of other things, but there’s no doubting that, when it comes to The Wicker Man, Robin Hardy is still one of the faithful.

This article first appeared on the Northern Soul website in 2013. Link here.


“It was never my intention to become the Princess of Genovia. It was my intention to become an actress.”

So says 24-year old Brooklyn-born Anne Hathaway, referring to the fictional kingdom that made her famous in The Princess Diaries, the 2001 film that, together with its 2003 sequel, made her a hit with 12-year old girls. Having already starred in US teen drama Get Real and going on to play another soppy princess in dire kids’ fantasy Ella Enchanted, she looked to set to remain as the human equivalent of a McFlurry. And then Brokeback Mountain got her good.

“I’d got my fill of those early roles,” she tells The Big Issue from a room at London’s Dorchester Hotel. “It was really Brokeback when I first played a character that was so different to who I was. I loved the way it fired up my imagination and how terrified I was of failure. It kinda becomes addictive.”

As Luveen, the brassy Texan gal who finds herself married to Jake Gyllenhaal’s gay cowboy, Hathaway was a revelation; those critics who’d dismissed her as fit only for soporific live-action Disney movies were forced to eat their words. Hollywood, though, had long been aware of her potential, with Princess Diaries director Garry Marshall describing Hathaway in Variety magazine as, “multi-talented… a combination Julia Roberts, Audrey Hepburn and Judy Garland.”

“I’ve been obsessed with Austen since I was 14 and I didn’t want to take the part at first because I felt there was a very good chance, as there is with every role, that you’re just going to mess up and be horrible and unwatchable.”

It wasn’t long before Hathaway was trusted with a lead role and last year’s The Devil Wears Prada proved to be the ideal choice. The frothy story of a wholesome, unpretentious young woman dropped suddenly into the snake-pit of a fashion magazine, it appealed both to Hathaway’s teen fans and adults (especially, it has to be said, gay men, making Marshall’s Hepburn and Garland comments seem particularly prescient). Most importantly, it proved Hathaway could hold her own against the mighty Meryl Streep, who delivered an Oscar nominated and Golden Globe-winning performance as bitch-queen editor-in-chief, Miranda Priestly.

All of which brings us to the reason Hathaway is in London: Becoming Jane in which she stars as no less a literary giant as Jane Austen. Based on the biography by Jon Spence of the same name, it focuses on Austen’s early years, postulating that Austen, far from being a bookish spinster, met and fell in love with charming Irishman Thomas Langlois Lefroy, here played brilliantly by James McAvoy.

Unlike the similarly themed Shakespeare In Love, much of Becoming Jane’s hypothesis can be supported. It is documented that Austen and Lefroy met at a ball in Hampshire shortly before Christmas 1795, when he was visiting his Aunt and Uncle Lefroy, the Austens’ neighbours. He was a recent graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and was bound for London where he was to study law. Austen had just completed Elinor and Marianne, the first version of Sense and Sensibility. Both 20 years old, there’s strong evidence that the two were mutually attracted and, against the prescriptive morés of the time, did little to hide it. Indeed, faced by disapproval from her sister, Cassandra,, Austen teasingly described her relationship with Lefroy as “every thing most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together.” The sauce-pot.

For Hathaway, it was the opportunity of a lifetime, but one she was reluctant to take.

“I’ve been obsessed with Austen since I was 14,” she admits, “and I didn’t want to take the part at first because I felt there was a very good chance, as there is with every role, that you’re just going to mess up and be horrible and unwatchable.”

It was Ang Lee, who’d just directed Hathaway in Brokeback Mountain and was responsible for arguably the finest movie adaptation of Austen’s work, Sense And Sensibility, who persuaded her to take the part. However initially reticent, once Hathaway had made the decision, she threw herself into task.

“I thought, even if I do a really crap job, at least they won’t be able to get me on the research,” she says. “I moved to England for a month before we started filming and worked on the accent and I started research about the period, about what it would have been like to live in the countryside at that time and we read her letters, learned sign language [Austen had a deaf mute brother], learned to play the piano…” She laughs, adding: “The skills portion of my resumé greatly improved after this role.”

Another essential component of becoming Jane was learning to dance.

“These days you just shake your butt and you’re a good dancer,” Hathaway says. “Back then there was actual choreography. I’d had dance training before; I think like a dancer so that was one aspect of the role I wasn’t worried about.”

Hathaway’s heightened fear of failure proved to be almost crippling.

“It became paralysing, the fear that I’d mess up portraying someone who I admire, who I respect. I put a lot of pressure on myself. And I forgot about it while we were filming and then, inexplicably, about a month after we wrapped I started having panic attacks and nightmares about being stabbed to death by Jane Austen’s ghost. I’d wake up in the middle of the night sweating and breathing really heavily. That stopped once I got to watch the film and really liked it.”

This, despite the film’s lowly budget and the fact that it was shot almost entirely on location in the Irish countryside, fantastic for the overabundance of intact Georgian architecture but not so great in terms of weather.

“It was really changeable,” recalls Hathaway. “We didn’t know if it was the Gods or Jane being upset that I was playing her but every single time I had to do a close-up, it would rain. And it was cold! The accent took a lot of work but when you’ve been in a field for five hours waiting for the rain to stop and just standing there freezing… I just sound drunk in a lot of scenes.”

Hathaway is too hard on herself. Her English accent is the best to come from an American since Gwyneth seduced the Bard. Her performance, too, is immensely likeable, cementing her reputation as a leading lady who can carry a movie. With that in mind, does she feel her turn as Austen precludes her from taking on any of the novelist’s celebrated heroines. Hathaway hopes not.

“I’m a hack,” she jokes. “I love to work so I’d love to play any of them. I’d love to play Anne Elliot. I think they’re remaking that [Persuasion]. There was the wonderful BBC version with Amanda Root ten years back. She kind of did the perfect job. There have been some very definitive performances with Austen’s heroines, Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet in Sense And Sensibility for instance. I’d love to join them.”

This article first appeared in The Big Issue in 2007.


A room full of jaded hacks from all corners of the globe isn’t exactly a comedian’s dream audience. Add to this the fact that the press conference is actually scripted, all questions having been submitted in advance, making the assembled journos little more than unpaid background artistes for the filming of a DVD extra. Worse still, they’ve been kept waiting in a hot room in London’s Dorchester Hotel for over an hour with no food except for biscuits and no booze; there are only so many cups of coffee one can drink. And yet, when finally Borat – AKA actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen –deigns to appear, he has people falling off their chairs laughing.

“You are Scottish, like Braveheart?
Like anti-Jew warrior Melvin Gibson.”

Preceded on stage by Azamat Bagatov (played by Californian-born character actor Ken Davitian), Borat’s overweight producer whose eyebrows are, alarmingly, even bigger today than in the film, Borat bounds into the room, glad-handing those sitting on the aisle and, in the case of one lucky man, giving out an enthusiastic kiss.

“Jagshemash!” he booms from behind a podium, in front of which stand auto-cue screens; so much for Baron Cohen the master improviser. Much of his resolutely un-PC material has been heard before at other press conferences available online, as have some of his put-downs to members of the press asking questions.

“Hello, little boy,” he addresses a diminutive woman with short hair, or, on hearing a Scottish accent, he remarks, “You are Scottish, like Braveheart? Like anti-Jew warrior Melvin Gibson.”

To a room full of people for whom this is a job of work, it does feel slightly pointless, especially when he keeps to Borat’s persona by refusing to answer questions from a woman. The journo in question, wearily and reluctantly, plays along with the pantomime of getting a male colleague to pass on the message. Even so, there’s no doubting that, recycled though his material is, it’s hilarious.

“Very popular in Kazakhstan is singing transvestite Madonna. He really looks like a womans! Only thing that give him away is his huge hands.”

Or, when asked if he’d consider going out with a British girl, he answers that he’s particular keen to make the acquaintance of “Welsh prostitute, Charlotte Church”.

It’s a surreal day, that’s for sure, but not one that does justice to Borat’s movie – a semi-improvised road-trip that sees Borat’s racism, anti-Semiticism, ignorance and misogyny used as a tool to hold a mirror up to modern America’s prejudices. In a hotel room in London, it’s amusing and risqué, but that’s not the whole Borat story.

Borat started out life as a minor character on Channel 4’s Da Ali G Show, Baron Cohen’s chatshow format for his wannabe gangsta persona, Ali G. When the show was picked up by HBO in the US, Baron Cohen suddenly started swimming with the big fish in Hollywood’s comedy pond. It was director/producer Jay Roach (Meet The Parents, the Austin Powers movies) who first saw the potential of giving Borat his own film.

“We saw an opportunity to do a film that was bold, subversive and fresh,” he tells The Big Issue. “We wanted to transplant the reality TV show, which has Sacha in character, interacting with real people. Then, we created a story that supports a feature film.”

Writers Peter Baynham (I’m Alan Partridge), Anthony Hines (Dennis Pennis, Da Ali G Show) and Dan Mazer (also executive producer) were recruited to provide a basic storyline. But there was no script – the movie was an audacious experiment to bring a fictional character crashing into our world. Real events with real people push the film’s fictional story, and when scenes played out in unexpected ways, the team had to rewrite the outline. As director, Roach brought in Larry Charles, a man best known for Seinfeld and its wholly improvised spin-off, Curb Your Enthusiasm. The result is possibly the funniest, darkest, most compellingly subversive film ever made.

“I think what Sacha does in this film is revolutionary,” agrees Roach. “He’s created a totally believable, hilarious, fish-out-of-water character. Then Sacha takes Borat into often dangerous predicaments with real people who have to believe that Borat is authentic the entire time – or else Sacha could face serious consequences.”

As it was, the production’s guerrilla-style filmmaking involved the cops on numerous occasions. A warrant was issued for Baron Cohen’s arrest in New York, after he – as Borat – ran naked through a hotel waving a rubber fist-shaped dildo. While he narrowly avoided incarceration, producer Monica Levinson and production manager Dale Stern didn’t fare so well, thrown in a cell by the NYPD for ‘borrowing’ a phone, alarm clock and comforter from a local hotel to use as props. Even though the filmmakers had a location agreement and a $5 million insurance policy, the police went ahead with the arrests. To protect his colleagues, Stern ate a sheet listing the names and phone numbers of the film’s crew.

“Monica and Dale’s night in jail raised the bar for a filmmaker sacrificing for his or her art,” says Roach admiringly.

Baron Cohen no doubt has similar stories, especially as he reportedly r#main#d as Borat even when being beaten to the ground by security guards. But his insistence on staying in character and refusal to appear before the press as himself, while no doubt th# k#y to his fantastic performance, is intensely frustrating. Back in the Dorchester, the final question comes from a man who tells Borat that he’s from Israel.

“What?!” rails Borat, horrified. “Do not attack! I see your claws!”

Even though everyone in the room is in on the joke and knows that Baron Cohen is himself Jewish, a palpable sense of unease still comes to the room. And then it hits: we’re in a room watching a man who, unapologetically, is coming out with anti-Semitic bile that Hitler or Bin Laden might baulk at. And – this is Baron Cohen’s genius – we’re all laughing our asses off.

This article first appeared in The Big Issue in 2006.


By the very nature of their profession, actors are paid to pretend, but it’s not often – on film at least – that they have to make believe they’re looking at the Sun without it actually being there. But, when he says, “The Sun was all put in afterwards in post-production”, Irish-born Cillian Murphy isn’t joking.

“Like all stars, the Sun will burn out and it will implode and die. We’re just exaggerating that by a few million years for dramatic purposes.”

All becomes clear when you learn that his latest role is in sci-fi thriller Sunshine and the reason he couldn’t look at the Sun is because his character views it from an unusual vantage point – namely, on a spaceship that, a la Pink Floyd, has set its controls for the heart of the Sun. Why? To save the human race, of course.

“Like all stars, the Sun will burn out,” explains Murphy, “and it will implode and die. We’re just exaggerating that by a few million years for dramatic purposes.”

Set in the year 2057, Sunshine’s astronauts are heading towards the Sun, shielded from the worst of the Sun’s rays, on a spacecraft that is a “bomb the size of Manhattan Island”. With a premise as simple as it is compelling, Sunshine is fantastic, cerebral sci-fi in the mould of Alien or Solaris. On directing duties is Manchester’s own Danny ‘Trainspotting’ Boyle, while the screenwriter is Alex Garland, author of best-selling novel The Beach (the film version was directed by Boyle) and the screenplay for Boyle’s 2003 zombie hit, 28 Days Later. A surprise hit internationally, it made Murphy a star, resulting in lead roles in a number of films, including Ken Loach’s Palm d’Or-winning tale of the Irish Civil War, The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Like many an actor before him, Murphy, who turned 30 last year, finds himself beholden to a genre of which he’s not necessarily a fan.

“I did at least grow up absolutely loving Star Wars,” he insists, before admitting, “but I was never into the Star Trek movies or the series really. Like Danny [Boyle], my sci-fi tastes are along the lines of Alien, 2001, Solaris. I went to the ComiCon convention in San Diego which was intense. We did this press conference in front of like, 6,000 fans. It was mad, but you realise that they’re the people who buy the tickets. They’re the people who know these characters as well as you do so you have to make movies that they enjoy.”

Whether fanboys enjoy the movie or not (though I’m guessing they will – Sunshine really is the best sci-fi film in decades), Murphy and his co-stars had a hoot making it. To indicate the co-operation required for humankind’s “last, best hope”, the ensemble cast is deliberately internationalist and includes Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Hiroyuki Sanada (The Twilight Samurai) and Chris Evans (not our own carrot-top DJ but The Fantastic Four’s Human Torch). To help the eight ‘astronauts’ bond, they were forced to live together in student accommodation in London.

“It wasn’t supposed to be luxurious and it wasn’t,” chuckles Murphy. “A lot of the time as actors you come in on a Monday morning and the director says, ‘Right, you’ve known each other for ten years.’ And you can do it, you can do the job. There’s that classic scene in Alien where they’re around the table and they get an amazing sense of familiarity. You really believe that they’ve been travelling together in space for however long. We wanted to get that sense as well so the best way to do that, other than actually acting it is to live together and then let the experience inform the performance. We all lived together and ate and cooked and drank together.”

As well as recreating what sounds like a Thespian version of The Young Ones, the actors were all sent on an “astronaut bootcamp” which saw them attend lectures, go scuba diving (the nearest we can get to space-walking on Earth) and a trip in a light aircraft to stimulate zero-G.

“Humans are not meant to experience this,” says Murphy. “Nothing is, not monkeys or dogs either. It was sickening, horrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.”

Another vital piece of preparation for Murphy was hanging out with the film’s scientific adviser, Dr Brian Cox. Though employed at the Centre for European Nuclear Research, the world’s largest particle-physics laboratory, his varied CV includes a stint as D:Ream’s keyboardist. He doesn’t sound like your typical egghead.

“No,” agrees Murphy. “He’s not your quintessential physicist by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s so bright and so approachable. I hung out with him for some time and pestered him with idiotic questions about life, the Universe and everything.”

Boyle also used Cox to light-heartedly defend his casting of Murphy, rather than, say, some dweeby brainiac:

“For those who think [Cillian] is a bit good-looking for a physicist, the uncanny thing is that he looks remarkably like our science consultant.”

“He does have a certain boyish charm about him, I’d hand him that,” is all Murphy will bashfully say on the subject.

It was Cox who helped Garland and Boyle come up with their sci-fi vision that was “more NASA than Star Wars”. Indeed, Cox even pointed out that Sunshine’s posited scenario – the Sun going nova in the near future rather than in two billion years – could well be possible. The scary thing about scientists is, as Murphy puts it, “how much they don’t know.

“It’s terrifying, or wonderful, depending on how you choose to look at it. They know what five percent of the universe is, but 95 percent of it we don’t have a clue what it is. That’s amazing.”

Thanks to Cox, the science of the movie, which will no doubt make a great DVD extra six months from now, is pretty much watertight. As a result, the spaceship and attendant technology, all feels brilliantly plausible. Even its bomb is theoretically sound.

“While I have no authority to judge it,” Murphy cheerfully admits, “but from what Brian says the idea that you could fire a bomb of dark matter into a star and re-ignite it is possible. They have the equations for it.”

This article first appeared in The Big Issue In The North in 2005.




Were you a Harry Potter fan before you got this part?
I’d never read any of the books and hadn’t seen the movies either, so I can’t really claim to have been a fan. I say I’m a fan of Arsenal and I don’t know anything about them – it’s kind of the same thing. When I got told I had the audition I read the book in, like, a day and knew that I’d love the part. I think there’s something really special about the books and I think people are going to watch these movies years from now.

Your character is part of a love triangle with Cho Chang and Harry – is he sympathetic?I think Cho wants to be with me more – I’m not standing between anybody! He should be a sympathetic character, but there’s a thing about head boys – a lot of people hate them for no reason, especially if they do everything right. But Cedric is just a quiet guy who instinctively doesn’t do horrible things – so hopefully he’ll be sympathetic. His main description is the ‘strong, silent type.’

Was it a thrill working with Mike Newell?
It was a thrill being part of Harry Potter – it’s like being part of the Bond Franchise. But Mike Newell – I loved Donnie Brasco. He’s a great director. I got on with him really well and I really liked him.

Did you get starstruck by any of the other actors?
With Alan Rickman I don’t think I knew what to say to him the whole way through. Warwick Davis, who’s Willow, I did a scene with him and I was, like, completely and utterly… ‘You know, because Willow was my favourite film in my childhood. He was the only person I asked for an autograph out of all of them.

What was your favourite scene to shoot?
The Maze scene. It was really fun, hopefully it’ll look really good, it was really exciting to film because it was all for real – it was just me and Dan and a Steadicam, so it was really, really exciting. That’s what all acting should be like!

What was the hardest scene?
Well – my death!


You beat 5,000 people for the role of Cho Chang. That must have been nerve-wracking…
Because I just went for a bit of fun, I was really relaxed about the whole thing! I’ve not really thought about it until people started saying ‘Well, you beat 5,000 girls!’ and that’s when I think, ‘Yeah. I did!’ I’m really surprised because I’d never acted before and didn’t realise I could act until I went to the auditions.

What made you want to audition, because your dad has said you’d never even acted in school plays before?
It was such a coincidence: he was watching TV and he was practically falling asleep when the advert came on saying ‘If you’re 16 and you’re a girl and you’re of Oriental appearance and you come from Britain – then you should try out for a role in Harry Potter.’ And he thought that sounded like me.

Did you have to lose your Scottish accent?
No I didn’t I got to keep it – yeah, it was great. The book doesn’t really mention what kind of accent she has so everyone’s going to expect an English accent so when I do speak I think it’s going to surprise a few people, which’ll be cool.

Do you get to kiss Daniel?
You’ll have to wait and see! But the scenes we had involved a lot of teasing – looking but no touching because I have a boyfriend in this film.

Is it true you’ve received hate mail from jealous girls?
No. I’ve received so much fan mail and they’re all so supportive, and it’s really encouraging. I mean. I’m sure there are a few jealous girls because Dan has so many female fans.

In a film dominated by boys, did you form a bond with Emma?
Yeah, we did, we had a good chat. Obviously she’s given me some advice and I was asking her about the premiere – what it’s going to be like and she was telling me to make the most of it. ‘It’s your day, it’s going to be amazing so just enjoy it.’ And she also said keep level-headed and stay grounded.

Do you see acting as a career now?
If it was the same with every film as it was with Harry Potter then definitely. I’ve had the time of my life doing this.


Were you a fan of the Harry Potter stories before joining the cast?
I was a fan but I hadn’t read the books – I’d only seen the films. As soon as I got the part I read book number 4 and I studied Viktor Krum so I could bring him to life in the film.

What do you like about Viktor?
I actually like everything about him – he’s a superstar in Quidditch, he’s obviously the champion of Durmstrang, so he’s the best boy in the school! He’s quite a tough character – physically he gives an impression of power whatever he does, but at the same time he’s got a big heart. I like every aspect of him – he’s quite similar to me!

Acting’s in your family?
Yeah, well it’s sort of in the roots: my grandma acted in black and white Bulgarian films and my dad’s been in two films. He was spotted and asked to be in two films and my mother’s been in a couple as well but not professionally.

Did you want to go into acting?
Like everyone, when I was young I dreamt of being a Hollywood star but I never thought it could happen. A year ago I was a normal guy and now I’m sitting here having interviews!

Did you train for the film?
Well I’m always been training but during filming we have to do loads of specific training for the tasks. For the underwater scenes we had to learn how to scuba dive and how to take masks off underwater and there was a scene where Viktor dives off the Durmstrang ship so I had to learn how to dive for that.

And how were the ballroom dancing lessons?
We had a choreographer for the Yule Ball and I think we were training for about two weeks. We were supposed to be doing a Waltz but it’s actually a bit more than a Waltz because it has special music which everything is designed for – so it has to look magical. We had great fun and it’ll hopefully look good on screen.”

Have you been surprised by the Harry Potter fans?
Yes. I’ve been on the internet becauseI want to see what they think of me as Viktor. He’s quite skinny in the book and I don’t quite look like that! They were quite positive comments. It was really funny reading about the hair – in the book Viktor’s hair is long but mine’s short in the film.

Are you looking forward to the premieres and having girls screaming at you?
Definitely, but I don’t know how much they’ll be screaming for me!

This article first appeared in The North Guide in 2005.


“Day one on the Big Brother bus…”

I don’t know who started the Geordie voice-over first but, after the six thousandth time, it’s still funny. And we haven’t even cleared San Francisco yet.

We’re on a coach, one of several buses in the Green Tortoise fleet. A tour operator with a difference, the company, operating primarily out of San Fran, runs trips all over the US, as well as taking in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Their main selling point is cheapness (our five day trip costs just $350) and the unique experience of crossing continents in a Tortoise bus.


Although, aside from being painted green, the buses’ exterior looks pretty normal, it’s the modifications inside that makes them special. Relatively spacious seating, with a good smattering of tables, converts into sleeping quarters. Coupled with the ‘luggage’ racks (too claustrophobic for some), each bus can sleep 36 people, thus cutting out the need to stop to sleep. While you slumber, your dedicated drivers rumble down the freeways, ensuring that you wake up at your next destination.

We’re on one of the Tortoise’s shorter tours, the Western Trail – a five-day loop beginning and ending in San Francisco. Happily, the trip is far from sold out, meaning space is plentiful. Even so, being in close proximity with strangers soon means that we’re chatting away. Before long we’re bonding over beer and ‘shithead’ – the backpackers’ card-game of choice – while the California coastline shimmers by.

Meeting fellow travellers is by far one of the best aspects to the Tortoise experience. In our small group we meet posh girls from Oxford, an Aussie electrician, a honeymooning couple from Manchester, a Korean student, a gaggle of young but fun A-level graduates, a couple of trainee doctors from Edinburgh and a financial consultant from Bedford. By the time we reached our first stop the group dynamics, Big Brother-style, were established.

The first night is spent, not on the bus (that’s backup should the weather turn), but camping in the forest. After collecting firewood, a mild hike up into beautiful tree-covered hills gets the appetite going and, as sundown approaches, dinner is served. Cooked by our drivers, it’s nothing special but hits the spot all the same. More beer around the fire finishes off the night.

We stop at Santa Barbara the following afternoon. It may have been the shittest soap opera ever devised, but as a town it’s scarily clean paradise, all palm trees and wide roads. It’s also home to the oldest roller coaster west of the Mississippi. Although built in 1917, it’s still a relatively hair-raising experience.

LA is the second day’s final destination and I wish I hadn’t bothered. We arrive so late, due to gridlocked traffic, that we only have time to stumble up Hollywood boulevard before hitting the sack.

Leaving LA’s smog behind, the bus thunders into the majesty of the Nevada desert along Route 66. Surrounded by Joshua trees and with the horizon rippling in heat-haze, it’s time to whack the air-con on full. We make one daytime stop, at a diner and museum where a vintage auto fair is taking place. Impossibly polished Chevrolets, Lincolns and Mustangs gleam in the blazing sun.

But on to Vegas. We arrive early, booking into the aptly named Sin City Hostel. Subscribing to the town’s “anything goes” ethos, we sign up to shoot handguns in a range for $16 before, with our ears still ringing, hitting the casinos. Ironically, our mixed-age group is split up here – the guns were fine but gambling and drinking is strictly for over 21’s. Still, when we crawl back to our hostels at 7am, wallets empty, who’s laughing? We’re back on the bus half an hour later.

By the time hangovers have dissipated, we’ve swung west again and are back in California. Desert has given way to the snow-capped peaks and, for our evening meal, we stop at a hot spring. Utterly blessed out after an hour in the volcanic water, it’s hard to find the energy to help prepare dinner. Then it’s back on the bus for beer and shithead, before hitting the hay. We travel through the night, the moonlight on the snow providing enough illumination to see the awe-inspiring, but precipitous, landscape.





Morning sees us arrive at Yosemite National Park. Despite warnings about bears, the place is full of tourists, most of whom are content to trundle around on electric buses. Being young(ish), we go trekking and soon leave the crowds behind. It’s truly spectacular – I promise myself that I’ll return here, possibly for one of the deep country two-week hikes. I especially enjoy jumping into a heart-stoppingly cold lake. For me, Yosemite is the trip’s highlight and most people concur. The only downside – monster mosquitoes. By the time we get back to the bus, blood is running down our legs. Should’ve taken that insect warning more seriously.


So itchy but happy, we head back to San Francisco where we bid the Tortoise farewell. But, for those of us who are staying in San Fran, we suddenly have a huge group of mates to hit the town with.

“Day One, not on the Big Brother bus…”

This article first appeared in City Life magazine in 2004.


“I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.”
– Jane Austen

Almost two centuries after its publication, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice remains one of the world’s best loved books, primarily because its heroine, the young, feisty Elizabeth Bennett, is such good company; were she still alive, it’s doubtful that Austen would have her tolerance tested by many people. Keira Knightley certainly isn’t one of them.

“I think she’s one of the best roles in literature,” Knightley says, speaking to Leeds Guide from the suitably grandiose surroundings of London’s Dorchester Hotel, “so there’s a huge pressure. It’s terrifying because when you read Pride and Prejudice, you feel like you own her. I know I did. Everybody has a very clear idea of who Elizabeth Bennett is. It’s terrifying but a really exciting challenge.”

A challenge Knightley brilliantly squared up to – her Elizabeth Bennett is perhaps her strongest performance to date. Whether exhibiting defiant independence or melancholic heartbreak, she perfectly captures Austen’s heroine. Except in one regard: Elizabeth is supposed to be rather average-looking – her sister Jane is the real beauty – and Knightley, well… Just look at her.

It doesn’t detract from the film, however, especially as Jane is played by Rosamund Pike, former Bond Girl to Pierce Brosnan, an English Rose whose beauty does outshine Knightley’s. We don’t get into that here, of course, and Knightley gives the impression that, far from being rivals, the two actresses were as close in real life as they appear on screen.

“Jane Austen’s own critique of her book was that she felt it was too light-hearted,” says Knightley. “She felt the relationship between Jane and Elizabeth wasn’t realistic enough. We took heed of her comments and tried to bring some realism to the movie, bringing out the idea that these sisters are two girls who have lived with each other and slept in the same bed for so many years now. They have annoyances and such, but they love each other.”

“Yes, we’re both in the Johnny Depp club.
I’m a bit jealous of Rosamund because
she got to kiss him and I didn’t.”

The only fly in the ointment of sisterly affection is Johnny Depp. Both actresses have worked with him, Pike on 2004’s The Libertine and Knightley on the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

“Yes, we’re both in the Johnny Depp club,” coos Knightley, before admitting, “I’m a bit jealous of Rosamund because she got to kiss him and I didn’t.”

Knightley might have missed out on locking lips with Depp but, as Elizabeth, she was required – eventually – to get amorous with the dashing Mr Darcy, played by Matthew MacFadyen. While he doesn’t quite manage to banish the wet-shirted spectre of Colin Firth, MacFadyen is undeniably a handsome chap. Knightley very obviously approves.

“Matthew’s sexy in the mode of Richard Burton, with a bit of Alan Rickman,” she gushes. “You need to see that kind of rugged beauty in Darcy, knowing that here is a man who walks across fields, climbs trees and manages his own estate. With Matthew, you can see that etched across his face, yet he’s also got this extraordinary vulnerability.”

Knightley’s admiration isn’t limited to Mac Fadyen’s looks. He is, as anyone who’s caught him on TV’s Spooks, a terrific actor.

“When I went in to read with Matthew, I was so blown away that I virtually couldn’t get my lines out,” Knightley confides. “I just kept staring at him thinking, ‘What the hell happened between you walking in as Matthew and you starting to read?’ Because he actually did turn into Darcy. On the page, Darcy reads as being very cold, but Matthew is so vulnerable through his big manliness that he gives Darcy extra qualities.”

The other man in Elizabeth Bennett’s life is her elderly father. Although a small part, Mr Bennett’s cantankerous but loving personality permeates the story, requiring an actor blessed with incredible presence. With Donald Sutherland, the production got that in spades.

“He was completely amazing and such a sweetheart,” says Knightley. “I think he loved having six women fussing over him all the time. We went out to a party and he wore a mask because he hates smoking.”

Knightley evidently loved every moment of making Pride and Prejudice – even the costumes were less onerous than in other period pieces she’s starred in.

“The Bennett girls are supposed to be quite active,” explains Knightley. “It’s really important that you get a sense that they could run around and walk for miles in their clothes. The corset I wore was very mild compared to the thing I wear on Pirates of the Caribbean.” She pulls a face, recalling the discomfort. “It comes all the way down and pulls in the stomach and everything and you can’t breathe at all.”

The costumes also helped Knightley and her co-stars get into character, particularly when it came to reacting to the opposite sex.

“When the men in the cast stood around in their normal clothes, we Bennett girls could chat away to them,” Knightley says. “As soon as they wore their costumes, the sisters, myself included, were suddenly faced with these sexy creatures and we turned into giggling idiots. They were so well-costumed!”

Period costumes have been a feature of Knightley’s career, with many critics – conveniently ignoring films such as Love, Actually, Bend It Like Beckham and forthcoming bounty-hunter actioner Domino – accusing her of becoming typecast. Knightley brushes such accusations aside.

“What excites me about acting is changing as much as possible from character to character,” she enthuses. “I don’t want to become typecast but, if I read a script that has a fantastic story, a fantastic character and a fantastic director, not do it just because it’s set 200 years ago would be foolish.”

There was, basically, no way Knightley could or would turn down Pride and Prejudice.

“It’s a book that I’ve been obsessed with since I was seven years old,” she confesses, “so the opportunity to play Elisabeth Bennett was a dream come true. I just pounced on it.”

This article first appeared in The Leeds Guide in 2005.


The Warriors (1979)

“We made it on the shoestring, shooting almost entirely on location during New York’s wettest summer in 75 years. And we were in some very rough neighbourhoods. It was controversial when it came out in ’79 but, looking at it now, with all these kids running around wearing masks, you’ve got to wonder where the national peril is. But the main problem was that the film didn’t critique gangs. For my protagonists, the gang is a positive, protective force. I think that upset a lot of people.”

“John Candy… A terrific guy. I miss him.
He was a friend.”

Brewster’s Millions (1985)

“Richard Pryor wasn’t a terribly happy guy at that point but I liked working with him. I think he was in a horrible dilemma – he felt that if he didn’t use drugs he wasn’t funny, and if he did use drugs, he would die. That’s a hell of position to find yourself in. I thought this was one of his finest performances. John Candy was a great talent, too. A terrific guy. I miss him. He was a friend.”



48 Hours (1982)

“I originally wanted Richard [Pryor] but that never happened and then we tried to get Greg Hines but he couldn’t get out of another project. Eddie Murphy had a very clever agent, who later became my wife, who knew of our dilemma. She sent me a bunch of tapes of Eddie on Saturday Night Live and I thought he was terrific.”

“Was [Southern Comfort] written as a Vietnam allegory? No. But did we understand that it would inevitably be perceived that way, and in some ways was? Sure.” 

Southern Comfort (1981)

“Was it written as a Vietnam allegory? No. But did we understand that it would inevitably be perceived that way, and in some ways was? Sure. I said to the cast when we started shooting that I didn’t think we should mention Vietnam. Our job was to tell the story within our characters, within our time, within our premise. I’m proud of the film and I think Ry Cooder’s score is fabulous. I thought he’d respond to the surroundings and the unique atmosphere, and he did.”


“Other than when [Arnold
Schwarzenegger]  played the
robot, I would say Red
Heat was his best

Red Heat (1988)

“Working with Arnold [Schwarzenegger], I certainly didn’t imagine he’d become our governor. He’s almost a mythic figure to audiences. Other than when he played the robot, I would say Red Heat was his best performance. I think the best part of the film is the first 15 minutes. If I had to do it over – I thought this while I was doing it but by then it was too late – I’d send the American cop over to Russia. That would have been a more interesting film. The stuff over there had a freshness to it that perhaps the rest of the film didn’t have.”


 Crossroads (1986)

“It was kind of messy. The movie was supposed to be about a black kid reaching for his roots but the studio wanted to do it with Ralph [Macchio]. He’s a fine actor but he was too identifiable as the Karate Kid. I think it was a mistake not to do the film with a young, black actor. It’s a domino effect. You do something wrong and it all goes wrong. The film has some nice moments but I think it’s a miss.”

This article first appeared in Hotdog Magazine in 2005.


“I was always drawn to the Grimms for the primal nature of their stories,” says Terry Gilliam, adding with a grin. “I like the darkness.”

No kidding. The latest movie from the maverick director, a fantastical account of how the Brothers Grimm (played by Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) came to know so much about fairytales, is full of supremely dark moments. A horse swallows a child, a scary wolfman goes on the rampage, a cute kitten gets liquidised and a young girl has her eyes, nose and mouth erased by a mud monster…

“I was always drawn to the Grimms for the primal nature of their stories.I like the darkness.”

“It would have been nice if we could’ve got a PG in the States,” says Gilliam. And he’s not joking; he’s genuinely puzzled that adults deem the film too scary for children. And he’s got a point. Yes, the film is macabre but, as is often the case with Gilliam’s work, it’s tempered by a warm-hearted sense of ludicrous. It’s frightening in the same way that, well, the best fairytales are.

“I got a lot of notes saying that it’s too rough for children,” Gilliam recounts. “That’s false. The movie plays brilliantly for kids. Somehow people think fairytales are things with tinkly music and lots of people in pink but Grimm’s fairytales were dark so that was really important for me  – not to do some modern, PC, bland version of what fairytales were about. Fairytales scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. They also gave me immense pleasure because you go to dark places but, at the end, you come out alive.”

With its unique combination of nightmare, whimsy and dark humour, The Brothers Grimm is unmistakably a Terry Gilliam film, bringing to mind his other ‘family’ oriented movies such as Time Bandits (1981) or 1977’s medieval romp, Jabberwocky. This will be joyous news to his fans, but those who prefer him in more conventional mode (Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King) may well be perplexed and frustrated as they were by the love-it-or-loathe-it excesses of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988).

Of course, the root of Gilliam’s aesthetic can be summed up by a certain dread adjective: “Pythonesque.” As the only American member of legendary comic troupe Monty Python, Gilliam was initially brought on board by John Cleese to provide the TV show’s inimitable cartoon inserts. Still friends with the surviving Pythons, Gilliam is sanguine about his inability to shake off his roots.

“According to some of the reviews of Grimms I obviously haven’t,” he admits. “It’s always going to be there because I’ve got that same sense of comedy. I love it. I love over the top performances.”

And The Brothers Grimm has them in spades. Not only does Peter Stormare (seen recently as Satan in Constantine), chew the scenery as an idiotic Italian mercenary, but Gilliam is once again reunited with Jonathan Pryce. Having starred as a beleaguered bureaucrat in Brazil, here he pops up as a general in Napoleon’s army, complete with silly French accent, in many ways reprising his role as Baron Munchausen’s unimaginative bean-counting nemesis to. This triumph of the fantastical over rationalism is another key theme of Gilliam’s films.

“We’ve let that side take over to much,” Gilliam opines. “Everything has to be explained and understood as opposed to allowing for the mystery wonder that’s possible in life. The Grimms are connected to this because it’s important to remember that they didn’t write the fairytales, they collected them. With the Enlightenment sweeping in and putting pressure on the old prejudices and superstitions, they were afraid that Germany’s old traditions were disappearing.”

By setting the Brothers Grimm in a historically accurate setting of Napoleonic Europe, Gilliam is able to explore this theme, albeit with full-on fantasy elements. An added bonus for the director, if his mischievous cackle is anything to go by, seems to be that he gets to mock the French.

“It opens with a caption saying ‘French occupied Germany’,” he laughs. “I love being able to say that because it’s wonderful and it’s historically accurate. It’s good to remind us that the Germans have not always been the aggressors. The perverseness of showing the French as the bad guys was too good to not deal with.”

Evil witches and enchanted forests notwithstanding, The Brothers Grimm is a gritty, bloody and muddily authentic version of history, typical of Gilliam. This extends to some gruesome scenes in which Angelicka the hunter, played by Huddersfield-born Lena Heady, is seen skinning and gutting a rabbit. Not only did this contribute to the film’s PG-13 certificate, but it caused Heady, a strict vegetarian, much consternation. Predictably, this is a source of great amusement to Gilliam.

“We booked Lena Heady a week with hunters to train her how to skin a rabbit. They only got to show her once. But she saved a rabbit’s life. I was preparing little bunny for the shoot and she ran off with it and kept it.”

“We booked her a week with hunters to train her how to skin a rabbit,” he chortles. “They only got to show her once. But she saved a rabbit’s life. I was preparing little bunny for the shoot and she ran off with it and kept it. In the film it’s a plastic rabbit with lots of condoms full of blood and guts, but it was really hard for her to do that, even with the plastic one.”

Bemused disapproval of Heady’s principles aside, Gilliam is full of praise for the Yorkshire actress.

“She’s a good actress,” he says, “and she worked very hard because she’s not normally a horse-riding, bow shooting kinda gal. She just got into it and I think the end result is fantastic.

“We did terrible things to her, though,”  he continues. “Like putting her into a room with no light to get her used to living in a cave so could escape from being a modern girl and become a kind of feral creature.”

The thought of Gilliam bundling Heady into a dank cell brings to mind his turn as the feeble-minded gaoler in Life of Brian (most quotable line: “We’ve got lumps round the back”) which, of course, brings us back to Monty Python.

“It’s very bizarre,” he says of the show that launched him. “We’ve each done a personal best that’s coming out on DVD soon and looking at the episodes today it’s shocking how bad it is. It’s so cheesy, it’s so cheap and yet it’s still really funny. Nothing’s come along and matched it. I don’t know why. The League of Gentleman I loved because I thought they captured a similar grotesqueness. But that ‘ex-Python’ thing will always be there. It’ll be on the gravestone, depending on what I do next. Maybe,” he chuckles, “it will say ex-Bond Girl…”

Now that really would be a dark fairytale.

This article first appeared in The Leeds Guide in 2005.