I’d already decided I wanted to be an actor by the time I was 16, having finally given up on the pipe dream of becoming a footballer. I’d been in a few school plays and musicals like Fiddler on the Roof, but it was when I was in a play called Suddenly Last Summer that I thought, this is what I want to do. Acting gave me a cover. I was quite introverted as a young teenager so acting was a real release. It gave me a way to channel all these emotions running through me. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I didn’t have a clue. But it felt good.
I had a tough time at school. My headmaster hated me. He sent all these letters to my mum telling her I was the most horrible child, argumentative and destructive, and I’d never amount to anything in my life. He tried to expel me five or six times. I’d like to go back to my younger self at that time and say, stay calm. Don’t worry. Ignore this man. He’s not going to be part of your life for very long. Nothing that happens now will define who you are for the rest of your life.
It doesn’t rankle with me that I was first choice for Wolverine
My dad and my uncle were both in the Glasgow Unity Theatre. My dad fought in the Second World War then got into acting in the Fifties. But he stopped acting after six years and became a fridge salesman. When I told him I wanted to be an actor he was quite happy to encourage me. It was just everyone else who said it wouldn’t happen. Even when I did a foundation course in drama, they told me I’d never be an actor. My teacher advised me to go into stage management if I wanted to work in the theatre. But I felt I was so passionate I’d make it happen eventually. I felt I had an affinity for it. I didn’t care about being successful or famous, I would have done anything just to get on stage. And I was bloody minded. Every time someone said no, no, no, no, I’d be thinking yeh, yeh, yeh, yeh.
I had a very good relationship with my dad. He was a really complex guy. He came from a tough
background, Barrhead in Glasgow, but he was a gentle, softly spoken man. He loved to laugh. He had a lot of good friends in Glasgow. I always thought, before he died, at some point you have to go back home and just have a good long talk with him, about what he taught you in life. If I could have the chance to do that now, I’d say to him, you weren’t around for the movies and stuff, but you have no idea the influence you’ve had on me. It was all to do with you.
My first acting lessons were watching my dad go out to work. No matter how he felt, he had to get to a point where he was palatable to the people he was trying to sell fridge freezers to. He’d get up, start shaving in his vest, then put his shirt on, then his tie, and then it was ‘ta-dah!’ He was getting into character. Then he’d walk into people’s houses and say in a happy voice, “Hello hello hello, how are you today?” And I’d be like – un-fucking-believable. You weren’t feeling like that when you got up today. And he said, “Listen, son – no one wants to buy a fridge from someone who’s depressed.” I often think, he always wanted to be an actor and though the theatre didn’t work out, he did get to be an actor. I was in Australia when he died suddenly. I didn’t get to say goodbye.