Today: February 24, 2024

Actor John Hannah

Since his big break playing Matthew in Four Weddings And A Funeral, John Hannah has been firmly on the Hollywood radar with roles in blockbusters like The Mummy as well as high-profile TV shows including Spartacus and A Touch Of Cloth.

Since
his big break playing Matthew in Four Weddings And A Funeral, John Hannah has
been firmly on the Hollywood radar with roles in blockbusters like The Mummy as
well as high-profile TV shows including Spartacus and A Touch Of Cloth.

This January, he returns to the big screen to play real-life Glasgow gangster Tam McGraw in The Wee Man. Written and directed by Ray Burdis, The Wee Man is based on the extraordinary life story of
Paul Ferris who rose to power as
part of Glasgow’s underworld in the early 1990s. Paula Hammond caught up with
East Kilbride’s most famous son to ask him about the appeal of playing the hard
man.

Were
you aware of the story of Paul Ferris before you took the role?

I wasn’t really. I was down South probably at
the RSC or the National with my head buried firmly up my backside! You know,
trying to get on as an actor and completely aware of nothing outside Tudor
England.

So
what attracted you to the role of Tam McGraw?

I haven’t really done much like that and … I
liked the idea of a Scottish gangster film … and it’s a period piece. If you
can think of the ‘90s as a period piece! But it was a good story, well told and
there were funky costumes and you get to beat some people up. It was a bit of
fun!

Which
scene were you most proud of and why?

I loved the scene at the end with Martin [Compston]. I thought that the
scene in the prison, when I got to visit him, was a brilliantly written. It’s a
nice long scene too. You don’t get many long scenes anymore. You’re lucky if
you get a scene which is like two pages long. In fact, funnily enough I have a
two-page scene today. But that was four or five pages. There was a beginning, a
middle and an end. It changed, it moved. Both people were different at the end
of it. It was a cracking scene.

Originally
it was hoped that you would film in Glasgow but you ended up re-locating to
Three Mills in East London. Were you disappointed that the Strathclyde Police
wouldn’t allow you to film in Glasgow and how well was London as a substitute?

It was kind of a strange one because the police,
you know, were sort of acting like ‘it’s my ball and you’re not playing’ which
I thought was odd. I don’t know why, although one can infer or draw
conclusions, but I don’t know why it happened. I think, in truth, it was
probably a blessing in disguise. Three Mills – prior to the Olympics – was a
bit undeveloped and probably a lot more like Glasgow in that time than Glasgow
at the moment.

Many
of your roles have been light and comedic. How does ‘playing serious’ compare
and which do you prefer?

I think I probably prefer the one that I’ve just
not done! When you do something really serious and hard-core you then kind of
go off and say ‘I’d like a nice bit of fluff now. I’d like some comedy fluff
and cucumber sandwiches.’ Then once you do a bit of that it’s ‘Give me
something to get my bloody teeth into!’ So I like it all. I like mixing it up.
The more diverse it is the better.

What’s
been the most fun for you recently, workwise?

Cloth. I have to say A Touch of Cloth. We just finished in the Summer, then we did two
more. One went out last August and Sky has already commissioned two more
90-minute films from Charlie [Booker]
and the team. The funny thing with that is that the first time we did it we
were all a little but unsure how far to push it: should we step over the line?
But by the time we did it the second time and the third time the gloves were
off, the writers were just really in their stride and it was just a joy to do.
It was a dream.

What
are you working on now?

I’m doing Elementary
in New York. I’m doing a little bit in that. And I’m coming back to London at
the end of the month and we’ll see what happens after.

If
you could play any role what would it be?

I never try and set myself those goals. I don’t
want to long to play Hamlet. I think
you could spend your life longing for it and either not get it or, if you get
it, then what do you do? What if it’s a disappointment? So I really try not to
have those kind of specific ambitions. I mean, I would like to do more comedy.
You said that I’d done some comedic bits but I always think I haven’t
specifically done comedy. I might have been in things like Cloth which are very
funny but it’s played really really straight. It’s more straight than anything
straight. So I’d like to do something that’s properly funny. But then, if I did
that I’d want to do something really nasty straight after!

The
Wee Man is released across Scotland by Carnaby International on 18th January.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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