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ARE SCOTS THE BEST BADDIES?: travel centre; travel centre It's the aggressive, tough-guy stereotype we've tried to live down for years, but when Hollywood is casting another evil killer, ruthless villain or anti-hero, Scots stars seem to fit the bill perfectly The accent seems to lend itself to villains.

Byline: BRIAN McIVER

THEY'RE the most evil and despised characters ever to be booed and hissed across the silver screen.

From Adolf Hitler to Hannibal Lecter, Dracula and the evil Emperor from Star Wars, many of the best big-screen bad guys of all time have one thing in common they were made in Scotland.

This weekend, Robert Carlyle will be in terrifying form when he stars as Hitler in the second part of TV's The Rise Of Evil on Channel 4. Apart from Carlyle, who made his career as Edinburgh psycho Begbie in Trainspotting and then Bond villain Renard, current stars such as Dougray Scott, Gerard Butler, Iain Glen and Ray Park have all shot to stardom as baddies. Veterans such as Brian Cox, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Connolly and even Sir Sean Connery have all been keenly hunted to take on Hollywood's heroes.

But why are Scots such popular bad guys?

Scots film experts believe possible explanations for the trend could include the theatre training of most of our actors, the tough, Braveheart style stereotype held by most Americans, or even just the scary Scots accent.

Nicola Pierson, deputy artistic director of the Edinburgh Film Festival, said: ``Apart from the fact that they are all good actors, one reason could be that the Scots actors all have a very good background in theatre. ``To be a good screen villain, you certainly need good presence and stage training gives you that.

``But a lot of it may be due to the accent casting directors must feel the Scottish accent lends itself well for those kinds of bad guy or hardman roles, and are maybe scared of it.

``If you look at EastEnders, the bad guys are always Scottish, so they must think we're all hard or scary somehow.''

Over the last few years, the success of on-screen tough guys like Carlyle, Cox and Butler have helped inspire big movie directors or casting agents to look north of the Border for the next scary villain.

Whether it's movies such as Mission: Impossible 2, Dracula 2001, The Ring or X-Men 2, some of the biggest hits of recent years have all featured a villainous Scot in a lead role.

While Carlyle's Hitler is already being acclaimed as one of his best works yet, he is the third Scot to play the Nazi leader on the big screen.

Ian Bannen, whose vile part as Robert the Bruce's father in Braveheart must be one of the best villains of all time, was the dictator in 1974's The Gathering Storm, while Aberdonian Michael Sheard (Grange Hill's Mr Bronson) played him in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But Carlyle can certainly lay claim to be the best on-screen Scots psycho of modern years.

After making his debut as a serial killer in Cracker, he shot to fame in 1996 as violent nutter Francis Begbie in Trainspotting.

And despite several comedy roles and touching dramatic parts, the Scot is still best-known as the Pringle jumper-wearing crook from Edinburgh.

HIS hard-man image was confirmed three years later when he gave Pierce Brosnan a doing as skinhead terrorist Renard in The World Is Not Enough one of the scariest and most convincing Bond villains of recent years.

But for sheer range of villainy, Brian Cox has got to be one of the most diverse talents on screen.

The popular actor is constantly in demand in Hollywood as a character actor and does good turns in comedies or dramas, but it is as a bad guy that the Dundee-born star has had his highest-profile parts.

Long before Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for the role, Cox terrified millions as the original Dr Hannibal ``The Cannibal'' Lecter in Manhunter.

He has played various shady parts in films such as Rob Roy over the years, but two of his biggest roles came earlier this year as the father with a guilty secret in The Ring and then as mutant hunter General Stryker in this year's sci-fi hit X Men 2. But when it comes to blockbuster bad guys, the highest profile Scots have to be Ian McDiarmid and Ray Park, who between them have spent 20 years bringing the most evil fictional characters to life.

As Star Wars' The Emperor, Dundonian stage actor McDiarmid has been controlling the Galaxy and the dark side of The Force since he first appeared in Return Of The Jedi in 1983.

He has reprised his role as the evil Palpatine in the prequels Episode I and II of the film series, and in The Phantom Menace was joined by Glasgow-born martial arts expert Ray Park as his red and black faced apprentice Darth Maul.

In terms of sci-fi and horror, Glaswegian actor Gerard Butler is another bad guy in demand making his name as Dracula in modern horror Dracula 2001 and in the lead role of mini-series Attila The Hun. He recently beat off considerable competition to win the lead in the new film version of Phantom Of The Opera, where he will star alongside Alan Cumming, whose first big Hollywood role was as Bond villain Boris Grishenko in Golden Eye.

Meanwhile, Dougray Scott set Hollywood alight with his stunning portrayal of bad guy Sean Ambrose in Mission Impossible 2 and used his own Fife accent to terrorise Tom Cruise as a rogue secret agent. Other big-screen bad guys of recent years have included Sean Connery in The Avengers, Kevin McKidd in new kung-fu movie The Purifiers, Billy Connolly as a hit-man in The Boondock Saints, and Iain Glen trying to kill Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

Scots movie expert and author Brian Pendreigh said one of the reasons Scots actors were doing well with the darker roles was the American-held stereotype.

He said: ``There seems to be the American image of Scotland which comes in two forms either the strapping Highland warrior from movies like Highlander, or the Glasgow hard man.

``And when you put both of those images together, you get quite a formidable character, so it's not surprising they want to put them in films.

``I think one of the main reasons you get so many bad guy roles is that, apart from anything else, there has been such a huge upsurge in interest in Scottish actors since Trainspotting, which means they are being considered for all these parts.

``But it's also Scotland's turn. Hollywood tends to work in phases with these kinds of things there was a period when it was Eastern European villains, and then Islamic and even English.

``Now Scotland is getting its share and the characters are Scottish as well as the actors sometimes. Just look at Mike Myers in the Austin Powers movies.''

CAPTION(S):

EVIL EMPEROR: McDiarmid in Star Wars and Glen as the villain trying to kill computer game heroine Lara Croft; IAN McDIARMID; IAIN GLEN; BRIAN COX; GERARD BUTLER; SEAN CONNERY; BILLY CONNOLLY; FEARSOME FOURSOME Cox in X Men 2, Butler stars as Count Dracula, Sir Sean Connery in The Avengers and Billy Connolly as a ruthless hitman in The Boondock Saints; ROBERT CARLYLE; BOND VILLAIN: Evil roles like Renard and Adolf Hitler, right, seem to be perfect for Carlyle; NASTY: Carlyle as Begbie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 10, 2003
Words:1199
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