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Crowning; After ruling Parliament in The Thick Of It, Peter Capaldi is set to reign supreme in violent TV drama about King Charles I.

Byline: By Graham Keal

POWER seems to have gone to Peter Capaldi's head. After playing a political playmaker in The Thick Of It, he has gone a step further - and has become a king.

The Oscar-winner's latest TV project sees him as an anointed source of power in the guise of Charles I.

And, even though Charles loses his power with his head in Channel 4 four-parter The Devil's Whore, the status has affected the Scot.

He said: "I've never played a king before, so I was delighted to do it.

"You don't have to do anything. All you've got to do is say, 'Cut off his head,' or 'Get rid of him,' yet everybody treats you differently.

"When they come and get you in the morning, they treat you differently...when they bring you a cup of tea, they treat you differently.

"Even before you put your costume and make-up on, they say, 'Here comes the king,' and everybody clears a space for you."

And the royal regalia, - shoulder-length hair and Guy Fawkes-style beard - only add to his presence.

Once made up, the actor, 50, is the spit of the king, who was 48 when he was executed.

John Simm, Dominic West, Tom Goodman-Hill and Michael Fassbender play Oliver Cromwell and his fellow revolutionaries in this full-blooded English Civil War mix of fact and fiction.

Rising star Andrea Rise borough plays fictional Angelica Fanshawe, whose romps link the leading lights.

Glaswegian Capaldi believes the tale has something for fellow Scots.

He said: "I'd always thought of Charles I as the most English king ever, until I delved into it.

"He was born in Scotland - the son of James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England."

And, though the actor chose not to play this grandson of Mary Queen of Scots with a Scottish accent, he believes the affinity is clear.

He said: "Certain aspects of his character seemed to me to be profoundly Scottish.

"He can take it very hard when slighted ... he gets upset with people who give him a hard time."

Charles, of course, had good reason to get upset.

When the defiant Parliament questioned his divine right to absolute power, it led to him losing his head - a scene Capaldi finds hard to forget.

He said: "That was a spectacle, a big scene. I'd never had my head on a chopping block before. It starts to choke you, the weight of your head pressing against your throat, even before the axe comes down.

"You're trying to recreate a moment in history which is heavy with portent and you've got 300 extras and an executioner and you have a block and you have silence ...

"It all went very quiet. It was a strange day."

Equally strange was the location of the shoot.

The producers found the most realistic - and cheapest - place to stand in for 17th century England was South Africa.

Outdoor scenes were filmed just outside Cape Town, in Oak Valley, where an early English settler had planted acres of oak trees.

LUCKILY, being ruler of all he sees is nothing new to Capaldi.

He first found international fame in 1983 playing an innocent oil firm employee in Bill Forsyth's gentle comedy Local Hero.

Then he won a prized Best Short Film Oscar in 1995 for making Franz Kafka's It's A Wondederful Life.

Now he has found success with his portrayal of the furiously vitriolic Malcolm Tucker in political satire The Thick Of It, created by fellow Scots-Italian Armando Iannucci.

Tucker is widely seen as a thinly veiled fictionalisation of New Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

And Capaldi agrees the role has spun his life around. He said: "It was so unusual. There was such an energy to him and it wasn't the kind of thing I'd been doing. Armando saw something in me, I don't know what."

While the public loved his temple throbbing, spittle-spraying rants, reaction from Campbell was absent - until one uncomfortable meeting.

Capaldi said: "I avoid Alastair as I don't want to be charmed. My great fear is I'll be sucked in to his circle.

"Then Channel 4 cheekily invited us to an awards ceremony and his name was on the place next to mine.

"I thought, 'Oh f***,' but I was by him all night - and it was a great help.

"It was great to see how funny he was. He wasn't witty, he was only funny because of the brutality of his responses to people.

"He said to me, 'Politics is boring now as it's not filled with people like me, it's people like George Osborne.' "And, in a way, he was right. When he was around, there was a hell of a T-Rex in the middle of it all.

"Today's guys are more like Halifax managers and Photostat salesmen."

Tucker will next be seen spitting venom in the USA on In The Loop, the big-screen sequel to the series.

Capaldi said: "This is Armando's response to the Iraq War.

"We've got James Gandolfini from The Sopranos playing a Colin Powell type character."

They also have English actor Tom Hollander as an MP who steps off the Government line and is bawled out by Malcolm in full four-letter style - in the most sensitive location.

Capaldi said: "I had to stand outside the White House, shouting obscenities. Then, two weeks ago, we were shooting in Downing Street."

Not bad for an actor from a Glasgow tenement, where the nearest he got to showbiz was a street poster for 1965 movie Doctor Who And the Daleks.

Peter said: "I came downstairs one day and there was this huge bill poster next to my house, with life-sized Daleks on it. I played around it all the time."

So the life-long Doctor Who fan was thrilled to guest in this year's episode The Fires Of Pompeii.

And he's branching out into a New-Year, week-long special of Who spin-off Torchwood, as secretive civil servant Frobisher.

He's also directing a new BBC4 comedy with Jo Brand called Getting On, set in a geriatric ward.

Home is now in north London, with wife Elaine and daughter Cissy, 14.

Despite the distance, they make trips back to Glasgow to see his mum and sister as often as they can manage.

He said: "My daughter's the only teenager I know who will sit with her granny in Scotland, because there's something warm and welcoming there.

"But the Glasgow that exists in my mind is the city where I lived in my 20s, and that's gone.

"I still think I can go to the Rock Garden and bump into guys called Kenny who've managed bands and met Deacon Blue - but they're not there any more."

The Kennys may not have made it, but Capaldi has.

The only blot is a huge spot on his cheek. He laughed: "It's so enormous no Elastoplast will stick."

Some things are beyond even a king's power.

The Devil's Whore starts on Ch4 on November 19.

'Certain aspects of his character are profoundly Scottish - be can take it hard when slighted and given a hard time'


IMPACT: As Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It, above left, and in Local Hero in 1983, above right; DREAM ROLE: In Doctor Who, left, and as Charles, main; PICTURE: CHANNEL 4
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 4, 2008
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