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HULK RORY LEAVES NO STONE UNTURNED; SCOTT'S PORAGE OATS STAR RORY McCANN SPILLS THE BEANS ON HOW HE WON A PART IN OLIVER STONE'S MOVIE ALEXANDER BY TELLING THE GREAT MAN TO TAKE A HIKE.

Byline: PAUL ENGLISH

HOW does an out of work Scottish actor get himself off the road to nowhere and into a Hollywood blockbuster?

By telling one of the biggest directors in the business to f*** off. Well, it worked for Rory McCann. The 35-year-old giant of the Scott's Porage Oats adverts relaxes into his armchair at Glasgow's One Devonshire Gardens, contemplating his latest lucky career break.

'I hadn't worked for 22 weeks,' says the ex-Book Group star. 'I was totally broke.

'I knew they were doing auditions for Oliver Stone's Alexander at The Grosvenor hotel in Glasgow, but I heard they wanted us to have prepared a Shakespeare piece for it. I'd never done any Shakespeare and felt I really couldn't push that one.'

But a chance encounter with a veteran Scottish actor gave him the boot up the behind that took him from Glasgow's Hillhead to the Hollywood hills.

'I was at the Western Baths off Byres Road when I met Dave Anderson, who asked mewhat I was up to work-wise.

'I told him there was nothing much, apart from this audition up at the Grosvenor, that I wasn't going to.

'He nearly kicked meup the arse, and said: 'Don't you dare. Get over there and sing a song, whatever, just do something.' 'He told me that I'd always wonder what happened if I didn't go. So I turned up with nothing. I was like 'Hello, here I am,do you want me to sing?' In the end, Stone's casting associate prompted the jolly screen giant to tell how he went from being a lumberjack via painting the Forth Rail Bridge to auditioning for an Oliver Stone movie.

So the Glasgow Hulk told his tales about cutting down trees, punting porridge and winding up in a wheelchair for a part in Channel 4's The Book Group.

And it paid off.

'A few days later I got a call and was told to get down to London right away,' he says.There he met Stone, the big-hitting director whose CV boasts Natural Born Killers, Platoon, JFK and Born On The Fourth of July.

But rather than feeling intimidated, Rory, without a jot of acting training to his name, refused to kow-tow to Stone's formidable status.

He says: 'When I was introduced to him I had my lucky t-shirt on, a freebie from Panavision Scotland, which he immediately took the piss out of. I told him to f*** of.

'And from then on I think we just treated each other as men, really, and not as director and actor.

'The second thing he asked me was 'Can you fight?' 'I was like: 'Why's that your question? Why would you ask me that?' But the reasons were soon to become clear. By the time Rory had teamed up with co--stars Val Kilmer and leading man Colin Farrell at a pre-filming boot camp, he'd been pushed to his physical and mental limits in preparation for the gruelling role.

The rigid training schedule was meted out by battle-scarred ex-servicemen, who cared not a jot about fame, wealth and pandering to egos.

Rory says: 'When I met Captain Dale Dye (the former US Military Commander, now eminent film advisor) I went up to him and said: 'Hi, I'm Rory McCann and I'm playing General Crateros.

'He said to me: 'I know who you are, son, you Communist maggot t*rd. Now get down and give me 50.' 'I was like 'Nice to meet you...'Three weeks of physical graft in the merciless heat of the African desert toughened the actors up and bonded them together.

Rory says:'There was no electricity, no phones, no alcohol, no sweets. But it brought us closer together.

'We'd be crawling over sand dunes to secretly meet some guy on a donkey, giving him half a bank note, and asking him to bring back some chewing gum, cigarettes and Coke, and he'd get the other half when he came back.We were all hitting walls.

'We lived in tents, had no showers, and for lunch we'd be given half a peach, some olives and stuff.

'There'd be maggots in the food but you'd just eat them anyway.There was no breakfast.We were only allowed a two-minute shower every second day.

'We were worn to the bone. But we were soldiers by the end of it and ready to shoot the film. It created a brotherhood.

'I don't think anyone involved will ever be the same again.'

Rory recalls how bad-boy buddy Colin Farrell broke down in the middle of boot camp when news reached him that he'd become a dad for the first time.

He says: 'Someone faxed a photo of his boy to him. I have a picture of him sitting there wearing a head torch, with him looking at this picture of his baby, crying his eyes out, covered from head to toe in all sorts of sh*t.

'Someone managed to sneak in some beer for a quiet celebration that night. It was like prison. But I have to say I loved every last minute of it.'

Rory plays one of Alexander the Great's generals. Initially, he feared his part might end up on Stone's cutting room floor.

But when veteran Brian Blessed fell ill during filming it forced a rethink, resulting in Crateros taking on the mutiny speech - a key scene.

'Until Blessed went down, I think I had about six lines,' says Rory. 'I was thinking about how much I'd end up being involved in things.

Stone's cutting techniques are legendary, you'll end up as an elbow in one shot, that's the worry. But I ended up featuring quite heavily.' The epic battle scenes took meticulous planning but are visually stunning on the big screen.

'There were members of the Moroccan army and various other extras and ex-forces men involved in filming those scenes,' says Rory.

'Even some of them found it hard.' The film was shot in Thailand, Morocco and in London studios.

'Forget stunt routines,' he says. 'You were fighting for your bloody life.' But it wasn't all hard graft. Rory, the former frontman of a defunct band called Thundersoup, wowed his co-stars with his musical talents.

'I played piano every other night in Bangkok or Marrakesh,' he says.

'Nearly everyone was a musician of some sort, apart from Colin who can't sing to save himself.We were jamming all the time. Farrell was right in the middle of it all - but he's bloody useless at music.'

THE film's LA premier left Rory a little disappointed. He expected to party all through the night in the city of angels with co-stars Angelina Jolie, Kilmer, Farrell and Anthony Hopkins, yet he wound up back in his hotel room raiding the mini-bar. He says: 'It wasn't wild. I thought they'd have been partying all night but we were thrown off the piano at the Chateau Marmont Hotel and everyone was ready for bed by2am. I didn't like Los Angeles. Don't know if it's my scene. But I'd go again for work, of course.'

Which is a distinct possibility given the fact that his global profile has now been given a serious shot in the arm.

Indeed, some have suggested that the jolly screen giant has already earned his first million working on Alexander.

But Rory laughs that off.

'Some a***hole made that up,' he says. 'My mother actually sent me a paper cutting when I'd just left the boot camp.

'But the truth is I'd never been so broke. 'I used to actually do OK when I worked as a lumberjack, I always had cash in my pocket. But now I hardly have any.

'When I work, I live like a lord and spend all my cash on everyone and enjoy it with them.When I don't work I tighten the belt and walk everywhere.'

He still lives in Glasgow with his girlfriend but hasn't bought a place yet.

The money's not quite steady enough, and he's still driving around in a 30--year-old Scimitar, although you can't quite see him driving something modern and sensible.

'You can leave the Scimitar for three months in the rain and it just doesn't rust,' he says.

Rory's just finished filming Beowulf & Grendell with Gerry Butler and Tony Curran in Iceland, but there's nothing concrete around the corner.

'At the moment, I have no idea what my next job is, or when my next pay cheque will be,' he says.

Rory's cashed Giros like anyone else who's out of work - even after the Porage Oats ads - but he hopes it doesn't get back to that.

If things get desperate again, he'd reluctantly - very reluctantly - consider getting that chainsaw out again.

'It would kill me,' he says. 'I've been totally winging the acting - and I was a cowboy at the tree-felling thing too.

'I destroyed everything in that job - greenhouses, garages, a BMW...

'I even once did a job on a house called The Beeches.'

The implication's clear that there weren't as many beech trees left on that job, after Rory had hacked his way through the grounds, as the owners might have liked there to be.

Still, there's always the dole queue if things get really grim.

'Aye, that's right,' he says with a huge smile.

'Imagine that - I'll be the only millionaire signing on at Maryhill Job Centre.'

# Alexander is released on January 7
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:1568
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