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RED ROAD ROMPS; Explicit sex scenes didn't worry Scots actor Tony Curran - until he watched his gritty new film with his mum.

Byline: By Paul English

IT'S arguably the most graphic sex scene ever seen in a Scottish film, but Tony Curran says filming it was a doddle - compared to watching it with his mum.

The 36-year-old Glasgow actor - best remembered as gay plumber Lenny in cult 90s drama This Life - winces at the memory of sitting by his mother in a cinema as a giant image of him "performing" in gritty new Scottish flick Red Road was played.

Mrs Curran was there to see her son's movie claim the prestigious Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

And - despite 2500 other souls watching him engage in the explicit sex act-former postman Tony admits it was her presence which was the most embarrassing.

He groaned: "It is quite an intense scene to watch - let alone be involved in. But try watching it with your mother.

"When it went to Cannes my mum was sitting behind me in the full cinema.

"The casting director even came up to me and said, 'I can't believe you watched all that with your mother sitting with you, with all the bad language and everything else.'"

"I replied, 'Who do you think I learned my dialogue with when I was in Glasgow?'"

Co-starring Kate Dickie - from BBC Scotland drama Tinseltown - Red Road tells the story of a CCTV operator who becomes obsessed with the unexpected return of a ghost from her past.

It's a bleak tale of loss, closure and forgiveness.

But it's the scene between Tony and Kate which will leave audiences shocked.

Tony said: "It was obviously quite a tense scene to do, but I totally trusted Andrea Arnold (the writer) and I'd worked with Kate before.

"We were at the Royal Scottish Academy in Glasgow at the same time and had worked together on a play about Red Clydesider John Maclean at the Edinburgh Festival.

"It helped that we knew each other and Kate was very professional about it - but the scene was still a really tough one to shoot. We had to get in and film it very quickly.

"It's very raunchy but it's also a very sad scene because the audience still doesn't know why it's happening at that point.

"It starts quite slow and then you find it pulls you in.

"Watching it now makes me think 'aargh!' But shooting it wasn't as embarrassing as watching it knowing mum was behind me.

"After watching it, she said, 'My God Tony, who wrote this, what was his name?'

"I said, 'It was actually a woman who wrote this, mum.'"

The charged scene leaves nothing to the imagination.

At one point it even appears to flout a UK cinema taboo by showing a brief image of an erect penis.

Tony is deliberately vague when discussing the delicate matter, smirking: "Well, I guess you saw what you thought you saw.

"It's like that scene in Fight Club where a big penis flashes up on the screen and no one even notices it.

"It was an erect penis, yes. But then again it's a piece of art, it's not pornographic.

"If the audience think it's an erect penis, then that's a good thing. If you thought it was an erect penis, then that's exactly what it was.

"It wasn't a banana... let's just say it's all down to the magic of cinema."

But don't imagine this film is only about one thing.

It's a tense, bleak trawl through the scarred urban wasteland of Balornock in Glasgow, where the titular Red Road flats are situated.

It's also a heartbreaking tale of one woman's quest to put her devastating past behind her. Winning the Jury Prize at Cannes is one thing, but Tony measures the impact of the film in a different way.

He said: "Mum had a tear in her eye at the end and we got a seven-minute standing ovation, which was quite something.

"Everybody just lost it. It was arguably the most poignant moment I've had in film or TV.

"Even I was touched by it when I saw it for the first time, and I knew what it was all about. It really is emotional.

"I met Tim Roth (English star of Reservoir Dogs and Rob Roy) in Cannes. He was one of the judges at the festival who voted for it.

"I'd worked with Tim a few years back and I asked if he enjoyed the film. He grabbed my hand and said, 'Yeah, I really loved it'.

"Then he grabbed it again and said, 'No mate, really, I loved it. Listen to me here - well done, mate, well done. Me and Sam were in tears man, we were in bits.'

"Then I realised that 'Sam' was Samuel L Jackson."

In a similar vein to the grim Glasgow portrayed in unforgiving films My Name Is Joe, Orphans and Ratcatcher, Red Road is as much about a feelgood factor as Dumbo is about the illegal ivory trade.

TONY admits that spending several weeks playing the "poor bast**d Clyde" (to say more about his character would spoil the film's ending) took its toll.

He says: "Some actors go home and think "fabulous, everything was fabulous".

"But I put myself through the wringer, I wonder how I could have made it better, or done it another way.

"I empathised with his situation, which is obviously pretty grim.

"But Red Road seems to have been well received and I'm so happy that's happening. I suppose I can sit back and let it all wash over me now. The hard work's done."

But doesn't Tony yearn for a less draining part which would bring him home from Los Angeles to Glasgow leaving him with enough energy to "see the gang" and catch his beloved Celtic?

He said: "Well, I guess the reason these films are so prevalent in Scotland is because the subject matter they're dealing with is so true.

"Films like Ratcatcher and My Name Is Joe are all about universal themes. I don't think there's been a successful, upbeat film about Glasgow for a long time.

"These films deal with intense human emotion about how grim life can be. Hopefully seeing that and understanding it might lead to some sort of progression to try to improve it or understand people's need for more compassion, understanding or forgiveness.

"People in Glasgow, or Scotland, want to write about the more important factors of life - society and culture - than crash-bang-wallop of a film that says we're all happy, if we're not."

Tony - who shares his Californian crash-pad with Greenock-born Sweet Sixteen star Martin Compston - is a successful jobbing actor in LA.

But he confesses a low-budget surprise hit like Red Road has the egde over his big-budget Hollywood releases Flight of the Phoenix and Underworld - in terms of personal satisfaction if not bank balance.

He said: "It's always nice to earn a few shekels. But it is more fulfilling to work on something like this."

He's also completed a support part in The Good Man, starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, playing a Scottish barman in post-war Germany.

And he's off to Boston next week to shoot in die-flick Shuttle, in which he plays an American bus driver who turns out to be something completely different.

There's also a part in Ecstasy - the follow up to Trainspotting - if it ever gets the go-ahead.

And despite the one-off special of This Life planned for Christmas, his character Lenny won't be making a comeback.

He admitted: "They never asked me. I think it will be great but could it ruin the mystery of what happens next.

"This Life took a place in a specific moment and it was interesting, fascinating, sad, happy and mirrored a lot of people's lives.

"That's why people liked it so much. People would watch it and nothing much would be happening, but that's what happens in real life.

"As John Lennon said, 'Life is something that happens when you're busy making plans.'

"I'm sure people will watch it but no one has called for old Lenny. Maybe he'd have gone straight by now, got married and had seven red-headed children. You never know."

As for Tony's love life, he is tight-lipped about Celeste, his Californian girlfriend.

He said: "She's not in the business, thank God. In this game, the main thing is to just keep working. You never know what's round the corner, whether it's good, bad or indifferent.

"So it's always great to come home and feel the calm descend."

Until you have to watch another sex scene with your mum, that is.

Red Road is out tomorrow.

'Tim Roth was one of the judges at Cannes and he voted for our film. He said Samuel L Jackson was in tears watching it'


HOME BOYS: Tony's flatmate in California is fellow Scots actor Martin Compston
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 26, 2006
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