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Ready to go the extra mile.

Scottish actor Dougray Scott stars in Ripley's Game, in cinemas from today

He's renowned for his brooding dark good looks and athletic physique - honed to perfection when he played the villain in Mission Impossible 2 - but you could never accuse Scottish actor Dougray Scott of being vain.

The talented star will be virtually unrecognisable in his upcoming movie The Poet, for which he piled on the pounds to play notorious Welsh alcoholic wordsmith Dylan Thomas.

What's more the normally slimline actor can't wait to get stuck into his boozy role.

"If you want a lookalike you'll go and find someone who looks exactly like him," says Scott of the hard-drinking poet who died at just 43, "but I'm more than happy to put on weight and have my hair colour changed. It'll be a lot of fun," he adds gleefully.

It's not the first time the Fife-born actor has thrown himself whole-heartedly into a role. In fact he's one of the most scrupulous actors around when it comes to researching the characters he plays.

He deliberately went without sleep for his role as an obsessive code-buster in the wartime drama Enigma, spent seven months training with the Navy seals for Mission Impossible 2 and became an expert on British history for his recent film, To Kill A King.

But his latest outing as a man dying of leukaemia in the new film Ripley's Game provided his toughest research so far.

The committed star had to drastically shed weight for the role and also chose to spend time with real leukaemia patients - some of them terminally ill. But Scott insists he'll always go that extra mile for his characters.

"I tend to go for things by instinct and usually it's something that's far away from yourself that gives you the curiosity to find out who they are and discover them," he explains. "It's like going on a journey - without sounding too arty, it's going on a journey of discovery. You start from nothing."

Scott admits the journey of his latest character, terminally ill Jonathan Trevanny, is his most fascinating so far.

"I hadn't played a character like him before," he explains. "He's very innocent at the beginning and I was intrigued by how he changes throughout the course of the film."

In the movie, which follows on from the Oscar winning The Talented Mr Ripley, John Malkovich reprises the role of Tom Ripley (played by Matt Damon in the original film) who persuades Scott's character to commit a murder to ensure financial security for the wife he will leave behind when he dies.

Scott happily admits another major draw to the role was the chance to work with Malkovich.

"I find it hard to think of any other actor who could play Ripley quite so successfully as John," he enthuses. "He has this quiet intensity that you think could explode at any minute. He's incredibly gentle on the one hand, but he's like a coiled spring or a cobra...he can change. He's an extremely intelligent actor, one of the best. It absolutely works."

With two major films out at the same time, To Kill A King and Ripley's Game, Scott is riding the crest of a career wave. He's busier than ever and Ripley's Game looks set to make him a big star in Hollywood.

But it hasn't all been plain sailing for the 37-year-old.

He recently suffered one of the most `terrifying moments' of his career when he made his debut as a movie producer on To Kill A King.

Three weeks into shooting the plug was pulled on finance and filming ground to a halt.

"It wasn't easy. It's no good pretending it was," says Scott still looking pained at the memory. "I contacted everyone I'd ever worked with and asked if they wanted to put money into the film. Happily a company came in and helped put the rest of the financial package together."

It wasn't the first time the versatile star has faced major disappointment in his career. He was first choice to play Wolverine in the X-Men movie franchise but got stuck in Australia finishing the over-scheduled MI2. The part eventually went to Hugh Jackman who has just starred in the second of the highly successful comic-strip outings.

Despite his obvious disappointment at missing out on the role which has made a superstar out of Jackman, Scott remains philosophical.

"I would've liked it. I'd been training for it," he shrugs. "But I'm fine. You have to move on."

In fact Scott is probably grateful for the fact that, unlike Jackman, he's still, for the most part, able to walk down the street unrecognised.

Fiercely protective of his private life, he became embroiled in rumours about the state of his marriage to casting director Sarah Trevis, two years ago, during the Enigma shoot. He was falsely linked to his co-star Kate Winslet, after she split from husband Jim Threapleton, and is determined not to be caught up in such media intrusion again.

"You can't control what people want to speculate on, but I have a private life and it's very important for me to keep that separate," he says. "My children never asked to be in the public eye and I want them to have as normal an upbringing as possible."

Scott, who lives in London with Sarah and their five-year-old twins, Eden and Gabriel, says he has no intention of uprooting his family to Hollywood and despite his blossoming movie career yearns to tread the boards again. But as for further producing roles, Scott says he's happy to be back in front of the camera for the time being.

SCRUPULOUS Dougray Scott throws himself into roles and always researches characters

DISCOVERY Dougray Scott with Ray Winstone in Ripley's Game, in which he plays a terminally-ill leukaemia sufferer

ATTRACTION Dougray Scott says working with John Malkovich was a major draw to starring in Ripley's Game
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 30, 2003
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