Hart and Soul
Since playing John in last year’s Beatles movie Backbeat, Ian Hart hasn’t stopped working. Alan Morrison talks to the actor about the series of unconventional roles he’s chosen.
0 appear as John Lennon once could
be considered fortunate; to do so
twice looks like typecasting. Ian Hart
probably knew the risks when he
played the late Beatle in lain Softley’s
Backbeat and Christopher Munch’s The Hours And The Times in quick succession. There was always the danger of a career mired in Liverpool supermarkets as a Stars In Your lives clone. ‘1 don’t look anything like him.’ Hart said at the time of Backbear. ‘What I hope to do is create a three-dimensional character, not to do a John Lennon impersonation, which is someone else’s job.’
Fighting in the Spanish Civil War in Ken loach's Land and Freedom
14 The List 16-29 Jun I995
Right enough. the 30-year-old actor isn’t likely to be stopped in the street by people thinking John had risen again (well he did say The Beatles were bigger than Jesus . . .) In fact. lan Hart isn’t likely to be stopped in the street at all. When we met at the Cannes Film Festival — he had joined the Cote d’Azur circus to promote Ken Loach’s Spanish Civil War movie Land and Freer/om — Hart was the archetypal ordinary guy in plaid shirt and baseball cap. But on screen he commands attention; it’s as if his film presence is something that can be left back on the set along with costumes and cameras, allowing him to revert to the quiet. easy-going lad who has
spent most of his life in his hometown of Liverpool.
After what he describes as a very Catholic upbringing. l-lart left grammar school aged sixteen. He wasn‘t part of Liverpool’s pervasive football crowd and drifted into a youth theatre group attached to the city‘s Everyman Theatre. While still at college doing his ‘A’ levels, Hart went along to an open audition for the Yorkshire TV series ()ne Summer. landed the part. then earned his Equity card when he appeared in a Liverpool Playhouse production of Janet And John. His early career was made up mostly of local stage productions and small television parts in the likes of Medics and Alan Bleasdale’s The Monoclerl Muir/leer. Maybe a year would go by when he only had three days paid acting work, but he stuck at it. taking variousjobs on a farm. in a post office. in a factory putting the rings into ring binders.
Then came the Lennon roles and Hart’s fortunes changed dramatically. Aside from Land
‘I feel a need to express myself in some way, and so the shortest point is between the brain and the mouth. Sometimes you say things without thinking, and that can be a problem.’
And freedom. Man will be seen in the coming months in Vadim Jean‘s Clockwork Mice and Chris Monger’s The ling/is/rmun Who Went Up A Hill/ind Came Down A Mountain. In the next year a string of already completed Hart movies will be released. with shooting due to start on Neil Jordan’s biopic of the Irish revolutionary Michael Collins.
If Buck/2m! was the film that brought Hart to the public’s attention. [11ml Am! Freedom is the one that will establish him as the young British actor to watch. Loach cast him perfectly as an idealistic. unemployed Liverpudlian in the 1930s who leaves home to light with the militia against Franco‘s fascists in the Spanish Civil War. If the director‘s arguments about land collectivism are occasionally heavy going, it’s Hart who pulls the audience into the political debate. Loach‘s technique of filming scenes in chronological order obviously had a positive effect. as Hart takes his character on a long and difficult journey. allowing us to see him strengthen and grow in the process.
‘I fail to see it as a film.‘ admits the actor. ‘I fail to have the distance from it sufficiently to view it as a story. It‘s a lot more like a documentary of what happened to us while we were away in Spain. because it‘s not as if I’m somebody different in the film. In Backbeat. I’ve got a wig on. and I‘ve got brown contact lenses on my eyes. and my ears stuck back with glue. and fake sideburns. and I‘m doing a different voice. a