FEATURE JOHN HANNAH
Following an emotional role in Four Weddings And A Funeral, Scottish actor John Hannah is back in Glasgow shooting a thriller. Meanwhile, there are high hopes for a new police drama starring Hannah as a pathologist. He speaks to Eddie Gibb.
ohn Hannah is sitting at a bar table in
a converted railway arch beneath
Glasgow’s Central Station, which is
standing in as a comedy club for a
forthcoming BBC thriller, Bait. He’s
skipped lunch to do the interview, sustained only by the balanced diet of a banana. a Styrofoam cup of coffee and a succession of Marlboro Lights.
Later, once shooting has restarted. Hannah will be required to sit at a similar table, this time surrounded by 100 extras, and smoke more cigarettes. From a distance, there is little difference between John Hannah and the characters he plays. The details picked up only by the camera are what matter.
During the lunch break, Hannah explains the character he plays in Bait is a manipulative young man who messes around with people’s lives. ‘He’s a bit of an arsehole, really,’ says Hannah. ‘Well, he’s a psychopath actually.’ This is not at all the kind of guy Hannah is known for playing — in fact, it’s something of a departure for an actor with that rare ability to reach out from the screen (he rarely works in the theatre) and make people like him. The number of people who make a point of telling
me what a nice guy he is, suggests the warmth
he radiates is not an act. Unlike his Glasgow drama school contemporary Robert Carlyle,‘ who has frequently been called on to play loners, Hannah is better known for playing one of the lads: speciﬁcally the one who gets the girl.
Which leads to an irony: the role that made him a household face, if not quite yet a household name, was in Four Weddings And A Funeral. Hannah played the straight-acting lover of the flamboyant Gareth (Simon Callow). While Hugh Grant’s fumbling advances to Andie MacDowell at the weddings generated laughs, it was Hannah’s recitation of English poet W. H. Auden, ‘another old bugger’, at Gareth’s funeral that moistened eyes. ‘There were a lot of extras there and I didn’t know how they were going to feel about somebody bemoaning the death of their loved
BThe List 15 Dec 1995-11 Jan 1996
one.’ he remembers. ‘lt was great looking at their response and seeing them moved by it. so I didn’t have to block out the guy at the back reading the paper. It felt very real.’
Meeting John Hannah, it’s immediately apparent that what you see on screen is almost exactly what you get in the flesh, though unusually he’s actually taller than he appears
on telly. What translates exactly from the screen is that disarming grin, which starts without warning and concertinas his whole face into a series of horizontal creases.
Every Hannah character looks more or less the same, and if he has a talent for accents, it is rarely called on. Hannah’s range appears to come from within, but if there is a common