Patient this year). It’s a lot to pin on sttch an intimate. character-driven movie. bttt it‘s not unreasonable.
In Mrs Brown. Connolly creates a character rather than playing himself in period costume. as he did in TV drama Deacon BIYMHF. ln person and on screen. however. he has the same irreverence for attthority that Brown used to shake up the Royal Court — it resides in his lively, mischievous eyes.
Surrounded by perfectly measured performances by ‘real' actors. his freer approach mirrors the fact that Brown was a loose—cannon outsider in a stiflineg ordered world. He tells me he based the character not so mttch on historical research as the ghillies from Balmoral he met when taking part in former racing driver Jackie Stewart‘s clay pigeon shoots at Gleneagles.
That previoust mentioned mischievous nature comes to the fore when (‘onnolly speculates on whether or not John Brown managed to take his relationship with Queen Victoria beyond the platonic. ‘l was brottght up thinking that he did.‘ he says. ‘lt was regarded as a home run: one of the lads got over the wall and nailed the Queen. Usually you get a song in your honour in Scotland when you do something like that. to he chanted at international matches.‘
Connolly‘s rewards for his performance won‘t be sttng on the terraces. bttt they might
come in the shape of an Oscar statuette. ‘()f course l‘d he delighted. httt it‘s got kind of
embarrassing. I‘m sure Rangers went ittto the European Cup last week sure they would do
A Highland lad my love was born: Connolly and Dench in Mrs Brown
quite well . . . and I‘ve got exactly the same feeling. I feel that if I don‘t get anything, I’ll look like a failure. And I don’t usually win prizes. I don‘t come into categories that you get a prize for. I’m so pleased it even crossed their minds — Oscar and Billy in the same sentence.‘
Those detractors who slag him off for living abroad don‘t realise 54-year-old Connolly relishes the flourishing of the Scottish film industry. ‘The writing is in place, and that‘s where the nub of it lies.’ he says. ‘I
‘Scottish film was always a very middle-class affair. "Here we are in the Hebrides, moving a cow from one island to another." 0h fucking
hurrah.’ Billy Connolly
think it was started up here by Peter MacDougall — that thing of writing about your own background. something you really know ahottt. Scottish film was always a very middle-class affair. “Here we are in the Hebrides. moving a cow from one island to another.” ()h fucking hurrah. You’d lose your will to live watching this stuff.
‘One of my heroes is James Kelman and I‘d love to see all of his stttff done on film. If Scotland‘s writing continues in the way it’s going. with lrvine Welsh and Kelman and everybody. things are looking pretty damn good I would say.‘
liven when the interview is over and (‘onnolly is being snapped by an army of photographers. the light-hearted mood con- tinues. He spots one guy he knew of old and
swaps stories of bygone drinking in The Jinglin’ Geordie. He’s delighted to pose for a woman whom he discovers studies photogra- phy alongside his daughter in Glasgow.
All the work out of the way, we share a lift
“down to street level. Are the Scottish press
politer these days? ‘Nah, just more scared.’ You seemed to be enjoying yourself? ‘If you don’t let the slime in, it doesn’t get slimy.’ But the tabloid press he is referring to — principally his arch enemy The Sunday Mail — is waiting for him on the pavement outside. The hatred goes back years to when reporters pumped his kids in the street for information during his divorce. And now here is someone shouting in his face: ‘Why do you hate The Sunday Mail? Why do you boast that you hit photographers. What’s your problem?‘ It’s a clear case of baiting: the ‘Punch and Judi’ headline is no doubt already written and a piece of copy has to be created regardless of the facts. Connolly’s swear-count goes into hyperdrive. he squares up, but a security guard steps in. The journalist runs off smugly, mobile phone at his ear, ready to file a story that next day is full of exaggerations and lies compared to what I witnessed first hand. Connolly turns to me before getting into his car, gives a smile and a wink. He knows he‘s just played the game. He knows the ‘angry man‘ myth will continue. But for once he also knows that. if he’s got anything to prove, it‘s all there in his work on screen.
Mrs Brown goes on general release on Fri 5 Sep.
22—28 Aug 1997 ms usr 19