From Alien to Big Night, IAN HOLM has proved himself as one of Britain's most versatile and respected actors, and in The Sweet Hereafter he excels once more. So why was he 65 before he was offered his first starring role in
a movie? Words: Alan Morrison
THE GREY BEARD adds softness to his face. This new-look lan Holm could be a cuddly grandfather figure or even Santa Claus. although the whiskers are in place for that most fatherly of Shakespeare roles, King Lear, which he‘s performing to rave reviews in London.
Fathers are very much Holm’s forte at the moment. on stage - King Lear famously has three daughters — and in three new films. In Night Falls On Manhattan the actor plays a New York cop who is dad to Andy Garcia. In the forthcoming Trainspotting follow-up A Life Less Ordinary, Holm sends detectives after daughter Cameron Diaz and the rascally Ewan McGregor. And in The Sweet Hereafter he gives the performance of a
lifetime as a lawyer representing a grieving community in its case against the company whose bus crashed and killed their children. The process causes his character to reassess his own failings as a parent.
‘lt’s notjust fathers,’ says the London—born actor whose own father hails from Edinburgh
'After Chariots Of Fire, I didn't work for nearly a year. But here I am at 65, and I've only just played my first leading role in a film.’ lan Holm
and mother from Glasgow. ‘lt‘s so often daughters too and. of course. I have three daughters of my own. People ask me. “How can you get your head round the extraordinary
relationship with your children that you have in that play or in those films?". Well. it’s not difficult. It’s only a play. only a movie. If l thought of it as real life. I might have a problem. but I never take the parts home with me. l find it very easy to switch characters on and off.’
Holm is clearly happier discussing a character‘s place within the movie than his own methods behind the work. He’s not hiding anything. he‘s just unassuming and even rather shy. In fact. this is the key to Holm‘s screen appeal: he has the ability to draw an audience directly into the story’s mood through shared sympathy. Many of his roles — Dance With A Stranger and Woody
Reaching across the miles
Director of The Sweet Hereafter ATOM EGOYAN speaks about the emotional resonances of the Dunblane tragedy.
Words: Alan Morrison
THOUSANDS OF MILES lie between Dunblane and the remotest corners of Canada, but The Sweet Hereafter will find more emotional resonance in Scotland than in any other country in the world.
Central to the film is the traumatic loss of a group of children in a school bus accident. Although the events and setting are very different from the Dunblane shooting, the parents’ and survivors’ complex mix of anger, pain and guilt is something that will be understood only too well in Scotland.
'It happened just before we started filming,‘ says director Atom Egoyan of
22 TIIEUST 26 Sep—9 Oct 1997
the Dunblane tragedy that left sixteen children dead. 'What affected me about that situation was the way this town was completely inundated with the outside world trying to depict the grief of the people - and the absolute obscenity of that. Any sense of mourning was completely shattered by this intrusion, and yet people have a need to understand that situation. When a town loses its children, it loses its future — that is the most devastating thing to imagine.‘
In the immediate aftermath of the Dunblane events, the media painted the town in a saintly light, eulogising a community united in grief. The Sweet
Hereafter presents a potentially more believable picture, where individual responses to grief are as likely to push neighbours apart as bring them together.
'People grasp at any explanation when they are in a situation where they have to believe there is a cause for something,’ reckons Egoyan, best known for The Adjuster and Exotica. ’There was a time when communities had a shared value system that people could refer to; but in a secular society, peOple are not equipped to deal with this degree of trauma, and they will have very desperate and differing needs and ways of expressing that. That cannot help but cataclysmically affect the unity of that community.’
They say time heals all wounds, but the type of tragedy Egoyan depicts remains painful for years. It is to his credit that his approach has more sincerity and depth of feeling than the most sensitive newspaper report could dream of.
\‘ ' \§ \ :‘2 i
Atom Egoyan: 'When a town loses its
children, it loses its future'