Jack’s miles better
As the fate of cult twentysomething soap This Life hangs in the balance, its star JACK DAVENPORT is busy getting on with his own. For him at least, Miles is dead and buried. Meanwhile, Davenport stars in a show by top Glasgow photographer David Eustace (see over). Words: Lila Rawlings Photograph: David Eustace
ARROGANT PUBLIC SCHOOL wally or misunderstood sensitive type? For the millions of This Life fans who followed the cult BBC2 series through 32 episodes. this question could only be asked of one character. Miles, the one with the dodgy haircut. bad chat-up lines and consequent ‘woman trouble‘.
The last we saw of the sulky young lawyer. he was getting hitched to an older woman after swearing undying love to Anna (Scotland‘s Daniela Nardini). Since August. the nation has been left to ponder the flatmates’ respective fates. The BBC eoyly refuses to confirm whether a third series of This Life will go ahead. although Mark Ravenhill. writer of Edinburgh Festival hit .S‘lmpping Am] I’m-king. has already been commissioned to write it. So far. Davenport has not been approached to resurrect Miles.
The actor has been busy filming Tu/of' The Mummy in Luxembourg. He is reticent about the movie. due for cinema release next year. but says it is American and his role is "bigger than the zoo-keeper but smaller than
alongside Prime .S'uspeer star John McCardlc as a young doctor working nightshift for a medical agency. The BBC series 011! Of lluurs begins filming in Birmingham in January. to be broadcast late l‘)98. Whether it goes ballistic like This Life remains to be seen.
Watching This Life — with its brilliantly observed dialogtte and naturalistic acting style - seemed more like hanging out with your mates than watching a twentysomething soap. The fact that its characters were fictional hardly occurred to hardened This Lil’eers. Towards the end of the second series. lierdic (sorry. Ramon 'l’ikaraml reckoned he couldn’t get on the tube without being offered sex. and Miles (sorry. Jack Davenport) was getting pints poured over his head by outraged women.
‘They would come up to me when l was pissed in a pub and scream “Miles. you‘re a bastard." ' says Davenport. ‘At first I would try and explain that actually. Miles wasn‘t real. but in the end. it was easier to look them straight in the eye and just say: "Yeah. that's right. I am.”'
Davenport is still keen. perhaps understandably. to distance himself from his on-screen character. ‘Miles is a bit of a pillock
8 THE lIST 10 (kt->23 Oct 1997
really -- he lacks social skills and has a wild ability to sulk massively.‘ he says. sounding unnervineg like you-know who. ‘His only redeeming feature is that he is misunderstood. He doesn‘t really make it easy for people to see if he‘s remotely sensitive — which 1 think he is — but he‘s juvenile and competitive and of course. he has a total lack of ability with wo me n .’
Although Davenport was perfectly suited to play Miles — Oxford prep school and Cheltenham public school - This Life‘s casting director thought long and hard before giving him the part. Davenport was called back six times to audition.
‘I had already done five hours of filming for them and when they asked for more. I lost it and shouted: “Look. have I got this fucking part or not?" ‘ The display of Miles-like stroppiness got Davenport the part.
Davenport‘s acting experience was limited before This Life. His parents Nigel Davenport
’Women would come up to me when i was pissed
may. He has ulmimn CM in a pub and scream "Miles, you're a bastard". lt was easier to look them straight in the eye and just say:
“Yeah, that's i am." J Jack Davenport
and Maria Aitken. both successful thesps. went to great pains to show him the negative side of acting in case he grew up thinking it was a cinch. But between leaving school and starting a film and English degree in East Anglia. he landed a small role in [lam/er with a touring company.
Although he dabbled in acting at university. it wasn‘t until he auditioned for a bit part in l’ieree Creatures. John (‘leese's mind numbing follow-up to A Fish (,‘u/lezl Wanda. that things began happening.
‘In fact. it was all a big mistake since l wrote asking about a runner‘s job and my letter got accidentally passed to the casting director.‘ says Davenport. The film was shot at Pinewood with a vast production budget and although his part was. in his own words. fantastically small. he had fun watching Hollywood come to town and star spotting Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline. Davenport then began auditioning and bagged the role of Miles.
Although the actor claims most of what made Miles such a believable character was in the script. he admits he had a say in shaping the role towards the end of the first series.
‘I felt the writers were pushing Miles too far into a kind of public school wankerdom which was wrong for him.‘ says Davenport. ‘True enough. he was Posh Spice if you like. but if he was that kind of bloke, he just wouldn’t have been living in that ﬂat with a best mate from Manchester and an Asian girlfriend. He would have been prancing along the King‘s Road in green jeans and a pair of brown suede brogues.‘
Thankfully the writers listened to Davenport and allowed Miles a few redeeming qualities. with the occasional foray into ‘wankerdom‘ and a “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen‘ attitude to women.
Perhaps it was Davenport‘s personality that allowed Miles to become more likeable. The actor is more thoughtful and obliging than Miles and has been universally described in interviews as nothing less than a sweetie. He is also less macho. He chuckles at the suggestion that Miles‘s image must have done wonders for his pulling power. Davenport is. he says. involved in a ‘solid‘ relationship. Another Miles comparison bites the dust.
With the future of This Life still shrouded in mystery. Davenport doesn‘t appear worried that he has not been approached to play Miles the newly—wed.
‘I don‘t think audiences would give a shit any more whether Miles and Anna got it together or what Egg‘s going to do about Millie.‘ he says. ‘I think we stretched those stories as far as they could go. The last episode was small but perfectly formed and I think there's an argument for leaving it there. But they‘ll probably get a whole new cast and it‘ll be twice as popular as before and I‘ll have to shut up.‘
Besides his film and television work. Davenport has been involved in radio work. recording voice~overs and modelling for Marks & Spencer in a shoot by Glasgow photographer David Eustace. In the long term. he also plans to follow actor Gary ()ldman‘s example and try his hand at directing.
‘l know it‘s a cliche. but I really would like to do it.‘ says Davenport. ‘When you‘re an actor there‘s so much that is out of your hands. I‘d like to be in a position to have more artistic control.‘
For the lead in his own movie. Davenport says he would cast his favourite screen actor Sean Penn. ‘He has a quality that is almost steely.‘ he says. ‘He‘s very masculine with a soft side that gets you every time.‘
A bit like Miles then. but with bigger muscles.
Jack Davenport's portrait is part of an exhibition of photographs by David Eustace at MNS Photo- colour, 26a St Vincent Crescent, Glasgow, Sat 8 Nov—Sat 31 Jan. See page 10 for more.