Scottish actress ARLENE COCKBURN’s film debut began with a strange request - would she strip for The Winter Guest? She has been on the fast track ever since. Words: Kathleen Morgan
WHEN ARLENE COCKBURN asked to star in actor turned director Alan Rickman‘s film The Winter Guest. his response was simple. ‘He said “you‘ve got a week to think about taking your clothes off'.’ she remembers.
The twenty—year-old Portobello—raised actress quickly agreed. ‘I didn't even contem- plate not doing it.‘ she says. ‘I found I could completely trust him.‘
Rickman's intentions were entirely honourable. Cockburn had already played the role of headstrong teenager Nita in his stage version of The Winter Guest three years before. The film was to involve an extra scene — a fireside smooch with mixed—up kid Alex. played by (iary Hollywood of TV soap High Road. (‘ockburn would have to strip in front of a camera crew in a chilly warehouse in (.‘upar.
(‘ockburn was comfortable with the scene. knowing she would be working with friends who had acted with her in Rickman's stage production. Her admiration for the director also helped: ‘1 could speak for Scotland about Alan.‘
On screen (‘ockburn and Hollywood have created an electric partnership. fuelled by the clumsy emotions of sexual awakening. ()ff set. the pair became instant friends. ‘We were in each other‘s pockets all the time.‘ admits Cockburn. adding that Hollywood is High Road‘s ﬂame-haired heart-throb.
Besides her striking Celtic looks — milk
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white skin and dark hair — the first thing you notice about (‘ockburn is her refreshing sense of excitement. Her burgeoning movie career is like some adventure to her. brought on by an
incredible stroke of luck. and perhaps a dose of
Her fast track to stardom began with a fiuke phone call to her drama teacher at lidinburgh's llolyrood High School. Rickman was looking for young talent to appear in the stage production of The Winter Guest. Somewhere
along the line. the show‘s casting director
Joyce Nettles had heard the school had a strong drama department. She had meant to call Glasgow's llolyrood Secondary. which had produced The (row Road's Joe Mcl‘adden.
Realising the mistake. (‘ockburn's drama teacher suggested she had someone Nettles should see. ‘I auditioned at the Lyceum a few weeks later.’ says (‘ockburn ‘It was the best fifteen minutes of my life.‘
Leaving school at seventeen to join the show. Cockburn travelled to London for the first time and found herself starring beside some of British theatre‘s best. She speaks warme of Phyllida Law. who also appears in
Arlene Cockburn: warming up for The Winter Guest
the film version of The Winter Guest as the mother of real-life daughter limma 'l‘hompson. 'l’hyllida is magic.’ says (‘ockburn. ‘she's taught me so much.‘
With acting firmly in her blood. ('ockburn went to Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She left in 1996 without completing her course when she was offered the lead female role opposite Ken Stott in The l’rinee's Play at the Royal National Theatre.
During the play‘s run. she discovered
Rickman was to film The llinter Guest and chanced a
request to play Nita again. (‘ockburn is excited about The ll’inter Guest‘s (ilttsgow premiere — she is bussing her relatives over from l’ortobello for the occasion. It should be the first of many big nights. She is to star opposite Trains/mtting‘s liwan Bremner in The Acid House. the second part of the film trilogy that began with The Gruntun Star ('ause. Also in the pipeline are The Story Of
.lueque/ine l)u l’re’ starring limin Watson and
The Gurerness. a period drama starring Minnie [)river.
It looks like spring has come early for (‘ockburn
The Winter Guest is on release on Fri 9 Jan.