A new romantic comedy called If Only could make DOUGLAS HENSHALL Scotland's newest cinema star — and that's not wishful thinking.
,- r» Miles Fielder
CARLYLE, BREMNER, McKlDD, MacDONALD, MacFADDEN, SCOTT, Mullan and, of course. McGregor — high proﬁle Scottish talent of the big and small screens, at home and abroad. How about Douglas Henshall? Who he? Well. he wasn’t catapulted to stardom with Trainspotting. Nor has he commanded the ratings with a TV show such as The Crow Road. And he has yet to make his Hollywood debut.
That said, Henshall starred in two crowd-pleasing films at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival: Peter Mullan’s directorial debut Orphans. and If Only, a London-set romantic comedy. In the former, Henshall plays one of a family of four traumatised by the death of their mother. Without being disingenuous to Mullan’s superb ensemble cast, it’s Henshall’s tortured, borderline psychotic soul that stands out.
If Only gives Henshall his first proper starring role, playing a lovestruck actor who gets a magical chance to relive the last weeks of a relationship that went disasterously wrong. With his impressive mane of hair, boyish but crumpled face. and ability to convey intense emotion and easy- going humour. it’s surprising he hasn’t caught the public eye before now. So: Dougie Henshall. romantic lead?
‘Ah. well no.’ is his reply. ‘I can’t really see myself as . . . well. certainly not a typical romantic lead anyway, because [just don‘t look like one. Whatever they are supposed to look like.’
Henshall’s previous big screen outings were in Silent Scream. The
Big Man and Angels And Insects. He earned a living doing ‘a lot of
television — the kind of stuff you pay the rent with‘. From this period. Dennis Potter’s Lipstick On Your Collar (as the bullying Corporal Berry) stand out. But, until now, Henshall‘s real calling has been theatre; he has a lengthy resume on both Scottish and London stages. He was, in fact, performing at The Young Vic in David Mamet’s American Buﬂalo when he landed the two ﬁlm roles.
‘Films are kind of new to me,’ he says. ‘l’m having a great time because it’s new. I had a great relationship with Maria Ripoll [the Spanish director of If Only]. She’s a feisty woman who says what she thinks and I react very well to that. I don’t need pampering and I don’t
need fobbing off. I work much better with the truth.’
Possibly more than other ﬁlm genre, the feelgood romantic comedy requires chemistry between the performers, and it’s there on the screen in If Only. ‘I can’t imagine anyone not getting on with Lena Headey,’ suggests Henshall. ‘She’s genuinely just an awfully funny person to be around. We had a good time. And that’s the thing: I liked her. You don’t necessarily have to get on with somebody as long as the work’s okay. I think we were fortunate that way and it really comes across.
‘Orphans was a different vibe altogether,’ he continues. ‘The subject matter was pretty harrowing and, psychologically, it was a much darker journey. It took quite a lot out of me. The ﬁrst two weeks were night shoots, and all I did was wander around getting soaked at three in the morning. And all that shitey, sticky blood . . .’ Henshall’s character gets stabbed in the stomach and spends the night stumbling around a storm-
'I can't really see myself as a typical romantic lead, because I just don't look like one. Whatever they are supposed to look like.'
ridden Glasgow. ‘A tour of the toilets of Glasgow, really. It wasn‘t the best fun in the world.’
The actor has completed two more ﬁlms yet to released: Fast Food and This Year’s Love, which opens on Valentine’s Day. He is also working on Psychos, a high profile Channel 4 series — ER in a Glaswegian psychiatric hospital — due to be broadcast in March. But the last word has to be the actor’s life-blood: theatre.
‘I love the stage and I wouldn’t ever pack it in, because there’s lots of roles I’d still love to play,’ Henshall insists. ‘Hamlet, which might be typical. but it’s a fucking great part. I want to play Macbeth again. I’d still like to do some Tennessee Williams. There are too many good folk in theatre. You’d be a fool to walk away and say I’m not going to do that anymore.’
If Only goes on general release on Fri 27 Nov. See review on page 35.
19 Nov-3 Dec 1998 THE [18125