Ask around, and they'll tell you he's the best actor in Scotland. So who exactly is GARY LEWIS?
‘.'.'or(:s: Alan Morrison P"()tot;r‘a:>“: David N. Maclntyre
THE QUIET MAN
FOR MOST PEOPLE WATCHING SHALLOW GRAVE, it's just a quick laugh — the central trio remorselessly grill the applicants for the llat's spare room. and one man breaks down in tears. A few seconds on screen. then he's gone.
But for the few who saw the unedited take. (iary Lewis's performance left a lasting impression. Older than the other characters. this poor man sat like a rabbit caught in the headlights as the questions poured down on his greying head. He tries to smile. he tries to form an answer; finally he cracks and the sohhing starts. One shot. lasting only a few minutes. hut you feel you'ye seen his whole life crash in front of you. withottt a single word heing spoken. .\'o wonder they call (iary Lewis the best actor in Scotland.
‘(iary Lewis is without doubt one of the best actors in the world. let alone Scotland.' insists Peter .\lullan. who directs Lewis in ()rp/iuns. 'lle is one of the great improyisers. He's also the most genei'otis actor you're eyer going to meet.'
Such sentiments would he fuel to most actors' egos. hut not the softly spoken. gently funny Lewis. You might recognise the face. eyen though the name isn't familiar. In Ken Loach's ('ur/u 's Sng and My Name Is .lm’. he was there to lend adyice to the lead characters and. as an actor. not deflect the spotlight onto
actor.' he says. 'so I know that when actors say they're exhausted after playng a part. it's not exactly like digging coal. But you are digging away. Sometimes I consider this premise that "nothing human is alien to me". so you'll always hy yirtue of the fact that you're a human heing — haye some kind of in-roads to another person. There's always some point of contact that can he estahlished if you're open enough. [Tltimately you're working with a script and with other actors. although a lot of what you do is in your guts. So that's where I go -— into my guts.'
'l'homas marks the —ll—_\'ear-old's higgest film role to date. and it has already brought him a Best Actor award at the (iijon liestiyal in Spain. It also marks the latest in a series of collahorations with Peter .\lullan. going hack through the director's short films —‘ memorath the superb fridge — to early days with (ilasgow's Raindog Theatre Company.
'\\'e were rehearsing for (hit New (her The ('m'kuu's Nest. and at one point we were sitting round a table talking ahout psychiatric internment. the issues and our hackgrounds.' Lewis rememhers. ‘Peter was first. and he said. "Aye. well. when I had my first neryous hreakdown at uniyersity . . I thought this must he what you do - rip your guts open. I had recently been working in a doss-house.
'Ultimately I'm working with a script and other actors, although a lot of what I do is in my guts. So that's where I go — into my guts.’ Gary Lewis
himself. .\'ow. in ()rp/zuns. he plays Thomas. the eldest son in a family tleyastatcd by their mother's death. While his hrothers let their emotions hurst otit in displays of \‘ltllCllCL‘. 'l'homas keeps his pain inside.
"l'hey're all lost in space. hut Thomas is the furthest rock away from the sun.' agrees Lewis. 'lle's the righteous hrother. carrying the weight. the only one who can carry it. He's on Duracell with emotional stuhhorness: he'll go on and on and on. eyen when he's lying in the grayeyard with his mother's coffin on his hack.'
Lewis seems fated to play 'l'homas because. as at least one fellow actor insists. he's 'thc master of internalisation'. lle'd prohahly he emharrassed at the compliment. and struggles to explain the acting techniques that bring such yiyid inner life to his characters.
‘I did a lot of jobs before I hecame an
10 THE LIST '
'l'he (ireat liastern llotel in Duke Street. So. taking my cue from Peter. I started talking ahout some of the horror l'd experienced working with homeless guys in (ilasgow and how that affected me. thinking all the time. “Jesus (‘hrist. do you only get in this play if you're a head-case'."'.'
()n a lighter note. it was another strange connection that took Lewis. a former social science student and member of a community drama group in liasterhouse. firmly into the acting profession. Performing in a Scottish political reyiew. he was spotted by director Michael Boyd and cast as The Dame in the 'l'ron Theatre's panto.
'l"rom James Kelman to wearing a frock in a surreal Version of Snow ll'liitr'.' laughs Lewis. So much for the master of internalisation.
Orphans open in Scotland on Fri 23 Apr.