After his breakthrough role as gay plumber Lenny in This Life, Glaswegian actor TONY CURRAN is swapping his plunger for a lawyer’s sharp suits in TV drama SECOITd. Words: Brian Donaldson

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LIFE-ALTERING MOMENTS COME IN DIFFERENT shapes and sizes. ‘The Road' may be a symbol of freedom. but it is also riddled with peril motorists brimful of intoxicants. seat-belts flapping loose. Sunday drivers behind the wheel at rush hour. learners and road-ragers on a collision course.

In BBC Scotland's film-drama Split Second. Michael Anderson (Clive Owen) plays a dangerous game with a cyclist on the outskirts of Edinburgh and. as a result. more than a few lives are irrevocably altered. Into the mix comes Ronnie Baxter. played by Tony Curran in a performance oozing wit and sleaze in equal measure. Baxter's relationship with Anderson is a strained one: they are friends in the same business (the law): they have shared lovers (played by Lisa Palfrey and Helen McCrory); and their ambition and methods cause ructions in their private lives. ‘He‘s a bit of a shit. but he‘s not killing or maiming or raping he just has a sharp tongue.‘ notes Curran of the role which should add another plus point to his growing reputation.

C urran's trademark long red locks have lit up stages and screens across the country since he left the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama before making the move to London in September 1994. It was his appearance as Lenny. the gay plumber. in This Life which got tongues wagging. ‘lt was the first time I got recognised as an actor and quite a part to get as a turning point.‘ he states. “There was a bit of a buzz about it. but it was only when it came out that people were going “fuck!". because what I was doing was quite extreme. quite full on.‘

Of This Life's ‘controversy‘ he. like the show. is totally frank. ‘People take drugs. they get drunk. they fuck about. do all this shit it wasn‘t trying to be sensationalistic. In the days of Rock Hudson and Doris Day when everyone was taking LSD and smoking grass. people wouldn't exactly stand up and say what was happening. It was “Oh. we must hide it. we must hide it“. In art. we should tell it like it is.’

Which is Curran‘s approach to just about everything. With regard to Split Second. he is less than ecstatic with the title. ‘lt was formerly known as The Cyclist. which I reckon was a better name. This sounds a bit too dramatic: they‘d have been as well calling it something like Hit Aml Run. 1 think people were worried that it would be a

'People take drugs, they get drunk, they fuck about - This Life wasn't trying to be sensationalistic.’ Tony Curran

documentary if it had been called The Cvclist that would have been a bit more ambiguous.‘

Written by James Mavor and directed by David Blair (Takin' Over The Asylum). the film is as much about the politics of the workplace as it is about the dangers of the highway. For Curran. his paths seem clear of stumbling blocks towards fame. Future projects include Gladiator with Antonio Banderas and Omar Sharif (‘I offered to give him a game of backgammon but I think he had to get to bed‘) and Leprechaun with Whoopi Goldberg ('I play onc of the little people.’ he states in his finest Cork accent).

He may be happy enough with changing his accent to suit the role. but the hair must stay. ‘Because I was to play a lawyer. I said to David. “You know I really want this role. but I don't want to get my hair cut." I was being sarcastic but David was all. “Oh. I see him as goatee- bearded and pony-tailed." I think my hair of late has made up minds about what I should be playing a hard man. or psychotic. whatever. But that's slowly Changing.'

Split Second is on BBC1, Thu 26 Aug.

19~26Aug 1.999 THELIST 120