Ian Rankin says he's not watching it. John Hannah says it's about the world today. And a real-life detective says it takes too much artistic licence. As REBUS hits the small screen, we look at the phenomenon of the Scottish cop. Words: Brian Donaldson
CAREER APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEPTIVE. John Hannah is not an actor you automatically link with knockabout comedy or laugh-a- minute teeth-glistening hilarity and you‘d struggle to find him within a million miles of a role which has 'comic potential~ written anywhere near it. Moodin dashing. with a stern (‘aledonian stoic sensibility. and hard-edged. without being especially swathed in machismo. Hannah has forged a screen image based on reflecting stealth rather than a passionate pursuit of wealth.
lle’s certainly paid his dues and. even in our material- obsessed age. few observers in or out of the business will begrudge the 38-year-old former electrician his big pay day with Hollywood's accountants recently writing ‘PAY M r John Hannah Sl.()()().()00' for the first time. So now. it would appear he is finally getting the chance to smile in the face of lightness. The Mummy and its sequel are little more than historical fact- bypassing romps which look as much fun to
be in as they are to stare at for a couple of hours and the throwaway romantic tosh of
Sliding Doors made his soliloquising Audenisms in l‘i)!!!‘ ll"'(’(/(/ing.v And A Funeral seem positively liisensteinian.
And there he was on Brian (‘onley‘s Saturday night chat show crumpling under the mighty weight of his host’s humour and
giggling like a little girl as they recalled
lil ning together on ('iri'ux (a twisty-turny
14 THEUST ii 2/ Am 2000
'If I want to know what it's like, I’ll ask my wife.’ Ian Rankin
thriller set on the Brighton seafront and also starring glamourpusses such as l’amke Janssen. Amanda Donohoe and liddie l/./.ard). And now. if rumour is to be believed. he is set to recreate in live action. the dress-obsessed
time—travel animated classic Mr
Benn adventures (all that coming in and out of closets: what will the tabloids make of it‘.’).
like any actor or anyone who has freelanced in any profession. you don‘t want to be typecast or reduced to a quantifiable pigeonhole. an easily digestible piece of material.’ says Ilannah. "l‘he longer you try to defy the expectations. the greater chance you have of gaining longevity in your career. liveryone in a freelance profession has done things to pay the rent.’
Mttlti-million dollar budgets and wages are all a far cry from fitting plugs for the Southern Scottish lilectricity Board where his talent for mimicry helped him gain entry into (ilasgow‘s RSAMI). While you would be hard-pushed to argue in any court of law that he was born to play the role. several compelling reasons made John Hannah the obvious choice to pull the quasi—existentialist Detective Inspector John Rebus out of Ian Rankin‘s pages and project them onto the small screen (from Mr Benn to
'Going for a
drink is not a crime.’ D.S. Drew Mutter
Mr Ken. if you so wish).
The televised Rt'lnis is being handled by Hannah‘s production company ('lerkenwell: it‘s hard to believe that the members of the hoard wottld have had to look too far for the natural candidate. The liast Kilbride-born actor has also been in this prime-time crime- solving territory before. In liven/lion. he played a criminal pathologist who would simultaneoust have his hand on a corpse and an eye on the white-coated talent. The two series were welcomed fairly warme by critics and audiences alike and the point had been reached when Hannah could be considered a safe-ish bet to gather and sustain a large bulk of the viewing public.
.-\nd so came Rt'IHH. Since [987. Ian Rankin has written eleven novels starring the ex— S.-\S trooper turned detective who has been able to solve complex cases while apparently being under the influence of alcoholic quantities which would have most mortals winding up as dribbling jakeys. Attempting to merge a gritty Scottiin realist political and social landscape with a nostalgic nod to the pulp fiction of his ['S forbears. Rankin has stumbled upon a literary goldmine.
Much of this is down to Rankin's sense that Scottish crime was a largely neglected genre and felt that a gap was aching to be filled in the market. That seems barely credible now when you look at the quantity (and. for the most part. quality) of writers turning their