PETER MULLAN: NEDS
‘TO ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES WE WERE RESPECTABLE. BUT BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: MAYHEM.’
But we can’t find the bridge. We end up in a residential area with a playing field on one side, a patch of wooded scrubland on the other and a footbridge connecting them. ‘Is that our bridge?’ Mullan asks. ‘Has it been staring us in the fucking face all along?’
The real story of how Mullan fell in with the Young Car-Ds unfolds pretty much the same way it happens in the film. He was an intelligent 14-year-old, but a friend’s well-to-do mum told him never to come round to their house again. Shocked, he walked home a different route and ended up in nearby housing scheme Moss Heights, where a gang of lads started on him, before realising who his older brother was (Lenny Mullan, now Peter’s casting director, had a serious rep back then). Suddenly scared, they invited Peter to join the crew there and then. ‘And that was me, for a year,’ he says, standing in the middle of the bridge, smoking a cigarette, sleet starting to fall. ‘I dodged school. I hung around in places like this. Moped around all day. And occasionally got into fights.’
‘Of course, I broke my mother’s
heart,’ he adds.
Did he feel any remorse? ‘None whatsoever. Because you completely jump into it because it’s so exciting . . . And I was happy to lose the “good boy” tag because it hadn’t done me any good. I was still in a dysfunctional home life, with an old man from hell.’
The gang eventually told him to ‘fuck off’ because ‘I used too many big words.’ He also freaked them out. ‘At the time I was reading up on revolutionary socialism, and Joseph Connolly, and I was starting to come up with bizarre ideas about taking over police stations.’ In the car, we decide to drive over to Moss Heights. We talk about the character he plays in Neds on the way. As John’s father – ‘a wee pot-bellied patriarch’ – he brings genuine menace. Did he draw on his own father? ‘Obviously he was kind of inspired by him, but it’s not an imitation. My father was a lot worse that him.’ Mullan does admit, however, that playing him rammed home how mentally ill his father must have been. ‘He definitely had a screw loose. I know plenty of drunks and they don’t stand at the bottom of the stairs, and they don’t rape their wives, and they don’t treat their kids that way.’
As we pull up to Moss Heights, Mullan continues to talk with disarming honesty about his father, including, shockingly, about how his father wanted to be killed as he became sicker (he had cancer). ‘He would scratch my door at night and say: “Come and kill the rat.” It was bonkers . . . What the fuck kind of human being would want his own son to do him in? And then do time for it?’
living in a big, rented house on Mosspark Boulevard and his father was holding down a respectable job as a lab technician in Glasgow University. ‘To all intents and purposes we were respectable. But behind closed doors: mayhem.’ Outside the car, the sleet is getting heavier. Mullan pulls his hood over his head and lights another cigarette. We survey the surrounding high rises, the first to be built in Glasgow. Mullan describes how these flats were once the envy of everybody in Cardonald because they had under-floor heating included in the rent. Below us, he points out the swing park where he was first ‘turned over’ by the Young Car-Ds.
them He wanted to film here, he says, but the flats were refurbished in the 1980s, and their newer, curved facades made too anachronistic. ‘I’d have liked to have done it with CGI, but you start doing that, you’re talking about Inception budgets.’ He wishes there was more money floating about the UK for film production. ‘People always go on about us making social realist films,’ he says. ‘But that’s cause we’ve not got the money to do anything else but social realism.’
We walk down to the playground to take some photos. He’d love to have a crack at a big genre picture, but working with Hollywood-sized budgets means having to relinquish too much control. Standing on a swing, he says, ‘I’ll probably never get a US movie now, which doesn’t bother me unduly, but given we’re all working over here for peanuts, it’s going to be a problem as I get older. I’ve got no pension.’ Mullan isn’t looking for sympathy. He’s merely calling it as he sees it. Driving back into the centre of Glasgow, he tells me that his next few acting gigs have had their start dates pushed back, a familiar story that can mean months go by with no earnings coming in. Only the big budget stuff guarantees payment. To this end, he’s just done Steven Spielberg’s World War One drama War Horse (based on Michael Morpurgo’s award-winning National Theatre show) and the final two- part instalment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Listen to him talk about either, though, and it’s not really about the money. With impish charm he calls Spielberg, ‘Stevie Spielbergy’, and marvels at the director’s boyish enthusiasm. ‘And the stories he tells are class. You’re sitting there and he’s talking about Jaws and E.T. and you just get giggly.’ It was the same on Harry Potter. ‘I mean: it’s Harry Fucking Potter. But it was such a good shoot. I love all that shite. It’s better than doing a real job.’
The irony, he says, is that while all this was going on, they were Neds, general release, Fri 21 Jan. See review, page 43.
16 THE LIST 20 Jan–3 Feb 2011