BBC Radio 4 Transcript
August 27, 2005
Chris Tookey talks to actress Gillian Anderson (best known as Agent Scully of 'The X Files') about her new film 'The Mighty Celt'. Anderson plays the Northern Irish mother of a teenager with a passion for training greyhounds.
Chris Tookey: But first The Mighty Celt. Writer director Pierce Elliotís movie set in Belfast is a boy and his pet story in the tradition of Disneyís Old Yellow and the Ken Loach classic Kes. Gillian Anderson, best known still as Agent Scully of the X Files, plays Kate the anxious Northern Irish mother of the films hero, a smoking, swearing 14 year old redeemed by his passion for training greyhounds. He gets the chance to train a dog which he calls The Mighty Celt, with the chance of owning him if he wins 3 races in a row. The story is complicated by the arrival of Robert Carlyle, playing a mysterious stranger from Kateís past, an IRA man who has returned from being on the run. He is keen to make a new life in a peaceful Northern Ireland with his former girlfriend Kate.
(Clip from The Mighty Celt: Gillian is Kate, Robert Carlyle is O)
O: You look the same as you always did.
Kate: Sure I do...stop staring at me.
O: Jeez Kate, Iím sorry.
Kate: You're looking at me like a cat looks at a goldfish.
O: You'd never think that we, erm...
O: Someone said to me once, there's 2 types of people that live here...survivors and victims.
Kate: And díya know what? Iím both of them...Iím a surviving victim like a million others here but here, shanee? life goes on.
CT: Gillian Anderson and Robert Carlyle. When I met Gillian in London, I asked her what draws a glamorous American actress like her to take on the supporting role of a downtrodden Northern Irish single mother?
GA: I read the script and I just found it really moving and thought y'know what? I have to do this.
CT: But it isn't the starring role. You don't carry the picture. ..some actresses would have said "oh no, this is beneath me darling"
GA: I donít know, I've done lots of things where I donít carry the picture I just love good material and I love individual characters and I donít think it ever really occurs to me whether something is starring role or not. I mean I donít wanna, y'know, be an airline stewardess who has 2 lines, but y'know if something is weighty and has meaning for me...and moves me then I'll definitely consider doing it.
CT: A good deal of your time in this film is spent working with Robert Carlyle, and you have to imply a lot of things in your back story that aren't really spelt out for the audience. Did you discuss these with Robert or did you prefer to keep your distance..there's a kind of wariness in your relationship isn't there?
GA: Actors work in different ways, and sometimes it feels appropriate and sometimes it doesn't feel appropriate to have big conversations about what wasÖand we didn't...I donít know whether it was a mutual decision or individual but it was also nice that there was such awkwardness between the 2 of us at the beginning at least because of what had taken place between us.
CT: Now you went to DePaul Theatre School in Chicago, and there the whole curriculum was based around theatre studies and it seems to me that you've always taken time out to do theatre...which are you most drawn to: theatre or film?
GA: Theatre absolutely terrifies meÖand at the same time I, I love it and am always in a state of flux between thinking why did I take this on and how extraordinary this experience is whenever I do a new play and so I think there's part of me that, that thinks that it will continue to be a part of my life but maybe once every 2 or 3 years rather than a play yeah I think that's about as much as I can handle.
CT: Do you still find that the vast majority of part you are offered have similarities to Agent Scully? The sceptical, smart sort of roles?
GA: I think America's still having a hard time thinking of me in any other kind of role but over here it's been, itís been a real blessing actually.
CT: How do you seek out roles that are so very different?
GA: I don't actually seek them out...they come to me, I donít like knocking on people's doors or, or trying to convince somebody to hire me for something so I usually wait for something to fall in my lap and that seems to work 'cause then I get to live the life I want to live in between jobs as well. So I ...Iím never going to be one of those people who goes from job to job to job..that doesnít really interest me.
CT: I mean, it seems to be that you're actually one of the really undervalued actresses in the world today 'cause you've had this misfortune that some really good actresses do which is you've given fantastically good performances in films that nobody has gone to see, like in The Mighty, Playing By Heart and even House Of Mirth, although they've been critically well received, none of them has really taken the box office by storm. They do of course give you this track record of doing very VERY different roles, are you deliberately seeking out these roles to go against the stereotype that people have of you?
GA: I think part of it is wanting to be challenged and feeling like I have a lot of potential characters inside of me that I would like to release into the world at some point and so I choose ah, to do varied roles for that reason and also I'm sure there's part of it that has to do with trying to get rid of that stereotype that still has a tendency to haunt me. It is unfortunate that the films that I have done haven't really been seen, but I respond to material and I, I don't often make choices based on whether I think something is going to be a public success and that may end up being a negative thing for my career, but doing the opposite would feel like a negative thing for my soul, y'know, for me as a human being...to make choices based on whether I thought that it would make me more famous or get awards or be out there in the public domain more.
CT: The talented and versatile Gillian Anderson. TMC is out now, certificate 12A.
Thank you very much to Laura for the transcript!