Iain Glen was born in Edinburgh in 1961. He dropped out of Aberdeen University to go to Rada, and went on to play Henry V for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has starred in the West End hit musical Martin Guerre and in The Blue Room with Nicole Kidman. Most recently, he played Trigorin in Peter Stein’s production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. Glen’s latest film is Keeper Of My Soul, in which he plays Carl Gustav Jung. He is separated from the actor Susannah Harker, with whom he has one son. He lives in London.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Walking through a beautiful landscape with someone I love.

What is your greatest fear?

Dying, I guess.

Which living person do you most admire?

My mum, for her endless altruism.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I couldn’t possibly answer that truthfully. Let’s just say impatience.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Resorting to violence.

What vehicles do you own?

Who cares?

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

Nothing really. I think I’m all right.

What is your most unappealing habit?

Picking my nose and rolling the snot between my fingers.

What is your favourite word?

‘Exquisite’ and ‘fuck’.

How did you vote in the last election?


How will you vote in the next election?


For what cause would you die?

I fear I’m not so noble.

Do you believe in monogamy?

Oh, I believe in it…

Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?

I have – trying not to hurt someone’s feelings.

When and where were you happiest?

The birth of my son.

How often do you have sex?

Well, it depends, doesn’t it?

How would you like to die?

I wouldn’t like to die.

Do you believe in life after death?

Unfortunately not.

How would you like to be remembered?

I don’t think it’s fully sunk in that I will die, so I can’t really engage with the question.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Live for today


Source: The Guardian

January 17th, 2004 Uncategorized admin 0 Comments

Home truths Iain Glen on the boy he was and the man he’s become.

As Iain Glen answers a call on his mobile, I grab one of the hotel coffee tables to drag it closer to our sofa but I lose my grip, the trestle legs collapse and the heavy metal top crashes to the floor, two millimeters from his toes. He doesn’t flinch. “Are they insured?” He shakes his head. “I bet your cheekbones are,” I say, Reckoning that when you’ve just come close to crippling your interviewee, a bit of flattery is the best policy.

And at least it is honest flattery – because I really haven’t seen such fine cheekbones since the Russian seamen’s choir last visited Edinburgh Festival. The Shakespeare-to-Tomb Raider actor is every bit as lean, sexy and sculpted in real life as he is on stage and screen. Much as I rated his performance as a sports journalist in the BBC TV drama Glasgow Kiss however, I’m always chary of interviewing thespians – they want to talk craft; I want to get personal. But no such problem with Glen.

He is promoting his latest film Gabriel and Me, in which he plays the cancer-stricken father of 11-year-old Jimmy Spud, a Newcastle lad who wants to become an angel.

In the film, Glen, a smoker, appears as a haggard, sunken-faced shadow of himself: “It was a shocking journey to go on. Part of my research was visiting surgeons and doctors and I vowed that I would give up smoking because the statistics are frightening. I haven’t but I will.”

Shocked by the news of his illness, Jimmy seeks help form the Archangel Gabriel -Billy Connolly- to save his father, a redundant welder, and reclaim the fun, loving relationship they shared before lung cancer was diagnosed. Although Glen’s childhood was a far cry from the grime and poverty of the North East, where the film is set, his was not without its difficulties. The product of a middle class youth in a leafy corner of the capital, attending fee-paying Edinburgh academy, Glen shatters the suburban idyll with tales of abusive teachers. “There was a lot of stuff going on that was outrageous. There was abuse of a minor but significant kind – you could get felt up by masters. There was violence in the school as well. You could get seriously punished, the strap and the clachan. “My Dad worked very hard to get me in there and give me a good education but the honest truth about it was that it was a really dire education at that time. Unluckily, it was the dying vestiges of a Victorian style education.” Glen is at pains to stress that “it’s a very different school now”, but at the time he and his schoolmates took what revenge they could on the dominies of the Day. “We used to phone up all these masters and pretend to be different people and they wouldn’t have a clue. The power of speaking to somebody who’d just beat the s**t out of you: ‘Guess who I am?’ We’d psyche them out a bit; stuff like: ‘We’re watching you.’”

As a 40-year-old, Glen winces at how he treated his parents: “In my latter teenage years I rejected everything my parents represented but in a half baked way. I had a real chip on my shoulder about being middle class. I felt I’d been removed from a whole area of Scottishness I wanted to be a part of. I remember going on holiday with them and refusing to eat at the same table as them. I was so horrible.”

Iain Alan Sutherland Glen’s battle for the attention of his brothers (the eldest Hamish is artistic director of Dundee Rep; Graham is “Something in the city”) started at a very early age and moulded his childhood and teens. “I was basically ignored by Hamish so I was always competing in a rather pathetic way to draw attention to myself.” He says it’s unconnected but as a toddler Glen climbed out of the playroom window and crawled along a gutter two storeys up. At eight, he dived from the top board of the Commonwealth Pool to impress his brothers but they pretended they had missed it and Iain went straight back up to do it again. He ended up winding himself so badly that an attendant had to help him from the water. By secondary school, he and his pals were going into the city centre to stage “traumatic experiences” for other people: one boy would bury himself in a mound of leaves, leaving only one arm hanging out, while the others watched the shocked reaction of passers-by. “Hamish was pretty wild as well but I had to top him,” recalls Glen, who even today is still pleased to describe himself as the “most troublesome” of the family.

“Through my childhood years I was pretty difficult. I got in trouble with the police at times. Nothing heavy; it was probably all very tame. I used to steal my parents’ car and I was caught and was up in court with the police. I think I made legal history by getting two endorsements on a license I didn’t possess.” Later, Iain and his school friend, the DJ Nicky Campbell, would call local radio phone-in shows and indulge in role playing and mimicking: “We’d invent different people. We had it down to a fine art,” recalls Glen. “We’d say: ‘I’m a glue manufacturer and we’ve got this glue that’s completely safe for the kiddies to sniff.’ ”After having to repeat his final exams he went to Aberdeen University, ostensibly to study English but embarked on a steep learning curve of another kind.

“I definitely dabbled in most of the drugs that were around at the time. In Aberdeen it was magic mushrooms which were grown everywhere; even the cattle were tripping. The students used to go out harvesting them and then dry them for winter. They were great fun but dangerous. There was a time at University when we’d smoke a joint most days,” he says.

When friends asked him to speak six lines in a drama society production of The Crucible, Glen admits without any hint of irony that it changed his life. “Acting was the thing that sorted me out. Part of the reason for taking drugs is to make the mundane more interesting. Zapping your head. But then when there’s real interest there you don’t need to enliven it with a stimulant.” To the initial dismay of his long-suffering parents, Glen dropped out of university in the second year to pursue a career in acting. By then Hamish – four years his senior who had also studied at Aberdeen – had given up a career in law in favour of theatre. Now widely respected as the artistic director of Dundee Rep, it was Hamish who had the foresight to found the theatre’s acclaimed rep company.

“Hamish will probably dispute this – he’s wrong – but I got into acting before he started to do anything in the theatre,” says his brother mischievously. ‘Hamish fibbed that he was in the drama society and ran it but he never went anywhere near the drama society when he was at university. I’m probably blowing all his gaffes now – he’s probably still got it on his CV.”

Somberly, he adds: “We had quite a major falling out during university where we just didn’t get on for a couple of years which was really because we’re very similar. My brother Graham was always the sweetest of the three brothers; always very liked. I was fighting for air space and Hamish was being bullyish, probably. Then we got it back together and I completely adore the guy and think he’s great, what he’s done at Dundee, all the work he does in Scotland but irrespective of all that, as a guy, I just think he’s fantastic and we’re the best of friends.” Indeed, it was a one-man play directed by his brother, which got Glen an agent and an equity card and provided him with the speech for his successful RADA audition. Having used up his entitlement to a student grant, his parents agreed to pay his drama school fees, where his friends included Ralph Fiennes, Alex Kingston, Jane Horrocks and Imogen Stubbs.

Fiennes and Kingston are now divorced but in drama school days, Glen recalls, they were inseparable: “Ralph was just so in love with Alex and they would sit and long for each other’s eyes, like lovebirds.” Having found his vocation in drama, Glen is one of the fortunate few actors who is constantly working. As he tucks into smoked salmon and cheese sandwiches – with chips on the side – I ask him about accepting parts at any price, such as those that would involve performing a live sex act. Glen, who once cartwheeled naked across a stage with Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room and whose actress wife Susannah Harker has a role in the controversial film Intimacy, is ambivalent on the use of explicit sex scenes.

“Very fundamental to that story was the central thing which they got up to which was having sex. It lent itself to being quite graphic because it was very much the heart of what they were doing to the point where they didn’t communicate with each other. All they did was have physical contact.”

In the film Susannah (Jane Bennett in Pride and Prejudice) gets to keep her clothes on as the wife of an adulterous husband (played by Mark Rylance) who embarks on a passionate affair with Kerry Fox (partner of journalist Alexander Linklater).

It is one thing being naked on stage and another having sex with a woman who is not your wife. Would he do it? “I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t necessarily be put off from the role. Probably nine out of 10 films in which I might be asked to do a scene in which my penis would be sucked I would probably say ‘no’ because the chances are they wouldn’t be terribly good films.”

Given the column inches male (and female) theatre critics devoted to writing about Kidman’s body, one could easily be forgiven for forgetting that her co-star was also textile-free but Glen shouldn’t be put off – it is to be expected. What he took from doing the play in London and New York that seems to matter almost more to Glen than any accolades, is a close family friendship with Kidman and, until the break-up, Tom Cruise. The two families saw in the new millennium together in Sydney but since the divorce there has been a change. “Nic was always the person who I really got to know because we were doing this play together so we established a really, really good friendship. I’ve only ever seen Tom through Nic so now Tom and Nic are not together I’m less likely to see Tom. “We used to play golf or go out with the kids and stuff. Nic is a good friend and I’ll always be there for her as a friend if she needs me. When you’re going through separation stuff you feel like you want the feeling of support from friends around you so that’s all I’ve tried to do.”

In showbiz terms, Glen and Susannah have been together for a long time – 15 years, married for eight. Their main home is a terraced house in south London but they also have a farmhouse in France, which Glen, his brothers and their parents bought together, where they escape to as often as possible. With another film on the horizon for Glen, (as Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in the movie My name is Sabine Spielreen) they have been too busy with work commitments to spend much time there.

One senses, though, that Glen’s not quite finished with Gabriel and Me. At the press conference following the Edinburgh preview, Connolly – his Archangel Gabriel sports gold eyeshadow and gold painted toenails – pooh-poohed the idea of celestial fixers: ” I have trouble with religion and things flying around. Belief in God is one thing but I get tired of people who believe in angels. It’s a bit in the aromatherapy field for me; a bit hocus-pocus.” But Glen is less dismissive and wants to follow up the point.

“In the same way that Billy is very wary of saying ‘I believe in angels’ because it’s got a slightly voodoo-herbal number to it, I get wary of people saying ‘I don’t believe in angels’ – angels being symbolic of a whole spiritual craving within us and if we lose sight of that and lose sight of a sense of the unknown and inexplicable then the world shrinks in a very mundane way. So I believe in angels in the sense of wishing and believing the world is a very complex, wonderful place that I will never really get to understand.”

Does he believe in Religion?
“In its simplest sense, not to do with the buildings, or the books or God as an entity – maybe I dilute it to the point where it becomes not religion but something else – I believe in the heart of it, the wish of it and the spirituality which is really just about a lovingness between people, altruism, the idea of prayer and thinking about other people and wishing good for other people.” Back to reality, the mobile call Glen received was from his mother and he has to go. While he has been as patient as any interviewer could wish, Finlay has come north with him and he is keen to spend as much time with his family as possible. Not so keen that, just before saying ‘goodbye’, he does the very actory thing – they never lose their sense of insecurity – of saying that he hopes he will come across as ‘intelligent and likeable’ in the finished piece. Happily I’m able to reassure him that that won’t be difficult at all

October 28th, 2001 Movies admin 0 Comments

He’s famed for taking on dark roles – but then Iain Glen has never been interested in the conventional.

Meeting Iain Glen is scary. All razor sharp cheekbones and muscled body, he writhes in his seat, meditating over questions. Any moment, he could strike, cobra-like, grasp your throat with his long, powerful fingers and slowly squeeze…

Of course, Glen is only that scary if you saw him in Lynda Plante’s Trial and Retribution, in which he played a slice-and-dice serial killer who, it was hinted, was Satan himself. Cold rage burned in his eyes. His body transformed into sinewed evil, he was chillingly mesmerising. Not the kind of man you’d want to be left alone with in an anteroom off a deserted restaurant with only a tape recorder to defend yourself with. If you also saw him in the costume dramas Wives and Daughters and The Wyvern Mystery, you still might be uneasy, as he played men with secrets and secret agendas (though admittedly you might not be looking at his forehead and wondering what he’d look like with devil horns).

But even if you didn’t see him in The Blue Room with Nicole Kidman, You still wonder what he looks like naked. Doing cartwheels. This last thought effectively combats the fear he may otherwise provoke. “I have done a few things that were on the extreme of human behaviour,” he laughs. “For Trial and Retribution, there was l lot of research inherent in the writing, but I did study serial killers and found that one thing that unites them is that they have very little guilt. “They live normal lives and then this demon emerges. I remember when it was revealed Dennis Nilsen had severed heads and cut up bodies and there was a huge surprise at the Social Security office where he worked. They knew him as this amiable, quite shy guy, and there he was responsible for these terrible crimes.”

Glen is an astonishing actor. He goes from inhabiting and embodying one kind of character to another completely different one, being so convincing as both that you can only marvel at the depth and breadth of his talent, consistently demonstrated in the many major theatre roles he has taken on at the Royal Shakespeare Company or the Royal Court in London. He modestly attributes his talent to a “childish ability to imagine myself as someone else.”

“It’s about your capacity to say: ‘I will be this person and get inside them and allow it to play through me’. It sounds a bit pretentious but that’s the gist of it. I watch my four-year-old child and nothing excites him better than me saying: ‘Okay, now we’re in a submarine and we’re underneath the water and a shark’s coming.’ As an actor, you never really lose that childish ability.” Glen says he finds it comfortable and therapeutic to inhabit a situation other than his own while under the media’s gaze. ” Any situation in which I am asked to be myself, like film premiers, I feel a little uncomfortable. I used to be much more neurotic about it, flattering myself that I had a bit of the Robert De Niro about me, but it’s actually a genuine thing – it seems nothing to do with what I do.” Hence the shifting in his seat and constant fidgeting. Nervous more than murderous.

Now, Glen is turning his “childish ability” to two parts which are yet another departure for him: they are ordinary blokes. In Anchor Me, the latest drama from Ashley Pharaoh, he plays Nathan, a disenchanted married man who falls in love with someone else. In Glasgow Kiss he is Stuart, a widowed sports writer bringing up his son and trying not to fall apart or fall in love. With a beautifully written script, from Glasgow-based writer Stephen Greenhorn, an exquisite supporting cast and the city of Glasgow as much a character in as a backdrop to the story, Glasgow Kiss will dispel any thoughts you had of Iain Glen as Satin in disguise.

Jane Featherstone, the producer of Glasgow Kiss, says she was instantly attracted to Glen for the part of Stuart. “He needed to be sympathetic, warm and vulnerable without being weak, but he also needed to be funny, and a man Cara [Glasgow Kiss‘s leading lady] could fall in love with. It’s a great challenge for an actor to get the balance right, but Iain’s performance has incredible strength composure and humour.”

She is right. But Glen attributes much of the strength, composure and humour to the writing. “It’s hard to find TV like this. It is a lovely piece of writing. To find something like this that has a very light touch, is comedic and very moving is a blessing.” He continues: “Anchor Me and Glasgow Kiss are about ordinary people and ordinary issues. Whether the people are dealing with bereavement or falling in love, there’s a normality about the life they are leading.”

Glen tries hard to make his own life as “normal” as possible, even when circumstances- and his career- conspire to make it extra-ordinary. “I miss picking my boy up from school and reading to him at night. But it goes with the territory. I love being a dad. I never thought about it before I was one. I thought, ‘God. Imagine me as a father. Poor child. But now I can’t imagine not being a dad. I adore him and I don’t want to look back and think I should have been around for my child and I wasn’t.”

“Apart from last year – and I don’t intend to repeat that – I think we spend as much time together as the average family who work nine to five. Even if you’re working hard, you can have a month or two free here and there. It’s a trade off. The key is having quality time, and the time we have is glorious. My boy doesn’t try and give out guilt at all; it’s not in his nature. I’d understand if he said, ‘You’re going away again’, but he doesn’t. He waves from the window and says, ‘See ya! Have a lovely time! See you when you get back.’ He is such a positive sweet sort, and maybe it would be harder if he wasn’t.”

Glen says that the benefits of the job cancel out the difficulties, while work also provides the resources that soften the blows that living the life of an actor deals. With his mum and dad, Finlay has traveled to America, Africa, Australia (where the family spent New Year on Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s yacht in Sydney harbour with the Hollywood ‘ber-couple and the then only Oscar-nominated director Sam Mendes), France and Ireland. “I think it’s enormously important you also make sure you have time as a couple. If you’re scrambling between feeling guilty about being away and concentrating on your child, that will be at the expense of your relationship. You have to make time for yourselves too, otherwise what would be the point of any of it?” The very thought of Iain Glen with devil’s horns evaporates. What an angel.

July 6th, 2000 Television admin 0 Comments

CHISELLED Scots actor Iain Glen is not renowned for his love of the limelight, so it’s no surprise that he won’t be at the LA premiere of his new film. Iain should be walking down the red carpet with leading lady Milla Jovovich for the final movie of the blockbuster trilogy Resident Evil Extinction. But for once his reason for missing the Hollywood bash is not about avoiding publicity, it is to do with family matters – his long-term girlfriend, actress Charlotte Emmerson, is expecting a baby.

“We’re very excited – the baby could arrive any day now, ” Iain tells me at his London home.
“I’m taking time off during the next couple of months to be with Charlotte and our new baby. It’ll be great to be a dad again.” He says that his 12-year-old son Finlay (from his first marriage to actress Susannah Harker) is also delighted about the impending event. “Finlay loves the idea of having a brother or sister – and in a few years, he’ll be the perfect age to babysit,” Iain says. “We see a lot of each other. He spends half the time with Susie and half the time with me – at least when I’m at home in London.”

For a man reputed to be extremely guarded (I was warned pre-interview to steer clear of his private life and avoid harking back to when he co-starred naked with Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room), I’m relieved that he has volunteered such personal information about his family.
Far from being evasive, he chats easily about all sorts of topics, though I suggest that it must be getting increasingly difficult to keep out of the spotlight when he shares screen and stage with such hot property actresses as Angelina Jolie, Julie Christie and Glenn Close.

“I don’t relish being media fodder, but over the years I’ve grown more used to it,” Iain says. “I used to be a bit De Niro-esque and say I just wanted to get on with the craft and not understand why anyone should want to know about my personal life.

“I suppose I was naive – there is a good side to publicity as it encourages people to go and see your latest film or play. “I do get recognised in the street – although sometimes you can see people wondering if you’re their vet.” Now, with the UK release of Small Engine Repair, a low-budget film that’s earning rave reviews, the pressure is on for this publicity-shy actor to step out of the shadows once again. On this occasion he even agrees to a rare sofa interview on Breakfast TV with his co-star Steven Mackintosh.

Set in the forests of Northern Ireland, though it looks more like the American north-west, the film follows down-on-his-luck Doug (Glen), aman who has lost his job, his woman and most of his self-belief.  But he does have a hidden talent for Country and Western singing and is at last persuaded to play those demo tapes he has been carrying around for years. He hid his sculpted cheekbones under a beard, dressing down for this role, though the singing voice is not disguised.

In fact, he has been a keen musician since playing in a band at Aberdeen University during his pre-RADA student days and loved this opportunity to display his vocal skills. “For music to be such a big part was a bit of a dream for me,” confesses Iain, who once performed several years ago in Cameron Mackintosh’s West End musical, Martin Guerre.

“I have played the guitar since the age of 14 and, although I can’t read music, I am self-taught and it was a gift to be able to show it in the film. I listen to folk more than country and western, though, songs that I can imitate, like James Taylor or James Blunt. “Our band at university was pretty pathetic – we had more names than songs.

We were New Romantic style and had odd songs about body parts or hospital visits, although David Bowie was my hero at the time. Of course, he was also an actor – and such a chameleon.” Since he quit Aberdeen University and graduated with the prestigious Bancroft Gold Medal from RADA in 1985, Iain, 46, has enjoyed playing a string of very diverse roles on stage, television and film, from serious Shakespeare to check-in-your-brain blockbuster. September is turning out to be a busy month – both personally and professionally – for he is also set to appear in Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution, a TV comedy drama, co-starring Catherine Tate.

“It was really good fun, I love comedy and this was such a great script,” Iain says, adding that he enjoys adopting accents, Irish, Yorkshire or American. “I like doing TV, stage and film, all for different reasons. Mind you, there is much less quality TV and independent films around – now television is awash with reality TV. “I hate programmes like Big Brother and can get aggressive about it at dinner parties!” Iain has been playing George VI in Churchill at War, and managed to combine filming with a holiday for Finlay, visiting his Scots grandparents, who live in Edinburgh, where the actor was born and brought up. He also enjoyed seeing shows at the Festival and playing golf in Gullane, where he’s a long-time club member.

He still misses Edinburgh and liked the experience of being cast alongside another handful of Scottish actors, like John Hannah and Peter Mullan, in the Roman epic The Lost Legion, which has just been released in the States. “It was good craic,” he laughs, “although to be honest, we hung around in our togas most of the time. Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley are the stars.” Handsome, fit, and over six-foot tall, Iain dismisses the notion he would ever be lured to live in Hollywood, although he doesn’t reject the possibility of working more in America.

He was tipped to be a new Scottish incarnation of James Bond, in the mould of Sean Connery, but says of 007: “I think Daniel Craig’s nailed that one!” He adds of his friend: “He’s such a nice guy, too.” It’s a description that I can only think would best describe Iain Glen.

‘I’ve played guitar since I was 14. I’m self-taught and it was a gift to be able to show it in the film’

September 13th, 1997 Movies, Theatre admin 0 Comments

NOT MANY actors six years out of drama school have climbed into bed with Charlotte Rampling (in Paris by Night), sulked at Sigourney Weaver (Gorillas in the Mist) and discovered the source of the Nile (Mountains of the Moon). This summer Iain Glen’s Aufidius in Coriolanus proved a threatening adversary – in terms of reviews – to the show’s star, Kenneth Branagh. And now he makes his first stab (since panto at Birmingham Rep, that is) at a character in a comedy.

Or rather two characters in a comedy. The role is that of young Marlow in Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, and according to Glen, the character has a split personality. ‘With a woman of sophistication, class and modesty and refinement, I become a totally tongue-tied buffoon. I can’t even look her straight in the face. But with women of a different class – of a lower order, shall we say – I can’t restrain my libido. I try to bed them as soon as possible.’

The show is directed by Peter Wood for the Chichester Festival Theatre. Glen says Wood told the cast the audience were buying a ticket to 2 1/2 hours of the 18th century; they wanted to be transported. For some of the Chichester audience, this journey won’t be very long, but those who make it will find themselves in reassuringly familiar surroundings: Dennis Quilley plays the father of the beautiful girl, Jean Boht (from Bread) is his wife and Jonathon Morris (also from Bread) is the trouble-maker who leads Glen astray. I met Glen in the distinctly libido-less atmosphere of the theatre clubroom, the day of the technical rehearsal. He was restless. ‘You get to a period in rehearsal where you’d like an audience. Especially with a comedy, when you get used to what each other is doing and it doesn’t seem quite so funny. There’s a silence now that shrouds each run-through.’

There’s also a silence that shrouds our conversation. Glen expresses a healthy dislike of ‘crapping on’ about himself. The alternative, unfortunately, is to gush about colleagues. As he heaps praise on Wood, Branagh and Judi Dench, I get the feeling that neither of us is really listening to what he’s saying. He looks so familiar. It’s partly because of The Fear, the Euston Films series about a north London yuppie racketeer, which plastered his face around Underground stations a few years ago. But it’s also because the Action Man jaw, the earnest eyebrows and crinkled forehead keep reminding me of Paddy Ashdown.

Ask Glen a simple question about himself, like how old he is, and he breaks out in hesitations. ‘Ummm . . . I . . . am . . . 30, 31, 31.’ Ask a more involved question, such as whether he would like to work in Hollywood, and the discomfort becomes positively baroque. This is the answer on tape: ‘But um, but er, no, so, I mean, it, I don’t, I don’t think, but it was um . . . no, yes . . . no, I mean, I mean it was just um, not, er . . . it suits, it suits some, some actors.’ You work it out. Was that a yes or a no? It’s hard not to like an actor who so obviously prefers to work with other people’s lines.

The son of the managing director of the Scottish Investment Trust, Glen was educated (‘for ever’) at the Edinburgh Academy before going to Aberdeen University. He has two elder brothers. One is artistic director at Dundee Rep; the other works for Warburg’s, the merchant bank. Two years through his English course at Aberdeen, Glen was at the Edinburgh Festival playing Max in Bent when he was told he had to retake an exam. Then a review came out saying his Max was better than Ian McKellen’s. Glen never went back. It’s a mark of his singlemindedness that although he was already earning professional money as an actor in Taggart and elsewhere, he went on to do three years at Rada, where his classmates included Imogen Stubbs, Jane Horrocks and Ralph Fiennes.

In the six years since, Glen has never been out of work. His tall, febrile frame exerts a commanding stage presence. Directors praise his stillness, his confidence and his clarity of thought. Hamish, his brother in Dundee, says that he quickly mastered ‘a steely-eyed, detached quality that equals menace’, but his technique has now sharpened to the point where ’emotionally and psychologically, he can turn on a sixpence’.

Glen got married two weeks ago, but hasn’t had time for a honeymoon. His wife is not complaining: she is Susannah Harker, a busy actress herself (Mattie in House of Cards), and also in She Stoops to Conquer, as Miss Hardcastle. They have most of their scenes together: it’s Glen she’s stooping to conquer. They did take one day off rehearsals. ‘Susie had two performances of Venus Observed on the Saturday. Then we travelled up to Edinburgh on the Sunday, were married on the Monday by my uncle who’s a Presbyterian minister, and went back into rehearsal on the Tuesday.’ Luvvies and marriage, it seems, go together like a horse and carriage.

August 9th, 1992 Theatre admin 0 Comments


Now And Glen’ – Getting intimate with The Blue Room star Iain Glen.

If Nicole Kidman was the primary reason for the feeding frenzy of press attention that engulfed The Blue Room on its London premiere, the fact is that she could not have done it alone. So director Sam Mendes fielded her the absolutely perfect partner: Iain Glen. The RADA-trained, Scottish-born alumnus of stage and screen is an actor of guileless charm, extraordinary sensitivity, alert intelligence, and terrific technique – and he’s one of the most unaffected and sincere performers I’ve ever met. He’s nothing if not versatile, either: One season he’s starring with the Royal Shakespeare Company (where he played the title role in Henry V); the next, he’s leading the original cast of the latest Boublil/ Schnberg epic, Martin Guerre, in the West End. Now, he’s assaying no less than five different roles within the same play in The Blue Room.

On a crisp November morning, Glen had just returned form Dublin (where his wife, actress Susannah Harker, was appearing in Uncle Vanya) and was three days away from relocating to New York for the Broadway transfer of The Blue Room. He took time out to talk to In Theatre about the play – and, of course, about working with Nicole – delivering his answers in a soft but distinctive Scottish brogue.

Congratulations on the success of the play. Did you expect it?
We had great fun doing it. It was one of those rare occasions as an actor where you really enjoy the rehearsal process and getting to know a play and another person; and then you open a show and it’s received as well as you hoped it would be, and the audience appreciated it, too. So often, you rehearse a play and it’s a frenetic, difficult rehearsal, but it all seems worthwhile if people are kind about it. Or, conversely, you have a very enjoyable rehearsal process, and then you open and it goes disastrously wrong. This was one of those rare ones that actually worked, and I felt it worked all the way. But you never know.

It’s an intimate piece.
We had to get very intimate with each other very quickly as actors. It’s easy to kid yourself that you’re getting on really well, but with Nicole – through Sam’s help – we immediately established a very easy relationship. I think that was very important. People who come to the play see us do five different characters each; in a way, it’s curiously about the relationship between Nic and I as much as anything. But audiences come willing to suspend their disbelief. They know it’s two actors and allow us to be different people – because they’re getting to know us as actors.

But it must also be a difficult piece to do technically.
That’s part of its theatricality. Theatre has been frightened off [this kind of work]: Through striving towards a kind of filmic realism, it has become suffocated in some way. But theatrical bravery is sometimes necessary. You can take risks in theatre. It’s not about super-realism all the time; it’s about transporting people to different places. People used to love seeing actors do different things: As part of the repertory system, audiences loved to go back to see the same actor in a series of different plays. They get that here, but within the same play. You can feel the frisson – people seem to genuinely enjoy you being different people, to see you work as an actor. So often, your role is to make people believe you are that person and that person alone, so you are trying to hide being an actor all the time. There is no way to do that here. But our audiences have been generous, and they relish it.

It’s quite a contrast to your last theatrical assignment, leading the cast of Martin Guerre.
Yes, it’s funny sitting here. [We are in a private club across the street from the Prince Edward, where Martin Guerre played.] That was home for a good long stretch. Musicals are an entirely different beast. So many elements go into making a musical: very vivid designs and sets, huge numbers of people, massive orchestras and music departments. With this play, we’re at completely the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s just two actors and a set. No prop is used within the play unless it’s directly referred to in the text. The play is entirely about the relationships established between the various characters in La Ronde. In a nutshell, it’s about how the sexual act can mean such different things to different people at different times; how it can create laughter or sadness, anger or tenderness.

Would you do another musical?
Not in the near future. It was a long stint, longer than I like to be in one job. It was quite a year: We did two versions of Martin Guerre. At one point, we were doing the old version during the day, and in the afternoon recording the album with lyrics we’d never really seen before. But I love things evolving. You don’t get things right straight away. That’s one of the risks of opening straight into the West End.

You constantly seek out new challenges in theatre and film.
I don’t know if there’s anything conscious there – I suspect there is, really – but I believe in spreading myself fairly thin. Your ability to sustain interesting work is enhanced somehow; if you can tap into each medium, I think you’ve got more chance of doing the work that you want. I feel challenged as an actor through variety, so being in a huge theatre or an intimate theatre, in front of a film camera or a radio mike are just different aspects of an actor’s abilities. I would feel limited if I wasn’t pushing myself into all of those areas. You hope that you’ve got enough choice, and I’ve been lucky – touch wood – that I’ve never needed to do anything for the money. There’s a terrible fear – and it haunts an actor all his life, I imagine – of getting to a lean period, where you suddenly think, “I just have to do that because I can’t afford not to.” Because I’ve been spoiled that’s my worst nightmare.

What about other fears? How does your wife respond, for example, to the intimacy of The Blue Room?

You get hardened to it. The game we’re in is that we’re playing people falling in love with each other or killing each other; that’s the main gist of what we do. So you get used to seeing your spouse in intimate clenches with different people throughout your life. Every day I would tell Susie about going through the embarrassments of rehearsal – for example, I would tell her, “Today we kissed for the first time.” So she didn’t feel excluded and by the time she came to the show, she was much more aware of the process we’d been through than members of the public would be.

Many may regard you as the luckiest man in Britain and on Broadway for working with Nicole.
I do feel very lucky, but probably for more mundane things. I don’t walk on stage thinking I’m going to kiss her, but because I enjoy acting with a really good friend. I see Nicole’s beauty in terms of her kindness and generosity, her loveliness as a person

December 10th, 1988 Theatre admin 0 Comments


In a Rehearsal room somewhere in south London Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen have been telling each other secrets that will never be revealed to Oprah Winfrey. They are rehearsing David Hare’s The Blue Room, a free adaptation of Reigen by Arthur Schnitzler, known more commonly as La Ronde, since the classic 1950s film by Max Ophuls.

Set in turn-of-the-century Vienna, La Ronde reveals a chain of sexual affairs moving up the social ladder and down again: a tart meets a soldier; the soldier meets a maid; the maid meets and student; and the student a married woman, and so on. In the final scene, a count wakes up in the room of the tart: thus La Ronde is completed. Sexual attraction leads to copulation, often followed by melancholia or brutal indifference.

Schnitzler, a Jew who studied medicine and psychoanalysis as well as being a writer, secretly passed the original around his friends, apparently never intending it to be performed. It was finally produced in the supposedly libertarian city of Berlin in 1920, to an outcry – much of it anti-Semetic – followed by persecutions. When the play came out of copyright in 1982, there was a superabundance of productions but since then just the odd rustle of sheets on the fringe.

With her husband, Tom Cruise, and her two adopted children, Kidman has been in London for the past 18 months, shooting Eyes Wide Shut directed by Stanley Kubrick. Since all involved have signed a confidentiality agreement, only tantalising details have slipped out of the tortuous shoot. Rumours of a plot involving drug-addiction and cross-dressing are rife on the Internet, and this week a US release date of July 16 1999 was at last announced.

While here, she’s been a frequent visitor to London theatre in general, and the Donmar Warehouse in particular, and now becomes the latest film star – following Juliette Binoche, Kevin Spacey and Liam Neeson – to try their luck on the London Stage. Two questions immediately come to mind a) can she act? And b) why on earth would she want to do such a thing?

The first she must be used to, having herself protested that she is best known as Mrs Tom Cruise. The underwritten part of Isabel Archer in Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady may have been disappointing, but there’s no doubt about the sharp perfection of her performance in Gus Van Sant’s black comedy To Die For, in which she played Suzanne, an ostensibly sugary, in fact ruthlessly ambitious, weather forecaster.

Having been mesmerized by Suzanne’s bouffant locks and delicately raised eyebrow the night before, I hardly recognize the gum-chewing streak of beauty who walks into a London club, tall and tousled in a pencil skirt (unlikely gear for a rehearsal and a waist so thin Kate Moss could lent her a pound or two.

It’s much easier to connect Iain Glen, the sandy-haired actor who follows her, with the man who carried the weight of Martin Guerre on his shoulders, and who a couple of years ago, was a memorable touching and troubled Henry V.

Coincidentally, Eyes Wide Shut is also based on a piece by Schnitzler, which should have made Kidman want to bury her head in a Sachertorte when Sam Mendes, artistic director of the Donmar, approached her. It didn’t because, she explains, “Eyes Wide Shut was so far removed from the original, Stanley never even suggested we should read it.” Mendes also made it clear that David Hare would be producing a free adaptation. “He wanted just two actors, each playing five characters.”

The decision to perform at the cash-strapped Donmar has caused a few ructions. “My agent went, ‘You’re doing what? For how long?’ No doubt, they were rapidly working out their percentage on £250 a week. They used to try and tell me what to do, but now they’ve given up. I’m a lost cause. I usually call and tell them what I’m doing.”

Kidman emphasizes that she has not been calling the shots at the Donmar, nor were leading men paraded for her to choose her partner. “I don’t like that. I think you let the director do his thing. Sam is really good at casting and I don’t want to interfere. Not,” she says with a laugh, ” that he offered me the chance.”

Iain Glen got a call from Mendes in New York five weeks before rehearsals started. He was sent the adaptation, and wanted to do it immediately. He admits, however, to some trepidation at his first meeting with Kidman. “It’s the sort of play where if there was any difficulty between us, it would be a nightmare. When we met, my antennae were so alert. I was thinking, ‘I just hope she’s not a weirdo, or going to be difficult.’ But we got over that quickly.”

Hare has made radical changes to the original play, beyond those involved in updating it, moving it away from Vienna, changing the title and writing it for two actors. The updating must inevitably mean a change in the attitude of the female characters, who (apart from the actress character) are as keen to go to bed as the men, but are more reluctant to say so.

Questioned about the title, both actors pause.

Kidman: “We should have Sam here. We’re hopeless. Go on Iain.”

Glen: “I suppose in La Ronde there’s a sense that you come into the world and the world is ongoing, it’s spinning. You get on to the merry-go-round and then you fall off. The notion of the Blue Room, is that it’s the place in which you are isolated if you choose not to commit to relationships. If you don’t try and evolve with people, and get on the merry-go-round, then you are isolated in the blue Room.”

Kidman: “I think that’s where David’s adaptation differs, in that he is saying ‘Get on and participate. Live and learn.’ The play also deals with the way your past is brought into each encounter.”

Glen: “Into every relationship you bring the history of all previous relationships.”

During the glut of productions of La Ronde in the early Eighties, there was some disappointment that the play didn’t rise to the occasion, a series of encounters, each one a mini-playlet, became repetitive as the evening progressed. By all accounts, the most impressive production was by Mike Alfreds for Shared Experience, with the voluptuous Pam Ferris. That, too, used only two actors, and was the celebration of acting that Mendes is aiming for.

Crucial to the play is a sexual rapport between the actors, something neither of them, initially, is keen to discuss. There’s a moment of nervous laughter.

Glen: “Mmm. That’s… it’s an important part of it.”

Kidman: “Look at the way we are both sitting with our arms crossed.”

Glen: “We’re shifting nervously.”

Kidman: “It’s hard, though, playing five characters and having to relate differently sexually to each other as those five characters. You have to be extremely specific about it.”

Glen: “You have to be hard on yourself. When you do get comfortable physically, you tend to drift towards being yourself. You say, ‘Okay, I’m comfortable with this, so I’ll be Iain, – and actually we’ve got to try and create 10 different sexual encounters with five different characters each.”

There must have been some interesting conversations in rehearsal.

Kidman: “There were some revealings of pasts, which will not go beyond the rehearsal room!”

Glen: “Something that men don’t know is how other men make love, and women don’t know how other women make love.”

Kidman: “We really had to look into that.”

Glen: “It’s really important because it mustn’t be flabby and loose. It has to be very real and it has to be, at times, very sexy.”

Kidman: “Don’t say that.”

Glen: “Well, funny and messy and whatever.

Will Cruise and Glen’s wife (actress Susanna Harker) be able to cope with their stage rapport?

Kidman: “We hope so.”

Glen: “I think we’ll get them in early.”

Kidman: “It is different to film, though. In film it’s edited and all put together. You can sit there together in the audience and watch it, and say ‘Oh, it was a terrible day. I hated doing that. I hated kissing him.’ In the theatre, it’s really in your face. But I think they are both pretty secure.”

Glen: “Sam had this clever thing at the beginning that whenever we were supposed to kiss, we just held hands.”

Kidman: “To find out who had the power, who would make the first move.”

Glen: “To suggest what type of kiss it might be.”

Kidman: “We carried on like that for a while.”

Glen: “And then one day we just forgot to put our hands up.”

Kidman: “And now we’ll kiss for you right here!”

September 4th, 1988 Theatre admin 0 Comments
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