Compiled by Jack Foley
Q. You're now based in LA and the film offers are coming thick
and fast, but in terms of accepting projects, do you try and get
a balance of thinking in terms of 'this is an interesting project,
there's no bad roles, there's only small, good roles, etc?
A: I once read a book by Michael Powell, it was a biography,
and he said that, in films, 'there are no big parts and small
parts, there are only long parts and short parts'. And it's true,
I think the hardest job for an actor is the one day player. Because
he has to walk into a situation, which isn't a family set up like
we had, and I've seen actors get really thrown off their game
by a director not quite relaxing them, and they're only there
for that one day, so the discipline is tougher, harder.
And I very much view that there are no big parts. I've been very
lucky, because the quality I've had has been every interesting,
very precise and particular, and I love that, working with Spike
Lee and Spike Jonze.
I just like doing the job. I'm at a stage now where I really enjoy
what I do. I mean, I'm older, and thank God I am, because I'm
actually happier doing what I do.
But like Alan, and I think it's partly to do with my Celtic nature,
I still feel eclectic; I don't feel that this is it.
You know, I think I'm passing through this stage and I think I'll
come out the other side and there will be something else... I
might go back to writing, or go back to teaching, anything.
You know, anything is possible, and I think that if you limit
yourself, it tells. I think you have to always kind of push your
horizons out, and I think that the most important thing is not
to buy into any of it.
Q. When you were growing up, were you a comic book fan? And
if you could have chosen any power to have, which one would you
A: I was a huge comic book fan.I probably had the biggest
comic collection in the east of Scotland. My mother threw it out,
but it would probably be worth a fortune. I had original Batmans,
original Spider-Mans, in my hometown of Dundee, there used to
be a wonderful comic book shop and I used to go in there and spend
all my time there, collecting vast amount of comic books.
My passion was a thing called Classics Illustrated, which was
basically how I got into the classics, because they took wonderful
The X-Men actually came along just at the point where I stopped
collecting comics. I think it started in about 1961, when I was
15. But I've always liked comics.
But the X-Men, of course, are very different because, I think,
Stan Lee took a whole different turn. All the superheroes before
them, you know like Batman, had a very clear sense of good and
evil. But really, they became more circumspect, and that's what
the X-Men are.
I don't know about super powers. I guess I would jokingly say
invisibility, because it seems like a funny idea.
Q. The X-Men is always topical because of the theme it embraces.
But particularly with the climate over the past couple of years,
is it more relevant than ever, this film, because it's about
A: Well, the zeitgeist is incredible, really if you think
about it, because this film was made last year.
I think there is an allegorical nature to the movie, apart from
anything else, that speaks for itself. And I mean, who'd have
In fairness to Bryan, being the fact that it's something that
he really identifies with, there are certain biographical aspects
Q. Do you want to get back to theatre? And do you mind being
the latest in a long line of great British actors playing the
A: I'm getting a little bit itchy about getting back on
the stage, basically because my memory, to see if I can still
I always wanted to do films, I never wanted to do theatre in
the first place. I sort of stumbled into it, by accident or
by education, but by birth I wanted to do movies.
By education, however, I wanted to do theatre, because it seemed
I have more disatisfied evenings in the theatre than I do in
the cinema, partly because I feel a lot more for the theatre.
But I don't feel that I could ever not do theatre. I just think
it's the stuff, at the end of the day, that relationship between
you and the audience and being on the stage. There isn't anything
like it, really, once you've tasted it. But it's hard work and
there's not a lot of profit for it. It's demanding.
But the other part. I just think, it's an interesting thing
about America, how they perceive people who also speak in the
I think they perceive them with suspicion, because they don't
have an American accent.
And I think that is really why British people are cast as these
characters. We have a lot of $9 words, we say things like 'depraved',
and they feel it's a $9 word. There is that element, so that
anybody who seems a bit fast on their feet, or quick with the
language, becomes immediately suspicious, so they're perfect
for bad guys.
And British actors, particularly theatre actors, fall into that;
people like Jeremy Irons, Alan Rickman, Anthony Hopkins, the
list is endless. But I don't think it's a bad thing, because
they are great roles. There was a time when I got fed up with
it, but now I see it as the Devil does have the best songs and
one should be thankful.
As for the decision to base myself in Hollywood, it's really
to do with work.
I started in the theatre in 1961, so that's 40 years, and over
that time I've been able to observe changes and stuff going
on, and I kind of got to a point, with British theatre, where
I got really fed up. And particularly British television.
I think British television comedy is excellent, but British
drama, in terms of drama, is kind of like you want to drop off.
And I felt that in order to continue, I've got to go and get
work, basically. So I went to America in order to get work.
I could have gone on in the theatre forever, and become some
sort of sacred theatre animal, but that's not what I wanted
to do. It's rather boring, rather predicable, and that wasn't
And also I'm Scottish. I'm a Celt and it's different. I've always
felt like I'm a visitor here. I love it, I love London, and
I had a great time when I came here as a student and based myself
here, but I've never felt that really this is my home. In fact,
I've always found it really difficult to know where my home
is, except in the work I'm doing.