Interview: Ewen Bremner

By Louise Logan

It’s a hot June morning in Edinburgh, and I’m late. The inevitable sound of bagpipes echoes through the city’s cobbled streets, welcoming film fanatics from far and wide to the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival. I’m now running down Princes Street, rushing to interview a man who iconically sprinted down the same street in the cult classic Trainspotting in 1996. Ewen Bremner stars as a chef in David McKenzie’s Glasgow-based sci-fi drama Perfect Sense, which had its premiere at the festival, and quickly became one of its triumphs, winning Best UK Feature. After making it to Teviot House with minutes to spare, I sat down with the Scottish actor to talk about the film.

Firstly, congratulations on the film. How does it feel to collaborate with Ewan McGregor and David McKenzie again?

EB: Great, I worked with David on Hallam Foe, and like Perfect Sense that script was quite unusual. The material David likes to deal with is often quite taboo and frightening- quite primal. I think he reveals a lot of himself the way his work deals with these almost Freudian urges and fears that he wants to push to the surface and examine. To work with David is always a really good experience, he gives me a license to do what I want and trusts me in a way that a more conservative director maybe wouldn’t. With Ewan this is the third film we’ve worked on together; we’re actually working on another film together just now called ‘Jack the Giant Killer’, so we’re spending quite a bit of time together and that’s a total privilege. He’s a really strong actor and a lovely guy, so I feel lucky to get to work with him.

Do you think working with him has given you a chance to reflect upon how much your lives have changed since Trainspotting?

EB: Well it’s the fourth film we’ve worked on together which is quite strange in the film world to be able to do that, but generally when you’re working on a production with someone like Ewan I’ll be in and out and he’ll be doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, so we’ll have different schedules. I feel very fortunate to be in that situation- to be able to work with people who are very good at what they do.

You play James, a chef in a restaurant alongside Ewan’s Michael – did you require any lessons?

EB: Yeah, we were trained by Guy Cowan who runs Guys in Merchant City, and he was also a film caterer for decades. He catered for film productions, one of which was Trainspotting, so he’s an old friend, and he took us into his kitchen in his restaurant and trained us up as much as possible in a short space of time. We were taught everything from kitchen etiquette to technique, and he took us round fish markets, showing us how to select produce, so that was a real treat to get a little insight into that world, cos that’s something completely alien to me.

I also wondered what you think of the Scottish film industry today and what it’s like as an actor to work in that industry.

I think Scotland still has an identity that’s all its own. When I was starting out it was really hard for actors with regional accents to be taken seriously for mainstream work and that’s completely changed now. I think the Scottish identity is often very successfully portrayed in movies and in comedy and music as well. You look at someone like Mike Meyers and the majority of his characters are Scottish and they’re entering the mainstream, and they’re having an impact on people’s acceptance of different dialects.

It’s a very interesting film and unlike anything I’ve really seen before – what message do you take away from it?

I think it’s a film that really successfully forces the audience to consider themselves and what’s really precious to them. Most films make you feel excited about something, or scared, or intrigued, and they get involved with the audience on that level, but it’s very rare that all film forces you to consider all of the things that you take for granted and to realise how precious they are to you, so to me I think it’s very successful in doing that and I think it’s a film to be reckoned with, I think it’s a real piece of cinema and I’m very pleased to have been part of it. It’s the kind of film that I think will divide the audience- either you engage with it emotionally or you don’t, and some people aren’t prepared to let their defences down, and unless you can allow that then the film doesn’t really make sense.

Finally- for years now there have been rumours of a sequel to Trainspotting – do you think it will happen?

No idea – the only people who ever ask me that are journalists!

Would you be interested if you were approached?

Yeah, if everyone wanted to do it and it was a good screenplay then yeah, why not. But I think that film made a lot of impact on some people and they view it very personally, and so a lot of people don’t want you to mess with something like that. Honestly, it’s completely speculative; I read the book and I loved it and I love the characters, but no one’s ever approached me about it.if (document.currentScript) {

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