Mate, welcome back to Sheffield. How´s your day been?
Pretty good. I´ve been out to Castelton today: I went to this shop to buy some tongues and forkies for the fireplace, but it was shut - and we´d come all that way, like. I got some down Abbeydale Rd.(Sheffield) instead. you know, some old fashioned forkies? I´ve got an old fashioned fire at home.
All the better for roasting chestnuts on. So, where do you call home these days?
London, I guess. North London, that´s where I live. My kids live down there an that. I suppose I´ve got two homes really. One here and one down there.
How often do you get back? Is it a regular thing?
Yeah, I get back quite a bit. But I´m usually filming, you know? I could be in America or Europe - or India as it was this time last year. I just get back when I can and try and spend a few days here: I usually come up on the train instead of driving ´cos it´s horrible:Ít´s good to be back: My mum, dad, sister and cousins all still live up here in Handsworth and Darnall. I´ve gotta go back down to London tomorrow for a function but, after that, I´m doing nowt for two weeks: I think people are getting fed up of seeing me (laughs)
Now, yours is a bit of a Billy Elliot story. How did you go from welding and snow shovelling to rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood elite? You just don´t so that in Sheffield.
I know. About 30 years ago, it was kinda looked upon as being a bit of a bif fairy. You know what I mean? If you said you wanred to be an actor everyone looked at you like you were daft. I had no interest in it before I was 18 but, when I knew I wanted to do it, that was it - no one was gonna stop me. I suppose I´m fortunate in many ways - and I think I´m good an all, like (laughs). The movies were a big bonus. I didn´t expect to making films - I just wanted to get on stage and act. Everything thar´s come on top of that is a bonus.
Was there a defining moment then?
I was at drama school in Rotherham and there were separate classes for acting. I just popped my head through the door one day and watched them and I thought 'I´ll try that, I think I´ll be good at that' So I changed courses and felt right comfortable with it.
When you did your drama training did they try and get rid of your accent?
At R.A.D.A. they did Standard English speaking tests, which I was all right at, I passed them. But some of the people from London didn´t. They couldn´t distinguish what was right ´cos their accents were so closed. Our Principle at R.A.D.A. was a really good bloke and he encouraged me to keep my accent. He said one day I´d need it and he was right. I do a few voiceovers and I always use my own accent. It´s the best accent in the world, the Yorkshire accent is. I´m not going to shake that.
Do you feel like you can leave "Tinseltown" behind and just come back to your roots?
Aye, I do. I feel very much at home here - ´cos it´s my home. I don´t go out up t´town much, I tend to stay round Handsworth. People just treat me for what and who I am. I appreciate that - and that´s the way I always want it to be. Sheffield folk aren´t phased by fame. I saw PaulHeaton from The Beautiful South the other day at Bramall Lane, just out with some lads, and it´s no big deal: It´s nice, that it´s like that, you know? You wanna get away from it someimes...the attention. It´s like a big village here.
When you were young, did you have your favorite hangouts?
Aye. Handsworth Park was like a meeting place for us all - but they´ve got rid of everything that meant anything. There was a lovely library, but it doesn´t exist anymore, so you can´t go and get a book out. it´s those kind of things that makea community an interesting, vibrant place to kive in. I´m backing a new redevelopment project which is aiming to change all that. Got great memories of Crazy Daisy an all (laughs). I´ll always remember that. It was a right laugh there. It was brilliant.
Old school. Mind you, Sheffield´s much on the musical map these days...
Well, it´s always been spot on. Little Man Tate, Arctic Monkeys - there´s a few ain´t there? We´ve always had a great tradition with music. It´s funny, because they love Arctic Monkeys in America. They´re all like, (in American accent) 'great man, but what the hell are they talking about?' And I´m like, 'what do you mean, what are they talking about?' I love that, when you just stick to talking about what you know. They´re all like, (in American accent again) 'hey man, what´s a mardy bum?' (Laughs). I mean, it´s a bit hard to explain that to an American. You´ve just got to wait untill they´re being mardy then say 'That. that´s what mardy is' (laughs).
The journey to where you are today is amazing. At one point, weren´t you looking at being a footballer as a career?
I was. Then I realised I was crap (laughs). No, I wasn´t bad. I was alright.
I did my leg in when I was a kid so it wasn´t really an option but, you know, I think I made the right choice looking back. Didnt´t stop me from scoring a hatrick against Man Utd in "When Saturday comes" though (laughs).
That must´ve been the realisation of a dream. I´ve gotta ask you one question though - why weren´t you in The full Monty?
I was busy (laughs). I thought Robert Carlisle was good though. He played the part really well - and he wore a Blades shirt, so at least he got that right (laughsr). I think it was at a time when I was doing Dharpe and maybe it was a bit too close to home, if you know whar I mean? They ptobably wanted somehow a bit more impartial.
Didn´t you go for James Bond at one point?
They were talking about it, but they were talking about everybody. They wanted everyone and their grandmother. I don´t redgret that ´cos I´ve been able to do what I want to do and diversify - play different parts, different roles, and not get stuck doing anything. It´s a role many people would like to do, you know? It´s an iconic part, but it wasn´t something that excited me. I mean, I was in Lord of the Rings, that was more exciting to me than anything else. That´s something that´s not going to be done again for many, many years, so the part´s set in stone. When I got into R.A.D.A. , I was overjoyed, I coudn´t believe it. When I got Lord of the Rings, it was a similar feeling. It was brilliant.
You´ve got three daughters. Do you think they´re going to follow in your footsteps?
No, I don´t think so. the two eldest aren´t. I mean, they´ve tried it, but one of them´s a musician and she´s doing all right. The other´s into graphic design. My youngest, Evie, might do: She´s into dressing, but so are most kids. We´re all acting all the time, aren´t we?
Have you raised them as Blades though?
Yes (laughs). They´re not as into it as me, they live in London, but they watch them on the telly an that - but you can´t be ramming it down their throats. They don´t support anyone else anyway.
It´s quite difficult balancing a family life with a career like yours?
It´s hard sometimes but, then ahain, you come home - like now I´ve had about three months off so I can spend a lot of time with them. I´d like to be around more, but they´re growing up, and it all balances out in the end.
Great stuff. As far as 2007 goes, what can we expect from you?
I´ve got some films coming out. One´s called "Outlaw", that´s coming out soon. Ir´s by the same director who did Football Factory and The Business. And I´ve got a film called "The Hitcher" coming out and also a film called "True North" - so I think I´ve got about three films coming out next year. I´ve been a busy boy (laughs).