Andrew Scott on the rugby-school comedy ‘Handsome Devil’

Handsome Devil: Blackrock boy meets Blackrock boy – the movie

Blackrock boy meets Blackrock boy: Being ‘gay and into sport’ at an elite Dublin rugby school

The Stag review: not your average Irish Hangover

Small roles in Saving Private Ryan and Nora, and an award-winning turn as Edmund in Karel Reisz’s 1998 production of Long Day’s Journey into Night at The Gate followed. Particularly given the journey we’ve come on in that short space of time. It creates a barrier that will become difficult to break down.”

The Bard and the Almeida beckons. Scott, in common with Luke Evans and Zachary Quinto, is one of an alarmingly short list of actors who are, to use what ought to be an archaic term, “out”. My sister is a sports coach. Then there won’t be any conversation.”

Handsome Devil is on general release from April 21st I’m really buzzed that this play that was written 400 years ago allows for people to talk about compassion and mental health issues.” 

Andrew Scott as Hamlet in Robert Icke’s modern-dress production of Shakespeare’s longest play. It separates us. “I’m confident in Irish film. More than any other play I’ve ever done. With a nod to Dead Poet’s Society, a riled Scott bellows at his charges: You spend your whole life being somebody else,” he roars. “Who’s going to be you?”

Teachers should be passionate. “It’s extraordinary. And then I have my chocolate regime. “Yes. Much has been written about the Dublin actor’s turn as Hamlet at London’s Almeida Theatre, almost all of it gushing. “But, as in the film, at school, there was always this rubbish that if you were interested in one thing, you weren’t allowed to be interested in two things or three things. That. It’s reductive and boring and insidious in its effects. That year it did change. Under the tutelage of an inspirational English teacher – played with plenty of vim and vigour by Scott – these guarded youngsters slowly learn to be true to themselves. There are amazing Irish actors and crews. I’m happy that ‘conversational’ keeps coming up in the ones I have read. I’m an actor pursuing interesting work. Not bad for a kid who got into acting as a way to boost his confidence. They have to be interested in the students but not too interested. We’re a shining example for the rest of the world at a time when one is needed.”

Andrew Scott plays an inspirational English teacher in ‘Handsome Devil’. I played rugby a little bit. And I liked it. Photograph: Maarten de Boer/Getty Images

“Luckily, the school I went to was also very big into the arts,” recalls the actor. There are certain autobiographical overlaps for Scott, too. To say that a gay role has to be played by a gay person is a step backwards, not forwards. Indeed, his career began in earnest, aged just eight, with a much-googled advert for Flahavan’s porridge. Scott continues to be pleasantly surprised to find fans assembled nightly at the stage door, some of whom have flown in, armed with selfie-sticks, from distant lands. You don’t really get that in the movies. Exercise sometimes.”

And don’t be stingy with the chocolate. But they should have other things in their lives.”

Youthful experiences
John Butler drew on his own youthful experiences to create Handsome Devil. So there’s something in the blood. It was one of the happiest days of my life. But the idea that two years ago I would go to Dublin Castle with my mum and all my friends to celebrate a public vote for gay marriage. And you see it everywhere. I feel free.”

He laughs: “Except when Mark Rylance is in the audience.”

Between high-profile projects – Spectre, Alice through the Looking Glass, Denial, some little BBC TV show called Sherlock – Scott likes to squeeze in homecoming gigs whenever possible. It has been an exhausting run, he says: “But so worth it. I’m a terrible man for chocolate. It’s reductive and boring and insidious in its effects

Scott has, as he puts it, “been tugging away at theatre for so long” that he was first approached to play Hamlet some 15 years ago. Teachers should be passionate. “For that reason, early on, I talked to John (Butler) about making the character a bit less present and overbearing than he was in the original script. For a man who is dying in a bloody pile of poisoned corpses every night, Andrew Scott is awfully chipper. The Independent’s Paul Taylor concurs: “I’ve never heard a Hamlet that takes us from the tissue-rustling of quiet despair to the tantrum-throwing of sardonic scorn and self-mockery.”

Scott, an Olivier Award-winning veteran of the National Theatre, The Old Vic and Broadway, is mostly pleased to have read the word “conversational” attached to Robert Icke’s modern-dress production of Shakespeare’s longest play. You have to strike a balance. “Even now I can’t say that I don’t get nervous,” he says. Aged 17, he landed a starring role in Cathal Black’s Korea. And that makes me very interested in how teachers are portrayed on film. Irish film
“I’m really excited about how things are going in the Irish film industry,” he enthuses. Everything is either fawning or insulting. Always a pleasure, insists the sometime star of Jimmy’s Hall and The Stag. It doesn’t have to be academic or boring. You do not need to remind me that it’s Creme Egg time,” he cries, with the kind of fervour that has allowed him to repeatedly upstage Benedict Cumberbatch. Other interests and other sexualities are not a threat.”

It’s interesting to hear him talk about categorising. It’s just that nonsense of categorising people gets in the way. You can replicate sex on film with anybody. Sexuality doesn’t and shouldn’t come into it. “I’m always happy to meet and talk with people,” he says. And in an age when people spend four or five hours on a box-set, then why not on Hamlet? Certainly not every 40-year-old Irish guy. Certainly not every
40-year-old Irish guy

“I’m not someone who completely avoids reviews,” he clarifies. And John was totally responsive to that. I don’t have a nationalist bone in my body. Eat well. As a teenager he attended Gonzaga College, an institution that seems to manufacture national rugby stars. And richly deserved, to boot. “They have an energy that you can draw from. Photograph: Almeida Theatre

Today, some hours ahead of this evening’s three-and-a-half hour performance, the 40 year old is just a little hoarse. “From the beginning he is emphatic, tipping easily from fury into tears, a windmill of small gestures, pointing to his eyes when he talks of weeping,” writes Susannah Clapp in The Observer. “But I feel much more comfortable as an actor now. “I feel very proud to be Irish on that score. Not everyone gets to play Hamlet. As we’re seeing all over the world, nationalism now threatens to bring back divisions we’ve worked so hard to get rid of. To say that a gay role has to be played by a gay person is a step backwards, not forwards

“No human being wants to be defined by one thing,” he says. “I firmly believe this notion that we should only cast gay people in gay parts or straight people in straight parts is really dangerous. Long may it continue. Sexuality is not a flaw in a person’s make up, nor is it a virtue. “That’s why ticket prices are so important. It should be watched, not read. “When I think back on being 16, it was still illegal to be gay in Ireland,” he recalls. “What I love about the film is the friendship and the insistence that you can be friends with whoever you want. “I can only speak to my own experience. “Trust me. You have to take care of yourself between shows. Part of the fun of being in a company is that you develop all these little nightly rituals with other actors. Not everyone gets to play Hamlet. Shakespeare is for everyone. That’s so damaging. My dad worked at Fás. I don’t have a nationalist bone in my body. Set in a rugby-mad school during the 1980s, the film concerns the sometimes fraught friendship between a gay, sports-hating loner and a star jock. Writer-director John Butler, centre, with the cast of ‘Handsome Devil’ – Jamie Hallahan, Eoin Griffin, Jay Duffy, Andrew Scott, Moe Dunford and Finn O’Shea. “But I don’t read them obsessively either. But they should have other things in their lives

“My mother is a teacher. But, in person, you have to have a proper, two-way conversation.”

He laughs: “Unless people are rude. That journey goes to the heart of Handsome Devil, a new award-winning comedy from director John Butler. It’s one of the things that I dislike about social media. But that’s just for me.”

I guess this is what happens when your two-month run coincides with Creme Egg season. But I still take enormous pride in Irish film, in Irish arts.”

Scott, who has been openly gay since his teens, is also willing to make a flag-flying exception for the 34th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland. But I was more interested in arts and drama.