“SO ADAM, WHAT DRUGS DID YOU TAKE TO PREPARE FOR THE ROLE?”
It’s the question INDUSTRIA has come determined to ask Scottish actor Adam Sinclair, star of the new film based on the novella The Undefeated, from Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance. But as it happens, we don’t need to; the man who made his name on Sky cult classic Mile High is clearly in a confessional mood.
“Irvine writes very much about what’s going on at that time, so he wrote a lot about my life, about what I was doing,” the 34-year-old admits, perched on the arm of a sofa at our Shoreditch studio. “I was that kid in the club, on top of the speaker, having those experiences. I wasn’t smuggling drugs from Amsterdam, but, you know…”
In writer-director Rob Heydon’s film, Sinclair plays Lloyd Buist, an ageing clubber who smuggles ecstasy pills (in film cans, appropriately enough) to finance his loved-up lifestyle, a kind of “Choose Love” twist on Renton’s ironic “Choose Life’”mantra from Trainspotting.
Comparisons with Danny Boyle’s 1996 film, vividly adapted from Welsh’s novel about a group of Glaswegian heroin addicts, are inevitable – not least because Ecstasy opens with a Scottish voiceover drawn straight from the text, features a Begbie-like (or Begbie Lite) creation in the form of Solo (Carlo Rota), and has a scene in which Lloyd fishes drugs out of a bathroom toilet. No wonder that Trainspotting is the elephant in the studio. Luckily, again, Sinclair brings it up first. “We’re not doing Trainspotting II,” he stresses, talking a mile a minute, echoing his Ecstasy character after a line of speed. “This is a different book, a different era, a different drug, if you want to look at it that way. The story and the characters come from the mind of the same guy, but we’re trying to be our own movie.”
Maybe someone should tell the marketing people, because the Ecstasy campaign looks an awful lot like Mark Blamire and Rob O’Connor’s iconic, oft-imitated graphic designs for Boyle’s film. Still, they seem to know what they’re doing: even before the film had secured a UK distributor, its Facebook page had over 600,000 fans, suggesting that Sinclair is poised to follow fellow Scot Ewan McGregor into the stratosphere.
Sinclair went to the same acting school as David Tennant, Billy Boyd (who co-stars in Ecstasy) and Trainspotting alumnus Robert Carlyle, with whom Sinclair shared the screen in his first film project, To End All Wars (2000). It was on that film that Sinclair met his future wife, Michelle Kath, who was on set visiting her stepfather, Kiefer Sutherland. The pair married in 2005, by which time Sinclair was already attached to Ecstasy. Would it have been a different film if it had been made more than half a decade ago?
“Definitely. If I’d made it six years ago I wouldn’t have played it the same way,” he says, “because in that time everything changed. I’ve got married, had kids, and moved to L.A. I’m a totally different human being.”
In the film, Lloyd also undergoes a transformation, as he falls in love with a beautiful Canadian, played by Smallville’s Kristin Kreuk. “He definitely evolves as the story goes on, and I think his journey is symbolic of the way Scotland’s changed. You go to Glasgow now, it’s a European city and Irvine was a huge part of that. He put Scotland on the map. All of a sudden people went, ‘These aren’t kids living in caves running around drinking Irn Bru.’ When I come back every few years, I’m shocked by how it’s moved forward.”
Although Sinclair’s career has taken him all the way from Scotland’s East Kilbride to California’s West Coast, other aspects of the actor’s life seem to echo events in the film.
“So many things started to emulate my own life,” he explains. “In the film, Lloyd falls in love with a Canadian; my wife’s American. My father was going through exactly the same thing [inoperable cancer] as my character’s father; he passed away a week after we filmed the funeral scene in the movie. That was very strange, because I was able to tap into stuff, and spill a wee bit of my soul on the screen.”
Ecstasy, he says, is exactly the kind of thing he got into the acting game to make. “I thought it was a great vehicle for anyone coming out of Scotland. There’s a lot of my life in here. If I don’t get the opportunity to play this, then what am I doing?”