The Brit at the Back
by Anwar Brett
Film Review, September 1999

Nice chap, John Hannah.  That's the trouble.  He seems almost typecast as pleasant characters.  Whether you first noticed him as Gareth's heartbroken lover, reciting Auden poetry at the one funeral that interrupts those Four Weddings, the man who wooed Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, or even as the vaguely-dissolute-but-nice-really-brother of Rachel Weisz in The Mummy, he comes across as a thoroughly decent bloke.  This clearly rankles with the actor, as he craves more diverse and exciting roles in which to show his acting mettle.

"I seem to play quite nice, unthreatening characters," he nods.  "But then i'm the kind of guy that people as to look after their luggage at airports while they go off and do something.  So I guess I've got a fairly trusting face -- if only they knew!  I have a darker side I could bring out but, as an actor, it's an area that I haven't really investigated even though I know it's there.  I know I'm not this lovely, nice, warm, friendly guy that people might assume.  There's more to me than that."

As his star rises higher, Hannah is having deal [sic] with the threat of typecasting as well as make allowances for the minor inconveniences that fame brings.  "Fame is horrible," he sighs, "You'd have to be a moron to like it.  The worst thing is the paranoia of people staring at you, it makes you think you've got a bogey on your nose, or something.  Or if you have a row with your wife in public, if you're anonymous people still see the same thing, but there's something about people knowing who you are when you're not at your best."

The normality of his reaction, the down-to-earth personality that probably makes directors cast him as dependable types, surely comes from his relatively late entry into acting.  Falling into the business almost by chance after quitting his job as an electrician, he studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.  "All my friends were getting jobs, and I realized that if I wanted one going to drama school was the one thing that didn't require any specific talents," he smiles.

Such modesty aside, Hannah is currently carving out a busy and productive career.  He jokes that, of course, all the best scripts go to Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle, but still manages to work with much success on stage, TV and in film.  And after The Mummy there is more to come.  He has already completed Norman Jewison's Lazarus and the Hurricane, as well as the low budget British film Circus.

"I've always said that I'd go anywhere for a good script," he nods.  "The trouble is there's a lot of bad scripts around so it's a question of trying to find good roles.  Circus is great though, it's about a week in the life of a conman.

"I think it really reflects something I've noticed in the last few years, that we're actually making films that are about pure entertainment rather than social realism.  And we don't feel guilty about doing it, because they're still very much from the heart.  That's great."


Hannah and his producer
by Keely Winstone
copied with permission from

While John Hannah, actor, continues to score feature film hits in Hollywood, his EC1 alter-ego is quietly developing UK drama with producer-partner Murray Ferguson. Keely Winstone finds out how to switch between the two as Clerkenwell Films prepare...

Meet John Hannah, development executive and budding producer. He might be more familiar as a star of the big screen, but these days Hannah's day-job shares the limelight with Clerkenwell Films, his production outfit with ex-Scottish Television producer Murray Ferguson.

While Hannah's film contemporaries (Ewan McGregor, Jude Law, Linus Roache) set up on their own to gain more control, this star insists Clerkenwell isn't just for Hannah vehicles, and he's getting good offers right now anyway, thanks very much.

But that doesn't mean he'll be passing up anything he fancies playing: "If there's something I'm right for, I get it first," he grins. And it's already happened for Clerkenwell's kick-off project, ITV drama Inspector Rebus. Ferguson sees the commercial advantage: "Clearly we can use that card."


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John Hannah Makes Me Roll Ma Rrrrrs
by Geri Richter Campbell
Jane Magazine, May 1999

Who didn't cry when John Hannah recited the W.H. Auden poem in Four Weddings and a Funeral?  Will he ever live that down?  "Well, it's better being remembered for that than for pulling out an Uzi and killing the clientele in a McDonalds," John says in his melodic Scottish brogue.  John was working as an electrician when his boss encouraged him to become an actor.  After Four Weddings put John on the map, he was Gwyneth Paltrow's love interest in Sliding Doors.  John, who is 5 foot 10, had to wear lifts during the close-ups, but took it as a compliment.  "I was like, 'Wow, I've arrived,' because there woulda been a time in my career where they just woulda got a a taller actor," John brags.  "They were worn by Tom Cruise, so I kept them."  I ask John if his wife, British actor Joanna Roth, ever gets jealous.  "Of course not," he answers facetiously.  Not even of Gwyneth?  "You know how people always envy what they're not?  Well my wife is really petite and very dark; so yeah, a tad," he confesses.  His newest film, The Mummy, is a special-effects extravaganza about a mummified priest who comes back to life.  Did he ever think he'd be making big-budget Hollywood movies?  "No, I never thought I'd be makin' any kinda movies.  I'm surprised anyone even employs me at all," John says, laughing.


John's home to the Holyrood Thrills
by Gavin Docherty
Scottish Sunday Mail, April 25, 1999

     We've barely settled down to talk when John Hannah bursts into fluent Hollywood whizzkid speak. His conversation is peppered with movie mogul jargon.
     The former electrician from East Kilbride, now 37, has become a pretty serious player in the film and TV production scene - with millions of pounds to spend virtually on the roll of a dice.
     A decade after he left Scotland to scrape together a tough living as a £150 a week jobbing actor, the prodigal son is about to make a spectacular return. 
     Meet Inspector John Rebus. He's a haunted, sardonic, 'I've seen it all and it stinks' detective and Hannah couldn't resist the starring role.
     'There's an obsessiveness about him, an obsessiveness about not only the work but about his own place in the world as a human being, his failures as a son, his failures as a policeman, his failures as a husband and as a father', John says.
     'It's also the failures of society, the failures of the church, the failures of God. He is quite a complex character.'
     John's homecoming marks the start of the first of two feature length Rebus dramas to be shot back to back for Scottish Television.
     In the showbiz world's high stakes poker game, JH's hand is the equivalent of a royal flush.
     Under the terms of his deal with STV, he will also have a hand in producing the £1 million a piece Rebus shows under the Clerkenwell Films Productions banner he created with producer, Murray Ferguson.
     'It's very exciting to be able to take control of my own destiny,' John says. 'That is partly what this is all about'.
     'As an actor, I'd be approached about projects then someone else would go off and try to raise finance on them'. 
    'It occurred to me that if my name was being used for that kind of currency, then there would be projects that I would like to be involved in and pursue.'
     In November, when the Rebus bandwagon rolls into town, it will also be a major jobs boost for fellow workers in an industry often beset by long spells of unemployment.
     As the down to earth star declares: 'Believe me, I know a thing or two about being unemployed. There were no films happening in the 80s, thanks to the Conservative government.' John harbours no misgivings about how personal success is achieved.
     'This has all been done through' hard graft. Not just the hard graft of actually doing the work, but the hard graft of putting up with unemployment for years.
     'There's so many more films happening now that the possibility is there for people to leave drama school and suddenly be catapulted into a very high profile situation.'
     JH's first ever screen break came in 'Loser's Blues', a short film by Scottish movie maker, Norman Pollock.
     Set in the shadow of Ravenscraig, it was produced on a budget held together by elastic bands and paper clips.
     Now the sky's the limit as the Sliding Doors star secures his first major production deal.
     And if the Rebus name is not familiar so far, it soon will be.
     Created by Edinburgh based novelist, Ian Rankin, he's a cop who has been called a 'thinking person's 'Taggart''
     Rebus is a character begging to be televised. 
     'It's such a great role - it's something you wouldn't pass up' John says.
     'The 'Taggart' comparisons will be made simply because of the kind of material it is, but I don't think Rebus is going to be comparable to anything else around at the moment.'
     After reading one of the novels, John says he was instantly hooked on the character.
     The part also gives the actor the chance to play up to his dark side. Rebus is ex-SAS who left the army and joined the police. His life is dominated by work, booze and music. 'He is not religious and yet there are fantastically philosophical conversations with this old priest whom he goes to see', John says. 'I think he is quite a sensitive individual but, at the same time, he has this time toughened exterior' 
     So, why hasn't success spoiled JH? Spilling his inner most thoughts on the subject, John confesses: 'I don't get all this fuss. I try to avoid it. I just carry on doing what I'm doing, trying to do it as well as I can. And not really getting too carried away with everything.
     'I don't cut out all the newspaper clippings and all that. I don't go to fancy parties. I leave the newspaper clippings to my mum.
     'I don't think I've ever consciously thought about a career or goals or a destination. You just think of what you want to be doing.
     'I have just moved into a different room if you like. It never really gets any easier. You just start competing with different people for the same roles. You are still auditioning in that sense.
     John has just finished a film with Denzel Washington and Rod Steiger in the Norman Jewison-directed 'Hurricane'. It's the story of world heavyweight boxing champion, Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, who was wrongfully imprisoned for murder.
     And he's about to start shooting his next movie, 'Circus', in which he'll star with former Bond babe, Famke Janssen. It will be shot in London and Brighton. 
     Lucky John gets to pretend he's Famke's husband for seven weeks.
     'It's a double cross movie and it's really brilliant', he says. 'We are married in it - a couple of cons, a couple of grifters. I got about 60 pages into the script and didn't have a clue what was going on. It is brilliant.'
     Next month sees the release of his first mega budget action horror picture' The Mummy' with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz.
     This would seem to suggest, in terms of his film career at least, that John has got it all wrapped up. Or does he?
     'There are still levels of anxiety or apprehension', he replies. ''The Mummy' may well be a complete turkey from my point of view. I think the film is amazing but I could or could not be terrible in it. The constant working in front of the camera gives you a certain confidence to try things.
     'I feel more confident in being able to attempt different things which, I guess, is good. I also think getting involved in the production side of things is a means of alleviating the anxiety about where I am going and what my destination really is.
     'But I feel fairly comfortable as an actor at the moment. A couple of years ago, I felt a bit like a hamster on a wheel. You keep doing things and you don't want to stop doing them because you don't know if you'll get offers as interesting again. You get to a point where you tire yourself out a little bit.'
     And though John and his wife, stage and screen actress, Joanna Roth, are both preoccupied with their careers, they've always found time for each other.
     'It's a different sort of basis on which we live our life' he explains. 'We don't have a standard way of seeing each other but we do get long periods where we will be together constantly and we make an effort all the time to make the best of it.
     'You grow up looking at how your mum and dad's relationship worked and that's what you imagined the norm is - but it doesn't have to be like that'.


One Mugging and Two Heroes
Author unknown
Evening Standard, February 1999

FORMER Coopers & Lybrand accountant Gary Smith, head of Aim-listed film company Winchester Entertainment, still does his due diligence thoroughly. Yesterday, he finally clinched the deal to get Four Weddings and a Funeral actor John Hannah to star in Winchester's next film Mr Benn - but it's taken ages. Three years ago, Smith was schmoozing Hannah at the Cannes film festival. When a luvvie was mugged outside, Hannah raced out of the bar in pursuit of the attacker. A reluctant Smith, desperate to impress Hannah, reluctantly followed him. "I kept a safe 10 yards behind," he tells me. They got the mugger - and Smith has now got his man.


Scots film star John hates being famous
by Alison Maloney
The Sunday Post, June 27, 1999

The Honest Truth
     As Scottish actors flock to Tinseltown, John Hannah has fled to the desert for his latest film, The Mummy.
     Starring opposite Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, John (37) faces flesh eating bugs, the 10 Egyptian plagues and a 3000-year-old corpse given a new lease of life by an evil curse.
     All a far cry from his days as an electrician in East Kilbride when a chance comment from a colleague made him throw down his screwdriver and head for the boards.
     After studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama he toured with the UK's leading rep companies before making it big in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
     Since then he's starred in The James Gang, Resurrection Man and Sliding Doors, opposite Gwyneth Paltrow, as well as in TV series McCallum and Out of the Blue.
     John, who lives with wife Joanna Roth in London, told Alison Maloney The Honest Truth about his hectic life.

Did you really insult your home town of East Kilbride recently?
     It was bizarre because it all got out of hand and my mum was really upset about it.  An Italian journalist asked where I was from and I said East Kilbride.  To explain, I said it's a New Town just outside Glasgow, like Milton Keynes is to London.  But somebody on a newspaper assumed I was insulting East Kilbride.
     Then things went crazy and I was accused spending too long in the wine bars of Chelsea and had forgotten my roots.
     Then the people from Milton Keynes got involved as well and they were annoyed too!

What do you really think about East Kilbride?
     East Kilbride is great if you have kids.  That whole lifestyle is very seductive.  You get a job, get married then you have kids and you think "What's the point of moving?"
     But for people who want to do something else there's nothing there, so you have to move away, even to Glasgow.  Culturally, they're worlds apart.

What do you do for fun?
     As I get older I've started to find all these hobbies and things to do.
     When I started I had no hobbies.  I was just working and drinking.  But then you get older and you can't recover from a hangover so you start doing other things.
     Maybe it's my mid-life crisis but I've become a born-again adventurer.  I've been snowboarding in Canada and scuba-diving in Malaysia.  It's great.
     I play golf in the summer, snowboard in the winter and scuba-dive on holiday.  I've also bought a motorbike which I love to ride.

Do you ever pinch yourself when you think about your rise to fame?
     Not really, because it happens in such small steps.  I've been an actor for 14 years and I was an electrician for four, so it seems like a lifetime ago.  It happens by such small degrees that it's like growing up -- you're not aware of suddenly being taller, you just are!

Were there hard times on the way?
     I had about eight years when the film industry in the country didn't really exist so there was no chance of doing films.
     Kids leaving college now can have a film career immediately and be the "overnight stars" we all read about.
     I was lucky because even in my worst year for work, I did an advert at the start of the year and made £20,000 which saw me through.

Ever think of finding a different job?
     At one point I thought I might have to go back to being an electrician, but by then the construction industry had been destroyed so there were far more skilled people than me out of work.
     I tried to get a job in Pizza Express and I was rejected because I wasn't "career committed" to being a waiter.

What is your family's reaction to your fame?
     I think they're really pleased.  They get a kick out of seeing the posters and people talking about me.
     My dad believed you should have a trade behind you so you always have that to fall back on.  But by the time I decided to take up acting, I was pretty much my own man anyway.  I'd done my apprenticeship so there was nothing more he could ask me to do.

Why did you decide to change your career?
     It suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't enjoying what I was doing as an electrician.  I was trying to figure out something else I could do and there was nothing.
     Then a guy at work suggested I went to drama school and it just seemed a good idea.  Drama school doesn't really require any talents like playing a musical instrument or being able to draw -- you just have to make a fool of yourself.
     I wasn't thinking of becoming an actor.  I just wanted some time to figure out what I wanted to do.  Then I started doing it and really enjoyed it.

Would you like to live in Los Angeles?
     There's nothing wrong with it.  I go quite regularly now and I have friends there.  I stay in the great hotel called The Cadillac where backpackers stay in dormrooms with four beds in them.  It's quite cheap.
     I stay there when I'm paying, but if someone else is picking up the bill it's a different story.

Do you get to spend enough time with Joanna?
     We try to see each other as much as possible.  The worst has been when I was in Canada for about four months last year, and I got two weeks off at Christmas.
     She was doing a play in London so that meant she couldn't come over.  That was tough -- the longest we've been apart.

Do you like fame?
     No, it's horrible.  You'd have to be a moron to like it.  People are staring you all the time.  If you have a row with your wife in public you're worried that people can see you.
     Last night in the pub this lady came for an autograph.  It turned out she'd been to the doctor's and had some bad news so we had a chat for a while and she went back to her seat.
     But she wouldn't leave me alone -- she must have come over a dozen times -- and it was getting to be a pain.  You can't be rude but eventually I had to tell her she was interrupting our evening.

Did Joanna come out to Morocco while you were filming The Mummy?
     She came to Marrakesh but she got ill.  In fact, everybody took ill, but she was first.  She arrived on Friday, spent four days in bed and then went home.
     Everybody was sick.  After Morocco we had 10 weeks filming over here and a lot of people had what turned out to be a form of dysentery which the antibiotics wouldn't treat.

Do you have any phobias?
     Ironically, as I have to deal with them in The Mummy, the one phobia I have is beetles.  When I was kid I was coming back from a river and I felt something down my back.
     I shook my shirt a couple of times and then put my hand down and pulled it out and it was this huge beetle -- and it bit me!  I threw it on the ground and jumped up and down on it.


Last Update: 22 May 2001 by SRAH
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