Jonny Lee Miller
The intense English actor Jonny Lee Miller is probably still best known as the bleached-blond Sean Connery wannabe Sick Boy in everyone's favourite junkie movie, Trainspotting. He also played the thankless role of Husband #1 in the ongoing real-life saga of Angelina Jolie's love life. But Miller could make a comeback this week with his convincing turn as Graeme Obree, the Scottish cyclist who broke records, had them stripped away and suffered periodically from depression in The Flying Scotsman. Miller spoke with me, somewhat listlessly, on the phone from Manhattan.
How much of Graeme Obree's story did you know going into the film?
That's the funny thing - he wasn't really considered a national hero. I wasn't aware of his story. That's part of the reason why I wanted to make the film, to tell this story that people hadn't heard.
What did you like about the part?
From a character point of view, it's got a ton of range, full of emotion.
What kind of training did you go through?
Before filming, I got ahold of a bike and spent a good couple of months hitting the roads. Then I went to the Manchester velodrome and familiarized myself with the track and track etiquette.
How weird is cycling on a velodrome?
The main thing you have to remember is not to slow down or you'll slide down.
People keep quiet about depression, and Obree finds it difficult to talk about. Why do you think that is?
I think when people feel down they don't understand why. It's all-consuming. You believe you're worthless, and that there's something wrong with you for not appreciating what you've got. It can manifest itself in many ways. It's not the most well-understood of conditions.
How did you get to that place emotionally?
It's hard to explain acting. You try and look at a situation and recreate it. A lot is about empathy.
One of your co-stars was LOTR's Billy Boyd. Any hobbit jokes?
All the time. He was good with it and could give it right back to you.
How did having a success like Trainspotting affect you early on in your career?
It opens a lot of doors, but whether you walk through the right ones or not is a whole different matter. I kind of dodged a lot of the fuss because I wasn't in Britain when it came out, I was in America. Whether that was good or bad I don't know.
Is it weird seeing your ex-wife Angelina Jolie in the tabloids so much?
Yeah. I feel sorry about all the awful things they put in there. It's terrible. We keep in touch a little bit. But really, who wants that kind of attention?
THE FLYING SCOTSMAN (Douglas Mackinnon) Rating: NNN
The Flying Scotsman cycles past a lot of underdog sports movie clichés, but you can still feel them wanting to overtake the film. Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) plays Graeme Obree, the real-life cyclist whose on-again, off-again competitive career owed a lot to his non- traditional bike design (he constructed some out of washing machine parts) and his history of depression. The film gets confusing at times, what with all the talk of cycling regulations. But some sections are heart-poundingly exciting, and director Mackinnon and Miller are sensitive, not sentimental, in their exploration of depression. Good supporting work, too, from Billy Boyd and Brian Cox. It'll make you dust off your bike and hit the road.