Dylan Moran

The Actors

Interviewed by Nev Pierce

The award-winning stand-up comic and actor/writer behind hit Channel 4 sitcom Black Books, Dylan Moran takes his first major big-screen role in "The Actors", a comedy about failed thesps nicking money from a gangster.

You've been doing quite a bit of publicity - what's the dumbest question you've been asked?

I dunno, I probably tend to jettison those ones from memory. One thing that's coming up a lot is: are you as grumpy as you appear from this Black Books thing.

How did you get involved with the movie?

It's difficult for me to put any kind of spin on this question to make it interesting, because it's the same every time. I just got the script and I'd seen a few film scripts and this was the first one that ever really made me laugh. I was laughing on the first page. The script sold me.

Has a career in cinema always been an ambition?

No. It just happened. I'm afraid, I'm being entirely straight here, it did just happen. I never thought, I want to do films. I never thought I want to do anything, really, except not go to work properly and turn up at the same place every day and eat sandwiches in the same canteen, if I can possibly help it, as I don't think I'd be very good at it. And I might get in fights, so I try to stay away from that environment.

Film sets are a pretty stressful environment, though, aren't they?

They're busy if you're on. You don't really have that much time to get stressed, because there's not really any time left in the day to work up a head of steam. It does happen from time to time, but very rarely.

How was the experience of making "The Actors" - presumably it had a pretty modest budget?

You'd have to check that. I'm not sure how it scales on what's usually made here. I think it was modestly comfortable. There was always lots to do and not much time to fanny around, but everybody was up for it and enjoyed it. Those who were making it really liked the script and wanted to do a good job.

How did the experience of acting compare with doing stand-up?

It doesn't really. It's not the same thing at all. In one way it's just another gig, but it's entirely different. It's the difference between playing Bridge and Rodeo. You're doing your own thing if you're doing stand-up, obviously, you are the show. Lights, camera, everything. For this, you're a component in the world that's being made, so you just have to try and be consistent - be consistently the same thing, be that person, or persons, that you're supposed to be.

What made you want to get into stand-up in the first place?

I saw a dress in a shop window that I couldn't afford... I cannot begin to answer that question. I have absolutely no idea. Chemical imbalance, a certain lack of character, I don't know. I have no qualifications to do anything else and there weren't any formal application forms you had to fill in for stand-up, so I thought I'd give that a twist. You try various things when you're growing up. I was an attaché in the Foreign Service for a while and then I drove a bulldozer, but neither of those panned out for me so it had to be stand-up.

How was working with Michael Caine?

It was very good. He's an incredibly professional, gifted, generous actor, and he made it very easy for me. He really enjoyed his character. He got a real bang out of it.

He seems underappreciated by critics...

Yeah, I think Michael has had to deal with that label of being Michael Caine for a long time. He's got great range, Michael. He's a terrific comic actor. Everybody knows he excels at menace. He can do all sorts of things, really, that you don't necessarily find in one actor.

How was it performing someone else's words, as opposed to your own from the stand-up and Black Books?

Well, there were parts of the film where there was quite a lot of ad-libbing, which helped. In the beginning I wanted to make sure I didn't in any way... You know, the odd time I'd say, "Can we move that word from here to there?" or something, but pretty cautiously. And then as time went by I was more relaxed about saying, "Any chance of trying to throw a bit of this in?", but only after I'd reccied the responses of Conor [McPherson, the writer-director] to that kind of thing, because as far as I'm concerned it's somebody else's gear and you don't mess with it unless you're invited to. That's my policy.