Shirley Henderson

Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself)

Interviewed by Jen Foley

“ You find yourself somewhere and you wonder, how did I get in this room? ”

Shirley Henderson must be one of the busiest actors around. This month alone she can be seen on cinema screens in Wilbur (Wants To Kill Himself), American Cousins and Intermission. The Scot has also starred in such diverse movies as Trainspotting, Bridget Jones's Diary and Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets. Wilbur sees her play single mum Alice, whose isolated existence changes as she finds love in a bookstore run by brothers Harbour and Wilbur.

Your character Alice has a fragile, dreamy quality about her. What was that like to play?

I quite liked it because I daydream all the time, and I like that quality. You suddenly find yourself somewhere and you wonder, how did I get in this room? That happens to me all the time, every day! I recognised that in her.

And you get romantically involved with both brothers...

Yes this was nice, two guys at once [laughs]. The difficulty for me was to make it believable, that the character would fall for one person and then the next person and not question it really - just let it happen. I think that's what I liked about her: "It's not good but I can't stop it." And [Wilbur] can't stop it either. The romances were different from anything else I've ever dealt with. There was no calculating.

How did you deal with the romantic versus the tragic, suicidal element of the story?

What was nice was Alice didn't really have a problem with the suicide. It was kind of, "oh right, this guy does this, so we all have to get on with it don't we." But he wakes her up as well, and she wakes him up. They need each other.

How did you work on the relationship between Alice and her daughter, played by Lisa McKinlay?

Lisa hadn't done anything in films before, but it was great. Lone [Sherfig, director] set up a week of playing around and improvising. Actors like to muck around on set. Sometimes you're in character and sometimes you're not, and Lisa had never come across anything like that. Lone set that up so we'd all be familiar with her in a way that is probably not normal to Lisa. She came out of her shell very quickly. She was lovely to work with, and a beautiful girl.