Exclusive Interview: Peter Mullan on Hector, being beardless and working with Andy Serkis

Peter Mullan


When the real issues in society are addressed in cinema there is often a fine line between presenting a true portrayal of problems and missing the mark by quite a bit. Jake Gavin’s Hector is the former of the two, which becomes painfully clear pretty quick. With Peter Mullan in the title role it comes as no surprise that this is the case.

Undoubtedly one of the finest working actors today, Mullan is a master of his craft and his talents even extend to behind the camera. We chat to the man himself about Hector, some of the roles he has turned down and Martin Scorsese.

In this film we see a man who is damaged and seemingly a lost cause. What’s unique about Hector compared to the other tortured characters you’ve played?

You know the kind of guy he is. He is a gentler soul and a more lost kind of guy. The other characters you’re thinking of respond with rage and anger whereas with a guy like Hector, he sort of implodes rather than explodes.

He’s the sort of guy who has spent a lot of time punishing himself. Like a lot of people in that situation, they prolong the agony because they won’t not stop beating themselves up.

What did you take away from the role?

It was a reminder of what it can feel like to lie on a shop front, how vulnerable you feel and how scary it can be.

You have quite an impressive beard in this film. It must have been a relief when you were able to trim it back a bit…

Jesus, I am telling you. I don’t have a beard right now because of a part and because I’ve had one for so long I feel vulnerable without it. Feeling exposed because I am beardless.

You’ve built an incredible body of work to date but are there any roles you missed out on that you wish you had got? 

No – never had any I’ve missed out on. But I’ve said no to quite a few that my kids weren’t too happy about. I said no to Billy Elliot and they weren’t happy about that when they found out when they were older.

I also said no to Pirates of the Caribbean and they were really not happy about that one. When I tried to tell them I didn’t do it to spend time with them, they didn’t care. They said they could’ve been calling Johnny Depp, “Uncle Johnny”. [laughs]

We read somewhere that you got Martin Scorsese to sign a Celtic top for you, is that true and do you keep it in your office or at home?

Yeah, that’s true. Do you know something, it’s embarrassing but I don’t have an office. I’ve always meant to frame but never got round to framing it.

I do know where it is, I am sure I know where it is. It’s in a wee plastic bag somewhere but it’s terrifying that I might not be able to find it. I am the only guy in the world with a Martin Scorsese signed Celtic top.

Have you kept anything from the set of your films and is it as much fun as it looks to work on the big studio productions?

I did have the crew shirt from Braveheart but lost that a long time ago. I don’t have any props from Harry Potter, we weren’t allowed them. The Yaxley wand you can just buy online for about £60.00 – I wouldn’t give them the money for it [laughs].

Definitely, especially on Braveheart and Harry Potter – it was great fun. If you’re working with good guys it doesn’t matter the size of the film.

You are also involved in Jungle Book: Origins. How was it working with Andy Serkis? 

It was brilliant and he is such a nice guy, such a lovely guy. It was great, we shot the whole thing in eight days because we’re all wired up to motion capture stuff. When you actually come to play it, it’s like being in a school play with the computer guys do all their stuff afterwards. It’ll be a great to see how it all looks in the end.

Some of your credits including directing The Magdalene Sisters and Neds. Any plans to return to work behind the camera in the near future?

I wrote a script a couple of years ago about Hurricane Katrina. I’ve been trying to raise the money for it but that’s no happened yet.

So I might have to face up to the reality that it isn’t going to happen. I’ve been working solid and kind of running on empty. I am hoping to take January and February off, if I can. Then hopefully start writing again after that.

HECTOR is out in cinemas nationwide from Friday 11th December and you can read over review here.