Though many moviegoers may not know it, there are a great many Scottish actors in Hollywood that help fuel the celluloid factory that keeps us returning to the cinema hall. One thing we have to acknowledge as we watch our favorite Scottish actors is the sheer variety of roles they are able to play, everything from historical writers and artists to dashing film heroes and the guy next door. So who exactly are these mega-talented Scottish actors we love to watch on screen? Trust us, you know them already.
Ewan McGregor is sort of like Peter Pan: he just never seems to age! Perhaps it’s his boyish charm that keeps him forever young in the eyes of moviegoers. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that he tends to gravitate toward roles that require him to express innocence and hope that spring eternal. His leading ladies, from Nicole Kidman to Renee Zellweger, all testify to his natural sweetness, evidenced in their chemistry on screen. Recall his much heralded turn as the tragic lover and writer Christian in Moulin Rouge who romanced the courtesan Satine. Many critics noted his brilliant performance in the final scene as he cradles his lover’s body in his arms. As Christian sings to Satine in one of the film’s memorable medleys, “Love is a many splendid thing,” so did audiences respond to the many splendors of Ewan McGregor.
Sean Connery is a Hollywood legend unlike any other. He’s been acting since the early 1950s, getting his first itch of the acting bug after working backstage at the King’s Theatre. Connery used his athletic physique to help him get his foot in the door, winning prizes at the Mr. Universe contest and almost landing a contract as a footballer at the age of 23. He declined the offer when he realized that his career as an athlete would likely be over by the time he was 30, so acting it was. He soon earned supporting roles in films opposite Lana Turner and other popular leading ladies in Hollywood. And it was only a few years later that he won the role that would make him an icon for decades to come: James Bond. So popular was he in the role of 007 that producers cast him in a total of seven films; thus to this day, Sean Connery remains the definitive James Bond.
Gerard Butler is another charming young actor from Scotland. Though his body of work is wide and varied, he is most recognized for his performance as Spartan King Leonidas in the 2007 blockbuster 300. Though the film helped launch his career as a global movie star, it mostly helped make Butler synonymous with great abs! Many people who see the film mistakenly think that what they see is all special effects and digital retouching. It is not. Butler trained intensely for the role with the aim of making King Leonidas look as strong and powerful as possible. But Butler has also explored the softer side of his personality in subsequent films, such as The Bounty Hunter (opposite one-time girlfriend Jennifer Aniston) and P.S. I Love You with Hillary Swank. As the films did not perform quite up to expectations, you can fully expect to see Butler in more rugged action fare in the coming years.
Though he may not quite be a standard issue Hollywood leading man, there is something irresistibly charming and attractive about Craig Ferguson. If you ask us, it’s his wacky and off-the-cuff sense of humor, something fans across America get to watch every night as he hosts The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS. A stand-up comic for many years, Ferguson has a razor sharp wit and can make nearly any situation seem hilarious or awkward (if you don’t believe us, just ask the guests on his show). His trademark bit of using puppets to tell jokes also endears himself to fans who prefer comedians who do more than simply use profanity and sexual innuendos to tell jokes. You will also recall Ferguson from his hilarious turn as Nigel Wick, the office boss, on the Drew Carey Show in the 1990s. And something else you may not know about Ferguson: he has written two books, Between the Bridge and the River (a novel) and American On Purpose (his autobiography). While many may cringe at the thought of having to pour through pages written by a Hollywood comedian, take our word for it: his novel is simply brilliant in every single way. Truly a gifted man, actor, and writer.
Alan Cumming rounds out our list of our favorite Scottish actors because there is, quite simply, no one and nothing like him. He first gained America’s attention after his brilliant, award winning performance as Emcee in Cabaret on Broadway. He has also appeared in a variety of other films and roles, including the James Bond thriller GoldenEye with Pierce Brosnan, the second X-Men film and the popular children’s movie Spy Kids. Fans of Minnie Driver will also recall him as one of her unwanted suitors in her breakout film, Circle of Friends (1995). It seems to us that Alan Cumming should be a much bigger star than he is (though he may not necessarily concur). Perhaps the issue is that writers and producers don’t know exactly how to write for his personality as he is rather unique and offbeat. Our favorite performances of his are those in which he appears as himself. If you’ve ever seen his many appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien you know exactly what we mean: too many classic and hilarious moments to be counted!