A law student at Glasgow University at the time, he drank his way though his degree, and was a reckless drunk. And he drank through his first job as a trainee civil lawyer in Edinburgh until he was fired, a week before he was due to qualify. If you'd stuck at it you could have sued lots of people on behalf of other people by now. He says: "I was at the doctor's a couple of weeks ago and found I'd broken two little bones in my neck from when I was doing Olympus." Jesus, I say. "Jobless, he decided to come to London in the hope of becoming an actor. And that's the last time I ever had a drink."Do you, I ask, think the drinking was the result of your father's double abandonment, first by absence and then by dying? "Right now, I'm sitting on some of the best scripts I've read in a long time." I'd like to see you do something quiet, I say."It's nothing," he says, "I hadn't even noticed it. But it's at times like that you think: I should have stayed behind a desk! "I think it created a lot of sadness in my life and self-doubt." Did he explain why he hadn't been in touch for all those years? He was incredibly entertaining and a great story-teller. He believes in The Secret, whereby you visualise what you want and, voila, it comes true. He says one of the scripts "does give me a nice opportunity to grow up a bit" but then adds "not that I would want to stop doing action and adventure".
His stories were remarkable and sometimes they would turn out to be true, but more often than not they were much embellished, although you'd enjoy them for that embellishment."He owned a novelty hat and umbrella shop in Toronto, right? I mean my agents would say I'm happy when I'm working, but that's the easy part." Working is easier than not-working? I can now see keeping busy may be more important to him than what he is keeping busy with. (In preparing for this interview, I read quite a few, and cringed wildly on his behalf.
"Yeah, he used to spend his whole day in this store wearing an umbrella hat. I say Woody Allen once said he makes so many films because he doesn't know how to stave off depression other than by working all the time. The Ugly Truth, a rom-com co-starring Katherine Heigl, was accused by the Wall Street Journal of "revelling in the misogyny it claims to deplore" while The New Yorker said of The Bounty Hunter: "Even as an assembly line product this falls well below factory standards".
He was nuts, but had a good heart, and wanted people to be happy. I was often on a beach, kneeling on some board, and the board wouldn't move, and my mother would be calling me, and I couldn't get to her. I was the youngest and would always say to my mum: 'Just tell me you love me more' and she'd always say: 'I love you all the same' and I'd say: 'I know you have to say that but, just admit it, you love me more'."Perhaps, I say, you needed to be an actor because it would allow you to be loved by audiences; loved on a large scale? And I could go on, but won't.) He says: "I try to just read the good ones and pretend they are all like that." And then: "No, I learn from reviews.
But it was marketed as an action movie and it didn't do big box office, which hurt, because it looked like we'd made a big failure of an action movie, whereas in actual fact it's a true-life story of a guy who was a drug addict, reformed, became a born-again Christian and ended up building an orphanage in Sudan. And although I don't get much on his personal life, aside from the fact he has homes in LA and New York but has sold the Hampstead one ("I was never there"), I can tell you he is dating someone and this someone is for real, and not Jennifer or Cameron, who never were. He has no answer to that – just as there never is an answer to that – and I leave, taking the elephants with me.
I gave so much to the role and was so affected by it that when I did the first two interviews about it I had to stop, because I was crying."Our time's up astonishingly quickly, and he'd like to talk more. I say it's a pity you're not single, as you strike me as a genuine person, and I was about to offer myself up as your girlfriend. It's hard, working with elephants in the room, but not entirely impossible, as I think I've just proved.
(Full disclosure: I don't see many action films, as they're not my favoured genre, so it may be there are even worse ones.)Anyway, being cowardly by nature, as well as a dissembler, I hope we can get through our hour together without mentioning the film – the elephant in the room! This is certainly my plan, as it would be any sensible dissembler's plan, so I kick off by telling him what a fantastic-looking, cutie-pie of a man he is, which, unusually, is actually the truth. not at all." It was close, but I think I got away with it.