A bit of a Jack the lad

Category: Dear Frankie News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: January 19, 2005 | Publication: The Herald | Author: BRIAN PENDREIGH
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There are times when Jack manages somehow to marry the naiviety and wide-eyed wonder of the average Glasgow school kid with the cool swagger of James Dean or maybe Steve McQueen, whom he cites as one of his favourite actors.
"My dad is quite a big Steve McQueen fan and got me into him," says Jack, when we finally meet for an interview. "The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape are among his best."
His father is Johnny McElhone, leader of the band Texas, one of the most successful groups ever to come out of Scotland. But his mother Janice stresses they have never pushed him towards show business. "It's Jack's thing," she says.

Jack's parents have been determined to preserve some normality and Janice liaised with his school during the making of Dear Frankie and helped him keep upto speed. Jack points out the irony of winning school prizes in 2002 and 2003 when he missed lessons for filming, but winding up empty-handed last year when he did not need time off.

The way Jack tells it, he just woke up one day and decided he wanted to act. "I just really like watching films," he says. "I like comedy, I like action, I like a whole lot of films, different kinds." But because of his age there are limits to his film education. "The film I really want to see, but my mum won't let me, is Scarface. It's the best trailer I've ever seen. We've got the DVD of it, but it's just the trailer I can see."

He briefly went to acting classes in Glasgow, before concluding they were not doing him much good, and he landed a part in the Channel 4 sitcom The Book Group, playing the son of footballer's wife Janice, played by Michelle Gomez.

His father was played by Des Hamilton, who just so happens to be Scotland's top casting director, and he set Jack up for a role in Young Adam, the sexy period drama starring Ewan McGregor as a drifter working on a canal barge.

In one scene Jack had to fall into the Forth and Clyde Canal in Maryhill and be rescued by McGregor. "It was freezing and you don't know what's in the water . . . You feel something moving past and you're, 'What's that?' and it was rubbish . . . Something went wrong with the camera, so I had to do it all again."
But Jack loved the "buzz" of filming. Then came Dear Frankie.

Originally, the film-makers hoped to cast a real deaf boy as Frankie, who lives with his mother and granny in a Scottish seaside town, but no-one lit up the screen quite like Jack.
Director Shona Auerbach says: "What I like about Jack is that he didn't have that awful theatre, stage-school style about who just so happens to be Scotland's top casting director, and he set Jack up for a role in Young Adam, the sexy period drama starring Ewan McGregor as a drifter working on a canal barge.

In one scene Jack had to fall into the Forth and Clyde Canal in Maryhill and be rescued by McGregor. "It was freezing and you don't know what's in the water . . . You feel something moving past and you're, 'What's that?' and it was rubbish . . . Something went wrong with the camera, so I had to do it all again."
But Jack loved the "buzz" of filming. Then came Dear Frankie.

Originally, the film-makers hoped to cast a real deaf boy as Frankie, who lives with his mother and granny in a Scottish seaside town, but no-one lit up the screen quite like Jack.
Director Shona Auerbach says: "What I like about Jack is that he didn't have that awful theatre, stage-school style about him, which I think was really important, and that brought a very natural performance." He had to learn how to deliver his lines in sign language, but took it in his stride.

In the film, Frankie's father is supposedly away at sea on a ship called the Accra, though Frankie receives regular affectionate letters from him. Of course, his father is not a sailor and the letters are written by his mum in the pretence that his dad cares about him. Her deceit is threatened when Frankie learns the Accra is due in port, and she hires someone to play the role of Dad for a day.
Butler, who plays the role and has acted alongside such big Hollywood stars as Angelina Jolie, was "inspired" by the freshness, confidence and spontaneity of his young co-star.

Jack missed out on the glitzy premieres for Young Adam, which he has still not seen because of its adult has still not seen because of its adult nature, but he got a taste of the film-star lifestyle when Dear Frankie screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

He was invited to dinner on the luxury yacht of Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax, the company that turned Mrs Brown into an international hit and now looks to do the same for Dear Frankie. "There's like a Jacuzzi and everything," gushes Jack. "It was fantastic." He was waited on hand and foot, literally. He was issued with a special pair of slippers, kept them as a souvenir and wears them round the house back home in Glasgow.

His mother has no fears that it will all go to his head. "It's something he wanted to do, so you just take it on board.

"It's his interest, so we support it. He's a very bright boy."

And despite the accolades, and a Bafta Scotland nomination as best newcomer, Jack still does not seem entirely set on an acting career. He plays guitar and writes songs, and he also expresses an interest in fashion as a career option.

However, he is likely to be resuming his film career later this year, with a lead role in Sanctuary, playing a boy separated from his parents during the Second World War.
Many child stars fail to make the grade in the adult profession, but Des believes Jack McElhone has what it takes. "He's got such a marvellous screen presence that I've no doubt he's somebody who would definitely go on if the desire is there," he says.
"If he continues to want to be an actor then he will have no problem."

Dear Frankie opens on Friday.