Film: Who are Kelly's heroes?

She disappeared after making her debut in `Trainspotting', but the girl on the poster is back on the big screen, alongside some of her lifelong idols. By James Mottram

YOU COULD be forgiven for wondering who Kelly MacDonald is. You'll recognise the face - petite features encased by brown bobbed hair. Two years ago she shared half the poster sites in Britain with four other up-and-coming (now more prolific) actors. The film was Trainspotting.

Despite wowing critics with her performance as a prostitute in the little- seen Stella Does Tricks, MacDonald has remained off-screen ever since, while the likes of Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle have begun to register on the Hollywood consciousness. This is set to change, however. MacDonald is about to become ubiquitous.

Featuring within the space of a month in two high-profile period dramas - Cousin Bette, followed by Elizabeth - MacDonald mania will then truly begin as four recently completed pictures are released. Gregg Araki's Splendor, Mike Figgis's The Loss of Sexual Innocence (alongside fellow rising Brit Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), Hugh Hudson's My Life So Far and Entropy with Stephen Dorff, should go some way to ensure that she usurps Parker Posey as the queen of independent cinema.

"It's been completely my choice. I've not really been bullied into anything I didn't want to do," says the 22 year-old, resolutely defending her eclectic range of choices. "I've been lucky. Every single thing I've done, I've learnt something from for different reasons. I've not got a pattern to it all, I've just been trying out different things."

I ask her what she learnt on Cousin Bette, a kind of Dangerous Liaisons without the venom. I receive the innocently earnest reply: "How to ride a horse, and how to get out of a corset myself."

It's hard not to recall in moments like these her pre-Trainspotting cannabis experience: she was sick in a Glasgow creperie, and awoke from a really nice dream about a princess. Can anyone really be this sweet?

She appears tiny in her Dorchester suite. She swings her legs under her chair and giggles continuously through the interview, reaching a point of hysteria as she realises the word "sets" sounds like sex.

"Before Trainspotting, I was quite awkward in company, and shy," she admits, as if to qualify her nerves. "I would either not say a word, or babble like a lunatic and not make sense. I can now take my time over what I'm saying. But I don't think Trainspotting has made me into anything I wasn't before, or I wasn't going to be anyway."

In Cousin Bette, based on the Balzac novel and directed by the American playwright, Des McAnuff, MacDonald plays Hortense, niece to Jessica Lange's calculating Belle, but barely has the chance to stretch herself. She spends much of her time - with a faultless English accent disguising her thick Glaswegian brogue - sobbing into her handkerchief.

"I wanted to prove to me that I could do something else. I wanted to get away from the 16-year-old, contemporary, sexually-active young girls," says MacDonald. "Hortense is a wee bit older. She's not a bad person, but quite spoilt, naive and has very romantic ideas about love and life. She's quite hysterical, really."

It's a performance to be praised technically, if not emotionally. And the same could be of MacDonald's turn in Elizabeth, as fine lady-in-waiting to Cate Blanchett's Queen Elizabeth. Ever ready to pop the stardom bubble, MacDonald admits: "There wasn't a lot of work in it. I was just standing there behind the queen".

The glamour of the industry, though, continues to fascinate: "With Cousin Bette, I couldn't quite believe I was working with these people. I kept staring. I can't help it, I just get star-struck. When Jessica was on stage in London doing A Streetcar Named Desire, I went to see the show, and I went to say "hello" afterwards. I'd got it into my head that she wouldn't remember me, which was ridiculous as I'd spent two months with her. I was still really excited when she saw me and gave me a hug."

A recently installed resident of Old Street in London, MacDonald still spends much of her time flying back to Glasgow to visit her folks (father's a painter and decorator, mother's a stress counsellor - "which should come in handy, though I don't take any notice of her advice"). It was here that she won her role in Trainspotting as the schoolgirl seductress. Despite a lack of formal training, merely a brief spell in an amateur dramatics club, MacDonald went to the auditions (without telling anyone) just to see what they were like.

"If Trainspotting hadn't happened I would've eventually plucked up the courage to audition for drama school, spent three years there and God knows how long trying to land a role. It was a very privileged way to get in the industry. It was just a bizarre thing to happen. I remember reading about things like that in teen magazines, and thinking it doesn't really happen like that. And then it happened to me."

Or not, as the case may be. Missing out on the Cannes experience that sealed the film's reputation, MacDonald's infamous sex scene with Ewan McGregor was also trimmed in the States because she appeared to be having too much fun, censors felt.

"There was such a buzz about the film," she remembers, "but people didn't recognise me. I could stand next to the poster and people wouldn't bat an eye."

Uncertain of her next project, MacDonald has taken the opportunity to increase her profile further. Appearing at the recent Edinburgh Festival, she participated in the first live reading of a psychological drama called Dark Blood by Fiona Watson.

This was a reaction - like her run at the Old Vic in Hurly Burly last year - to the mundanity of film-making. "I think there must be more to it than smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee," she muses, as if looking for an answer from me.

Less hyped than the Land Girls trio of Rachel Weisz, Catherine McCormack and Anna Friel, MacDonald is more of an original, her uncertainties leading me to believe there's no front. "It does feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing now. I don't know how long it's going to last, but it feels right at the moment."

Cousin Bette opens next Friday. Elizabeth is released on 2 October.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions