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.

Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2011

Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandal

books
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian Jack Dee has allegedly threatened to quit as chairman of long-running Radio 4 panel show 'I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue'

Edinburgh Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Director Paul Thomas Anderson (right) and his movie The Master featuring Joaquin Phoenix

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>Laura
Carmichael- Lady Edith Crawley</strong></p>
<p>Carmichael currently stars as Sonya in the West End production of
Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at the Vaudeville Theatre. She made headlines this autumn
when Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall shouted at her in a
half-sleepy state during her performance. </p>
<p>Carmichael made another appearance on the stage in 2011, playing
two characters in David Hare’s <em>Plent</em>y
at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. </p>
<p>Away from the stage she starred as receptionist Sal in the 2011
film <em>Tinker Tailor Solider Spy</em>. </p>

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana admits she's

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star