Douglas Gordon, who won the Turner Prize in 1966, is starring as a Scottish lorry driver in a French-language road trip movie, directed by French fashion designer Agnès B.
My Name is Hmmm… (Je m’appelle Hmmm), in which he plays a leather-clad trucker Peter who befriends an 11-year-old girl, Céline (Lou-Lélia Demerliac), who is fleeing from an abusive father, marks his acting debut. It has its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, which opens later this month.
The film’s world premiere was at Venice International Film Festival in 2013 and also stars French arthouse actress Sylvie Testud (La Vie en Rose), as the girl’s mother.
It is packed with arty camerawork, including a scene in black and white and weird visual techniques. But quite how the Glasgow-born artist ended up starring in a French film is quite surprising.
Gordon himself directed the French documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006) with artist Philippe Parreno. His artwork has included 24 Hour Psycho (1993), which slows down Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho to an excruciatingly long 24-hours.
His series of Bond Girl portraits (2006) consist of desecrated faces of James Bond film actresses.
But this foray into acting came about after he met Agnès B, aka Agnes Troublé, through a mutual friend, the Serpentine Gallery’s, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, in London in 1993, when Agnès B compared him to Sean Connery.
“I’m sure it’s because of my Scottish accent rather than my looks,” says Gordon. It was the start of a beautiful friendship. But by the time Gordon returned a call in which the fashion designer had wanted to cast him in her new film she had written, she had already given the part to Terence Stamp.
“She told me that she had written the part of the British truck driver with me in mind,” says Gordon. “I said she should fire Terence Stamp and give me the part. She said, “Impossible”. But because there were scenes of a sexual nature she had to wait until the young actress playing Céline was a year older. By then Terence Stamp had another project and I got my old job back.”
Agnès B knew he could act after watching him naked in a live art performance with the music and fine art ensemble, Chicks on Speed. “She certainly knew I didn’t have any fear,” says Gordon. This lack of fear came in handy when he had to learn to drive and park a truck for the film – “I had no driving licence but had 12 weeks of truck-driving lessons for the part,” he says.
Agnès B, is also a producer – most famously of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers.
“Like you can tell Agnès B made John Travolta and Uma Thurman’s clothes in Pulp Fiction, you will find she has a pretty unique signature with this film,” says Gordon.
‘My Name is Hmmm...’, Glasgow Film Festival, 24 February. The festival runs from 20 February to 2 March (glasgowfilm.org/festival)