Wide angle: Just what the doctor ordered
Saturday 18 October 1997
The son of doctors, John Hodge left Edinburgh university in 1987 qualified to follow in the family tradition. But while his white-coated contemporaries were writing prescriptions, Hodge worked on a different kind of "treatment" altogether: a screenplay for a film called Shallow Grave. Hodge was back on the wards even as the film began shooting, but has continued moonlighting in the movie business ever since, adapting Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting and completing his second original work, A Life Less Ordinary, which is released next week.
A wild romantic comedy, the film stars Ewan McGregor as Robert, a janitor who kidnaps rich girl Celine (Cameron Diaz). Hodge "wanted to try something less dark, more light-hearted" and at first sight the film does seem different from its mordant predecessors. Look closer, however and you can diagnose traces of the same old sensibility. So there are angels? These are the kind that machine-gun your windscreen. There are head wounds and fights, not to mention the loving close-up of a bullet gouged from flesh.
Perhaps Hodge's morbid streak stems from his other profession? "I got some of the anatomical details for Shallow Grave from working in a hospital," he concedes, "but not the inspiration." But he admits that on returning to the NHS he did notice "everyone had a really sick sense of humour."
Hodge's latest is a film which plays on stereotypes of gender and romance. It is a love story with the conventional couple turned on their head, with Robert passive, dopey and vulnerable and Celine razor-sharp, a "victim" who orchestrates her own kidnapping. "Trainspotting was very much a guys film," says Hodge. "I wanted to redress that balance, write something with really strong female characters." So, along with Celine comes Holly Hunter's O'Reilly - more of a vigilante than a guardian angel. "I didn't write the part for Holly Hunter," says Hodge. "But it was her voice and her acting style I had in my head as I was scripting it. She's also very small which was a good counterbalance to the fact that O'Reilly is really hard." He did, however, tailor the part of Robert for McGregor. "I wanted to write a character closer to the real Ewan. He's much more like Robert than Renton, which is a relief to everyone around him." Originally set in Scotland, Hodge found his story better suited to the psychological and physical landscape of America. "A Life Less Ordinary is about extremes of behaviour and personal status. The kidnapping just wouldn't have worked in Britain because it's too small. It's hard to go into hiding here." Growing up with American films and TV, Hodge had little problem writing in an American idiom, but admits "the most exciting moment for me in the whole process was hearing American voices read the script."
Now working on an adaptation of Alex Garland's The Beach (a kind of Lord of the Flies for Generation X), Hodge has also written a spin-off novel of A Life Less Ordinary. "I only had a month to do it, but it was interesting because it allowed me to explore the lives of the minor characters. You have to think through all the histories of these parts for the film, but so little of that ends up on screen."
After completing A Life Less Ordinary, Hodge spent six months as a senior house officer at St George's in Tooting, but says he's unlikely to return to medicine full-time, content to provide the film industry with a new kind of script doctor.
A Life Less Ordinary is on release
Life & Style blogs
Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
KickAssTorrents down: biggest file-sharing site moves to .cr domain after takedowns
Audrey Hepburn is officially Britain’s style icon – 22 years after her death
Is PMS real? The tale of the premenstrual monster and its meaning
The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 'Do not give them a reason': Baltimore man divides police and rioters in hope of avoiding violence
- 3 X Factor in crisis as numbers of people auditioning plummets
- 4 Baltimore riots: Furious mother marches her son home live on TV
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£40000 - £48000 per annum + 10% bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engin...
£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...