Wide angle: Just what the doctor ordered

John Hodge combines a career as a doctor with that of a successful screenwriter - the title of his latest, A Life Less Ordinary, could sum up the man himself

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

this weekend

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

    £40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

    Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

    £26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

    £17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

    Day In a Page

    Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

    ‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

    Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

    The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

    ... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
    12 best olive oils

    Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

    Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back