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

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
  • Get to the point
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

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

    Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss