The Irish countryside is the setting for The Stag, Andrew Scott’s new film about a stag camping and hiking weekend. The Sherlock star tells Albertina Lloyd about baring flesh for filming and his love of the great outdoors.
If there’s one way to break the ice on a film set, it’s to strip off completely naked and huddle up to your co-stars in a conga line.
That is where Andrew Scott found himself, in the middle of the night, in winter, deep in the Irish countryside, while shooting new romantic comedy The Stag.
“You can’t really get any closer,” says the 37-year-old, chuckling at the memory.
“We did all the naked stuff in the first week. We were slightly dreading it, but actually, it was a really good idea, because we were so grateful to be wearing clothes for the next three weeks!
“And in the end it became second nature, the body adapts and you kind of get used to it,” he adds. “And the costume girls were brilliant at wrapping us up after each take, because God knows we needed to be!”
The Stag tells the story of Davin (played by Scott) who agrees to be best man for his best friend Fionnan, despite being secretly in love with his fiancee, Ruth.
He organises a stag party comprised of camping and hiking in the countryside, despite neither he nor the groom really wanting to do it – unlike ‘The Machine’, Ruth’s crazy brother, who she insists should go along and who is determined it’ll be wild, even if it is taking place in the middle of nowhere.
Scott, who’s known to millions for his role as Moriarty in TV’s Sherlock, wants to make one thing clear – The Stag is not ‘The Irish Hangover’.
The Dubliner admits there have been a string of films about stag parties and hen parties recently – The Hangover, Bridesmaids, Bachelorette – but this is different. “There is, of course, a place for the Hangover movies, but we really wanted to do a film that’s funny and is about male friendship, but also has a bit of heart.
“We don’t want people to think it’s a laddy testosterone film if they haven’t seen it, because it’s something women can enjoy just as much.”
In fact, Scott sees this as an “anti-stag” film. “These guys are not that into the idea of having a stag, which I think a lot of people can relate to.
“I know people who feel a little bit daunted about the idea of going on a stag. There’s something a little outdated about it sometimes. You don’t need to be tying people up to lamp posts and going out to Dubrovnik or wherever and destroying it.
“You can just go and spend some time in nature, bring a couple of bottles of good wine or good whiskey and just enjoy having a laugh.”
He’s never been a best man in real life, and hasn’t been on that many stag parties, either. “If you’re doing a play or a film, they’re [the bosses] very reluctant to give you time off, so a lot of the time you have to miss out,” he says.
“It’s one of the bad things about being an actor, a lot of the time you have to choose between the wedding and the stag do.”
Scott raves about the “beautiful Irish countryside” that forms the backdrop of the film. He’s based in London these days, but tries to get back to nature as much as he can. “I love walking. London is great for its parks, and I love walking along the South Bank. And I go back to Dublin quite a lot.”
Although he has been acting on stage and screen since the early Nineties, he’s always kept a low profile.
But playing villain Moriarty in the award-winning Sherlock, opposite Benedict Cumberbatch, has thrust him into the full glare of the spotlight, which he admits has been hard to adjust to.
“It’s really extraordinary the phenomenon of Sherlock. I think it’s important for actors to remain as private as possible, which is difficult when you’re in a big show like Sherlock,” he says.
“Most people are very respectful actually. They love the character, and I love that, because I love the character too, and the show. I don’t do Twitter or anything like that, but I always like to talk to people if I can, and take a photo with them – if they ask!”
Indeed, he’s happy to admit that he can’t stand it when people sneakily try to take photos of him on their phones when he’s enjoying a quiet meal with friends, for example.“I do think that’s rude,” he says.
“And people know it’s rude because otherwise they wouldn’t be sneaking the photograph, do you know what I mean? I suppose the frustrating thing is that if somebody were to ask, I’d always try and say yes.”
But Scott knows he owes a lot to Sherlock and is grateful for the opportunities that have arisen. He’s currently rehearsing for his latest run on the West End stage, playing an out of control rock singer in new play Birdland, which opens at London’s Royal Court Theatre in April.
And while it may mean queues of Sherlock fans lining up for autographs at the stage door every night, he’s delighted if it means more bums on seats. “I don’t think theatre should be just for rich middle class people. I think it’s really cool that young people will go and watch it. If it brings in people to the theatre, then brilliant.”
And while he is under strict instruction not to confirm or deny whether Moriarty will return to Sherlock, following his teasing appearance in series three’s cliffhanger ending, he has a string of other films coming out.
He recently worked with acclaimed British director Ken Loach on Jimmy’s Hall, and is filming a new adaptation of Frankenstein with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe.
Working with Loach was “really extraordinary”. “He’s a real hero of mine and he didn’t let me down,” says Scott. “It’s a real dream to have variation. That’s my idea of success as an actor.“Not the fame or the money or anything, but just to be able to work with all these amazing people and different characters.”