Hart and soul – doing the best work that he can

In the 40-plus films in which he's appeared, Ian Hart, one of my very favourite actors, has never been dull.

Yet he claims that for five years, between Blind Flight in 2002 – in which he played hostage Irishman Brian Keenan – and A Boy Called Dad, out this week, he didn't get offered a single film.

That's not entirely accurate. But what 45-year-old Liverpudlian Hart was alluding to was the dearth of decent offers coming his way.

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Last month, he was in Los Angeles making a TV pilot called Luck, directed by Michael Mann, about horse-racing. His co-stars were Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte.

"I've been here for a couple of weeks, hanging round the racetrack trying to get some insight into it," he says over the phone. "It's going great. Dustin's alright – he's a nice lad. Nick Nolte. Nice people. I'm happy as Larry at the moment. The weather's just changed. It's gone from being really sunny to slightly sunny."

Strange as it may seem, Hart has been embraced by LaLa Land. Prior to landing Luck he enjoyed a featured role in Dirt, starring Courteney Cox in her post-Friends persona. The two have become good mates, and Hart pops round for a cuppa when he's not required on set.

"Courteney is a lovely woman. The fact that she's in the papers every day with Jennifer, maintaining all that nonsense of being famous... you can say goodbye to it because she's lovely. You go to her house; you get a cup of tea. She's as good as gold."

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Hart enjoyed a sensational breakthrough in 1994 in Backbeat, playing the young John Lennon opposite Stephen Dorff as the doomed Stuart Sutcliffe. Previously, he'd played Lennon in another film, The Hours and Times.

It would have been easy – lazy even – to keep trotting out rebellious, outspoken Scousers. Instead, Hart opted for a gallery of other real-life characters, from Beethoven to Conan Doyle.

"After I did Backbeat, there was a very terrible possibility that that's all I would ever do: impersonations," he recalls. "So I had to try to do as many different things as possible to prove to others that I could; not that I needed to prove anything to myself. It's easy to get stuck in someone else's very small view of you.

"That was one of the motives for looking for different things. Things like Dr Watson... I'd never cast me as Dr Watson. I wouldn't be the first person you think of. He's normally a very nice chap and we can all play nice chaps. The voice thing... they're just tricks. They're not complex."

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In A Boy Called Dad, Hart plays an emotionally crippled stay-away father whose teenage son runs off with his new-born baby. It's indicative of the state of the UK industry that the film was made on peanuts. Yet Hart's heart is in it all the way.

"I haven't chased the money. If you chase the money, then what you get at the end of it is money. It's about people, innit?

"Just try to do the best work that you can."

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