With Adrian Mole, Prime Suspect and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels behind him, Steven Macintosh has enjoyed a diverse and successful 30 year acting career. Now, the BAFTA nominated actor has embarked upon a drama with a strangely personal resonance. Recent BBC drama From There to Here depicts a family devastated by the IRA bomb attack on Manchester City Centre on Saturday 15th June 1996. In a curious twist, Mackintosh was in the city on the day of the terrorist attack in which 212 people were injured.
“Bizarrely enough, I was there in Manchester when the bomb happened. I was filming Prime Suspect at the time, we were evacuated from the centre of Manchester when the warning came of the bomb. So I remember that, how frightening it was and how obviously relieved I was when nobody was killed. But seeing all the devastation and then watching the Euro 96 game (England v Scotland) in the afternoon afterwards in the hotel bar, just like Robbo and the characters do in the programme. It was bizarre and very weird to remember events so vividly”.
Despite the personal emotional connection, the 47 year-old didn’t hesitate in accepting the offer.
“It wasn’t really one I had to think about very much. Peter (Bowker, creator) is a fantastic writer who I worked with in the late 90’s and I’d always wanted to work with him again. I knew From There to Here would be good before I read it and it didn’t disappoint. I loved the story, I loved the humour, I particularly loved the humour in Robbo’s character; I knew it would be incredibly fun to play. And of course I remembered the period of time it was set so well because it was recent history. So it was a no brainer, really”.
Capturing the essence of such a devastating real-life event must have been a curious affair…
“Really, you invest in the story in the same way whether it’s a fictional story or based on true events. Ultimately, it’s a story and you invest in the characters as real people. But there was something different about this being so close to it, and when those scenes were recreated in the northern quarter of Manchester it was incredibly eerie to see the fire and the rubble. Lots of people who had been in the emergency services that day were also there and they said how disturbing it was to see again. So that added an extra resonance. And when you’re aware it’s real events, you are wanting to do that justice and be as true as you can be to those events. Hopefully that will come through”.
From There to Here moves on from the bombing to deal with the rest of the 1990’s, a period in which Mackintosh recalls “there was an incredible feeling of optimism that I think everybody felt, that started with England in Euro 96. The music scene was incredibly fertile and then with 1997 and New Labour getting in, there was optimism everywhere”.
Mackintosh has something of a footnote in the ‘Blaire Years’ himself, thanks to his role as Winston, a cannabis dealer, in Guy Ritchie’s London gangland drama Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Released in 1998, Mackintosh agrees that it captured part of the zeitgeist of the mid-to-late 90’s.
“That’s true, that came exactly at that moment. It was part of that excitement. This tiny English film had made a huge impact all over the world. And the music was part of that was well. So yeah, that was sort of that moment, and I was lucky enough to be part of that. It was incredibly exciting”.
Mackintosh’s last sentence is telling: instead of being resentful for one piece of work overshadowing the others in terms of public popularity, the actor remains proud to be part of such an enduring film.
“I am very fond of it, it would be churlish to be cross about people mentioning something that has been so popular. And it just works, it works as a film, obviously it crops up on TV every now and then even now, and the last time it was on I couldn’t help but watch it through to the end. Of course, I am thrilled people still mention it.”
Mackintosh’s relaxed attitude is largely down to the work he has produced ever since. With recent roes in Luther and The Sweeny as well as a further two films to come this year, he has never been busier.
“What can I say, it’s a challenging profession but luckily I manage to find stuff that is interesting and I manage to keep it varied which is what I hope for.”
From There to Here is available now on DVD from RLJ Entertainment Acorn Label (www.acorndvd.com)