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Bremner, Ewen (1970-)


Main image of Bremner, Ewen (1970-)

A gawky, eccentric Scottish actor still largely defined by his performance as the hapless Spud in Trainspotting (d. Danny Boyle, 1996), Ewen Bremner has nevertheless had a highly varied career. He was born on November 30th, 1970 in Edinburgh, and made his debut, playing a retarded schoolboy, in the Tom Conti vehicle Heavenly Pursuits (d. Charles Gormley, 1985). A more significant appearance came in Michael Winterbottom's TV film Forget About Me (Channel 4, tx. 1/1/1992), in which he played a young squaddie involved in a love triangle with a fellow soldier and a Hungarian girl en route to a Simple Minds concert. It established Bremner's screen persona as an affable, put-upon figure.

An appearance in Christine Edzard's misconceived As You Like It (1992), as Silvius, showed an unexpected classical side to his acting. He had a small but unforgettable part in Mike Leigh's Naked (1993), playing 'Archie the Scotsman with a tic', a fairly apt summation of his performance, and a brief appearance as a cannibalistic villain in Judge Dredd (US, 1995). However, Trainspotting proved to be his breakthrough. He had originated the leading role of Renton (played in the film by Ewan McGregor), on stage earlier in the decade, but he brought warmth and humanity to Spud, without diminishing the film's gallows humour. In perhaps the film's funniest scene, he gave a superb lesson in comic timing when Spud underwent a job interview on speed.

Seemingly uninterested in his co-stars' fame, Bremner's subsequent choice of roles was just as quirky as before. Another Irvine Welsh adaptation, The Acid House (d. Paul McGuigan, 1998) was less successful, if no less controversial. He then played the title role in Harmony Korine's daringly experimental julien donkey-boy (US, 1999), which so affected Bremner that he named his daughter Harmony. He returned to the mainstream with a small role in Guy Ritchie's Snatch (UK/US, 2000), followed by appearances in Hollywood spectaculars such as Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down (US, 2001) and Pearl Harbor (US, 2001), playing the stuttering comic relief in the latter. He was more tested in a small, unusually serious and sensitive role in Richard Jobson's Sixteen Years of Alcohol(UK/Netherlands, 2003), but returned to blockbusters with Around The World In Eighty Days (Germany/Ireland/UK, 2004), as an accident-prone inspector, and Alien Vs Predator (US/Canada/Germany/Czech Republic/UK, 2004) as alien bait. A more significant, if still small, appearance came as a policeman in Woody Allen's Match Point (UK/US/Luxembourg, 2005).

Alexander Larman

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Dead London (1996)Dead London (1996)

Quirky, intriguing short about two men's theory of violent accidents

Thumbnail image of Naked (1993)Naked (1993)

Mike Leigh's furious dissection of early '90s London

Thumbnail image of Trainspotting (1996)Trainspotting (1996)

Film about Edinburgh junkies that became a cultural phenomenon

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Trainspotting: SpudTrainspotting: Spud

Amiable, childlike loser who always gets the wrong end of the deal

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