Exclusive Interview: Rory McCann (‘Shameless’, Beowulf & Grendel’, “Alexander’)

SOURCE: Monsters & Critics
AUTHOR: Scott Rosenberg
DATE: 15 September 2006
ORIGINAL: No longer available
ARCHIVE: Click here (I Love Rory McCann on Tumblr) or click here (Internet Archive)
NOTE: I have no idea why M&C deleted this. Boo!

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Tall (6’ 6”), dark (brown hair and brown eyes) and handsome with a “voice that will make your knees go weak”, certainly describes Scottish actor Rory McCann.

Thirty seven year old McCann, number 19 on “The Eligibles 2005 – top 50 men”, looks surprisingly like another famous Scottish actor, a youngish Sean Connery.

Presently starring as Father Crichton in the third season of ‘Shameless’ on British TV, McCann is hot off of starring in Sturla Gunnarsson’s feature ‘Beowulf & Grendel’ (Breka 2005) and prior to that Oliver Stone’s ‘Alexander’ (Crateros 2004).

Rory McCann was kind enough to spend some time with M&C talking about his experiences as an actor and upcoming projects. Following is the interview:

M&C: Where are you from in Scotland? You know the editor of Monsters and Critics, James Wray lives in Glasgow.

RM: I’m from Glasgow too. No I don’t know him but being from Glasgow, I’m sure he’s a nice chap.

M&C: What made you want to get involved with the movie ‘Alexander’ and ‘Beowulf & Grendel’?

RM: The name “Oliver Stone” was enough for me to want to get involved with ‘Alexander,’ I did not see the script until I got to Morocco and had not much knowledge of the cast save Val Kilmer who I worked with as an extra in ‘Willow’ years ago.

‘Beowulf and Grendel’ – well Iceland for a few months, a place I always wanted to go (I have a place there now), horse riding and sword fighting for a couple weeks in advance and, oh yeah, the script was great.

M&C: What was it like working with Oliver and Sturla? Were their directing styles very different? Is it difficult as an actor to adapt to a director’s working style?

RM: Both Oliver and Sturla were great to work with.

Both in the beginning were very open to questions and suggestions of how the role would be played. When shooting began on both films, those guys were wearing fifty hats and working very hard, trying to coordinate large casts in hard conditions and tight budgets, I would say that their styles were pretty similar.

I find it is sometimes difficult to adapt to a director’s style if you’ve come in on something that has been shooting for a while. The only thing I won’t tolerate is a bully director. I tend to nip it in the bud quickly, God help them!

M&C: Do you prefer working in TV or features? Not counting for the financial difference, why do you prefer working in one and not the other?

RM: Well to be honest from what I’ve experienced, I prefer film work. I love cinema, watching great films at the cinema inspired me to become an actor but at the end of the day, it’s about the quality of the script and the cast and crew involved.

M&C: You play roles in both small indie pics and major motion pictures – again, besides the pay, which is more rewarding to you as an artist?

RM: I think indie stuff cause there’s more involvement, it’s more raw and chances are for me, at this early stage of my career, I’ll get a juicier part to play.

M&C: Would you like to do more Hollywood work? Do you anticipate relocating to the States?

RM: Yes I would love to do more Hollywood work. Would I move and live there permanently? I don’t know, maybe have a place there, that would be nice.

M&C: You have a great voice – do you want to do more voice acting?

RM: Thank you. I blame my late father for that. I recently found an old Dictaphone of his and his voice was identical. I would love to do more voice acting particularly an animated feature, that would be fun.

M&C: Have you had special voice training?

RM: I’ve had dialect coaches for a few accents: it’s great to learn a nice accent: it gives another string to your bow.

M&C: Can you tell us about new projects you are working on?

RM: I’ve just come off ‘Hot Fuzz’ a hilariously action-packed film that’s been made by (Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright) the makers of ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ it comes out March of next year.

M&C: What advice would you have for young people that want to become actors?

RM: I would say don’t get your hopes up, it’s such a hard business to survive in, never mind get into. Whatever you do make sure you have a backup career, one that can pay the bills.

Sorry to say that but I had to say that because I’ve been there. After that, learn as much as you can. Study, read, learn skills, meet like-minded people, get a camcorder and, oh yeah, pray!

M&C: What advice would you give young actors trying to break into the business?

RM: Well you need representation so it’s a case of contacting every agent until one bites. You need to have a thick skin and deal with rejection. A good photo is needed and write to casting directors.

M&C: An esoteric question, if you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead (no relatives or religious figures), who would it be and why?

RM: Alexander because what an amazing man he was, what he accomplished in such a small period of time was incredible.

M&C: Anything else you would like to add and tell our readers (over one million unique readers every month)?

RM: Well I would just like to thank you for your interest in my goings on. I’m still amazed that I’m still part of this mad industry and hope to be forever. To think that only seven or eight years ago, I used to paint for the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland for a living. Now that was a never ending job!

All the best.

19 Rory McCann

SOURCE: The Scotsman
AUTHOR: Unknown
DATE: 27 November 2005
ORIGINAL: The Scotsman broke the link, the bastards. Can’t find it now.
ARCHIVE: Click here

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Actor, 36

Lives Glencoe and London.

Who is he? As the face – and torso – of Scott’s Porage Oats, Rory was making the heart of many a Scotswoman flutter when he landed the part of wheelchair-user Kenny McLeod in the cult television drama The Book Group. His performance won him a Scottish Bafta for Best TV Performance in 2002. He has since popped up in Young Adam, Rockface II and Oliver Stone’s epic Alexander. This year he filmed Beowulf and Grendel with Gerard Butler, and is currently shooting the third series of Shameless, in which he plays a priest.

Pluses Tall (6ft 6in), dark (brown hair, brown eyes) and handsome (remember that grin from the TV ads?), with a voice that’ll make your knees go weak.

Minuses He has a fierce temper.

Best date “My birthday – April 24, 1969.”

Worst date “My next birthday.”

Best chat-up line “Lift your kilt.”

Nothing is sexier than… “A brown-eyed girl.”

What would you put in Room 101? “Porridge.”

Where will you be in ten years? Lairding it up in his very own castle in Glencoe.

HULK RORY LEAVES NO STONE UNTURNED; SCOTT’S PORAGE OATS STAR RORY McCANN SPILLS THE BEANS ON HOW HE WON A PART IN OLIVER STONE’S MOVIE ALEXANDER BY TELLING THE GREAT MAN TO TAKE A HIKE.

SOURCE: The Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland, UK)
AUTHOR: Paul English
DATE: 01 January 2005
ORIGINAL: No longer on TDR website. See next item.
ARCHIVE: The Free Library by Farlex. Had trouble with Internet Archive on this one for some reason. Will re-attempt later if they get their shit together.
NOTE: I have to say, on the one hand I love the tabloids because they’ll publish the most random shit about Rory, even when the random shit is true. But I could do without all the “hulk” and “jolly green giant” remarks. Jesus.

His former bandmate Graham’s story about his job at The Beeches is corroborated here, though. Haha. Poor Rory. I could see myself doing something like that…

P.S. Lookit the URL (website address) I gave this one. Hahahahaha.

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HOW does an out of work Scottish actor get himself off the road to nowhere and into a Hollywood blockbuster?

By telling one of the biggest directors in the business to f*** off. Well, it worked for Rory McCann. The 35-year-old giant of the Scott’s Porage Oats adverts relaxes into his armchair at Glasgow’s One Devonshire Gardens, contemplating his latest lucky career break.

‘I hadn’t worked for 22 weeks,’ says the ex-Book Group star. ‘I was totally broke.

‘I knew they were doing auditions for Oliver Stone’s Alexander at The Grosvenor hotel in Glasgow, but I heard they wanted us to have prepared a Shakespeare piece for it. I’d never done any Shakespeare and felt I really couldn’t push that one.’

But a chance encounter with a veteran Scottish actor gave him the boot up the behind that took him from Glasgow’s Hillhead to the Hollywood hills.

‘I was at the Western Baths off Byres Road when I met Dave Anderson, who asked me what I was up to work-wise.

‘I told him there was nothing much, apart from this audition up at the Grosvenor, that I wasn’t going to.

‘He nearly kicked me up the arse, and said: ‘Don’t you dare. Get over there and sing a song, whatever, just do something.’ ‘He told me that I’d always wonder what happened if I didn’t go. So I turned up with nothing. I was like ‘Hello, here I am, do you want me to sing?’ In the end, Stone’s casting associate prompted the jolly screen giant to tell how he went from being a lumberjack via painting the Forth Rail Bridge to auditioning for an Oliver Stone movie.

So the Glasgow Hulk told his tales about cutting down trees, punting porridge and winding up in a wheelchair for a part in Channel 4’s The Book Group.

And it paid off.

‘A few days later I got a call and was told to get down to London right away,’ he says. There he met Stone, the big-hitting director whose CV boasts Natural Born Killers, Platoon, JFK and Born On The Fourth of July.

But rather than feeling intimidated, Rory, without a jot of acting training to his name, refused to kow-tow to Stone’s formidable status.

He says: ‘When I was introduced to him I had my lucky t-shirt on, a freebie from Panavision Scotland, which he immediately took the piss out of. I told him to f*** off.

‘And from then on I think we just treated each other as men, really, and not as director and actor.

‘The second thing he asked me was ‘Can you fight?’ ‘I was like: ‘Why’s that your question? Why would you ask me that?’ But the reasons were soon to become clear. By the time Rory had teamed up with co-stars Val Kilmer and leading man Colin Farrell at a pre-filming boot camp, he’d been pushed to his physical and mental limits in preparation for the gruelling role.

The rigid training schedule was meted out by battle-scarred ex-servicemen, who cared not a jot about fame, wealth and pandering to egos.

Rory says: ‘When I met Captain Dale Dye (the former US Military Commander, now eminent film advisor) I went up to him and said: ‘Hi, I’m Rory McCann and I’m playing General Crateros.

‘He said to me: ‘I know who you are, son, you Communist maggot t*rd. Now get down and give me 50.’ ‘I was like ‘Nice to meet you…’ Three weeks of physical graft in the merciless heat of the African desert toughened the actors up and bonded them together.

Rory says: ‘There was no electricity, no phones, no alcohol, no sweets. But it brought us closer together.

‘We’d be crawling over sand dunes to secretly meet some guy on a donkey, giving him half a bank note, and asking him to bring back some chewing gum, cigarettes and Coke, and he’d get the other half when he came back. We were all hitting walls.

‘We lived in tents, had no showers, and for lunch we’d be given half a peach, some olives and stuff.

‘There’d be maggots in the food but you’d just eat them anyway. There was no breakfast. We were only allowed a two-minute shower every second day.

‘We were worn to the bone. But we were soldiers by the end of it and ready to shoot the film. It created a brotherhood.

‘I don’t think anyone involved will ever be the same again.’

Rory recalls how bad-boy buddy Colin Farrell broke down in the middle of boot camp when news reached him that he’d become a dad for the first time.

He says: ‘Someone faxed a photo of his boy to him. I have a picture of him sitting there wearing a head torch, with him looking at this picture of his baby, crying his eyes out, covered from head to toe in all sorts of sh*t.

‘Someone managed to sneak in some beer for a quiet celebration that night. It was like prison. But I have to say I loved every last minute of it.’

Rory plays one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Initially, he feared his part might end up on Stone’s cutting room floor.

But when veteran Brian Blessed fell ill during filming it forced a rethink, resulting in Crateros taking on the mutiny speech – a key scene.

‘Until Blessed went down, I think I had about six lines,’ says Rory. ‘I was thinking about how much I’d end up being involved in things.

Stone’s cutting techniques are legendary, you’ll end up as an elbow in one shot, that’s the worry. But I ended up featuring quite heavily.’ The epic battle scenes took meticulous planning but are visually stunning on the big screen.

‘There were members of the Moroccan army and various other extras and ex-forces men involved in filming those scenes,’ says Rory.

‘Even some of them found it hard.’ The film was shot in Thailand, Morocco and in London studios.

‘Forget stunt routines,’ he says. ‘You were fighting for your bloody life.’ But it wasn’t all hard graft. Rory, the former frontman of a defunct band called Thundersoup, wowed his co-stars with his musical talents.

‘I played piano every other night in Bangkok or Marrakesh,’ he says.

‘Nearly everyone was a musician of some sort, apart from Colin who can’t sing to save himself. We were jamming all the time. Farrell was right in the middle of it all – but he’s bloody useless at music.’

THE film’s LA premier left Rory a little disappointed. He expected to party all through the night in the city of angels with co-stars Angelina Jolie, Kilmer, Farrell and Anthony Hopkins, yet he wound up back in his hotel room raiding the mini-bar. He says: ‘It wasn’t wild. I thought they’d have been partying all night but we were thrown off the piano at the Chateau Marmont Hotel and everyone was ready for bed by 2am. I didn’t like Los Angeles. Don’t know if it’s my scene. But I’d go again for work, of course.’

Which is a distinct possibility given the fact that his global profile has now been given a serious shot in the arm.

Indeed, some have suggested that the jolly screen giant has already earned his first million working on Alexander.

But Rory laughs that off.

‘Some a***hole made that up,’ he says. ‘My mother actually sent me a paper cutting when I’d just left the boot camp.

‘But the truth is I’d never been so broke. ‘I used to actually do OK when I worked as a lumberjack, I always had cash in my pocket. But now I hardly have any.

‘When I work, I live like a lord and spend all my cash on everyone and enjoy it with them. When I don’t work I tighten the belt and walk everywhere.’

He still lives in Glasgow with his girlfriend but hasn’t bought a place yet.

The money’s not quite steady enough, and he’s still driving around in a 30-year-old Scimitar, although you can’t quite see him driving something modern and sensible.

‘You can leave the Scimitar for three months in the rain and it just doesn’t rust,’ he says.

Rory’s just finished filming Beowulf & Grendell with Gerry Butler and Tony Curran in Iceland, but there’s nothing concrete around the corner.

‘At the moment, I have no idea what my next job is, or when my next pay cheque will be,’ he says.

Rory’s cashed Giros like anyone else who’s out of work – even after the Porage Oats ads – but he hopes it doesn’t get back to that.

If things get desperate again, he’d reluctantly – very reluctantly – consider getting that chainsaw out again.

‘It would kill me,’ he says. ‘I’ve been totally winging the acting – and I was a cowboy at the tree-felling thing too.

‘I destroyed everything in that job – greenhouses, garages, a BMW…

‘I even once did a job on a house called The Beeches.’

The implication’s clear that there weren’t as many beech trees left on that job, after Rory had hacked his way through the grounds, as the owners might have liked there to be.

Still, there’s always the dole queue if things get really grim.

‘Aye, that’s right,’ he says with a huge smile.

‘Imagine that – I’ll be the only millionaire signing on at Maryhill Job Centre.’

Time & Place: Good times as king of the castle

SOURCE: The Times
AUTHOR: Mike Wilson
DATE: 03 August 2003
ORIGINAL: Click here
ARCHIVE: Cannot archive due to paywall.
NOTE: If this looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen the story of Rory as a castle doorman in “Dog Soldier“. This story goes into much more detail and gives us context for several other things going on in his life at the time. Finding this for me was like being the little kid at Christmas.

And hey, big man. You ever want someone to come hang out with you in a castle gatehouse again, winter or summer, hit me up. It’s cold? Fuck it, let’s cuddle.

I know. I know. Shaddup.I KNOW, I KNOW, MARRIED MAN. Never mind. Grump.

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Actor Rory McCann loved life in an old stone gatehouse, he tells Mike Wilson

The gatehouse looks like a mini-castle — it has 30ft oak doors. Downstairs, there was a grand piano, plus big wheels, the size of a car wheel, that were used to open the 30ft doors. Upstairs, 50 steps up a turret, was my bedroom.

Rowallan Castle is owned by a friend who played with me in a band. And as well as doing tree surgery, I was also required to walk the land, with my gun and dog, to keep an eye on things. Basically, in exchange for being able to live in the gatehouse, I was an unpaid night watchman, doing the odd job around the place and cutting down the odd tree. I felt very lucky. This was only five years ago.

I had great times at Rowallan. It was hard, though, during the winter. The only way to heat the house was with log fires but it would take four hours before the house would feel warm, because the stone (walls) just sucked the heat from the fires. To get a bath, I’d just go down to Kilmarnock swimming pool.

In summer, though, it was just glorious. And I had the whole place to myself. I am very good with my own company. Most of my girlfriends, however, didn’t like staying there when it was dark and cold. Some thought it was like camping, because it was so basic.

Furniture-wise, there were only four pieces: a grand piano, a bed, a sofa and a chair. It’s just as well I can play the piano. There was no cooker, for instance. But I got by for food: lots of fish suppers, I suppose. I’d sometimes cook on the fire.

There was also a dummy — Rab — in full Highland dress, which would scare me every time I opened the door to the room it was in.

Eventually, I had to start earning something for a living, so I left Rowallan for a high-rise in Glasgow and a job painting the Forth bridge. I did that for a year.

It wasn’t the best time of my life, partly because I had to get rid of my dog, a big German shepherd.

But during that time came a call from an agent, asking me to appear in a television ad for Scott’s porridge oats. It meant I was able to dump the ropes and dump the chainsaw and I’ve never looked back.

I now live in the west end of Glasgow. But I dream of one day having my own castle, a hideyhole.

You might know the porridge ad: I’m wearing a kilt, walking down the street, and the wind blows up. It looked very Marilyn Monroe, standing over the air vent.

You have got to remember, I was knocking on agents’ doors all during this period. But all I’d get were one-liners. One of the reasons I moved to Glasgow from Rowallan, I suppose, was to be closer to the acting scene.

And then Annie Griffin, who wrote and directed The Book Group asked me to read a script. I was actually working on a tree when she arrived in person.

Of course, I was expecting it to be another one-line wonder. She handed me the script. I said, “Which line do I say?” And she replied, “No, read the whole script.”

And lo and behold, I’m reading the character of Kenny and his stories are feeling like my stories. And then, a while after that, last year, I am picking up a Scottish Bafta for Best Television Performance.

Best known for playing Kenny in Channel 4’s The Book Group, Rory McCann has appeared in Peter the Great, broadcast on the BBC, and has a part in a film, Young Adam, to be screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival

Why he’s always up for it

SOURCE: The Herald
AUTHOR: Lorna MacLaren
DATE: 28 January 2003
ORIGINAL: Click here
ARCHIVE: Click here

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From dubious tree surgeon and Forth bridge painter to giant of porridge commercials, Book Group star Rory McCann tells Lorna MacLaren of his next move

KNOWN as the porridge-oats hunk to breathless fans, Rory McCann’s image as a solid oak of manhood was shaken to the roots in a public toilet. As his towering 6ft 6in figure leaned over a urinal, he was accosted.

“At the crucial moment this bloke grabbed me by the arm and said ‘You’re that porridge guy’. He looked me up and down and said ‘My, you are big’. There is no way to get a flow going after that.”

McCann, advertising sensation and now star of Channel 4 cult comedy The Book Group, tells his toilet tale while rocking precariously on a high stool in a Glasgow coffee shop. He’s huge for the flimsy seat and curses as he hunches forward to keep his balance on its spindly legs.

The idea that he is famous seems to surprise him. “Why do people want to interview me anyway?” Yet he is no longer best known for being the muscle man in the Scot’s Porage Oats ads who lets cheeky girls peek up his kilt. The 33-year-old former lumberjack, tree surgeon (he still loves climbing into leafy branches where he can disappear), and one-time painter of the Forth Bridge, is today a respected actor following the cult hit of his current project, The Book Group. A Channel 4 success story, the intelligent comedy drama, now in its second series, is set in Glasgow and revolves around a set of dysfunctional people drawn together through their love of writing and a desire for friendship.

It’s quirky and the humour is bitter-sweet. Inevitably it’s been compared to a Scots version of the US comedy, Friends. McCann plays Kenny in a wheelchair, a part he researched by meeting people in the spinal injuries unit at the Southern General hospital in Glasgow, and socialising with wheelchair users. “Those guys were fantastic. They put up with me asking them the most ridiculous questions,” he smiles broadly.

“How do you climb up the stair in a close when you’re in a wheelchair? I had to find out and then do it. I even asked one guy how he made love to his girlfriend who also uses a chair. The people I spoke to were brutally honest and would always say if I did something or used my arms in a way a wheelchair user would never do. They were mainly very positive about the role. It was a good challenge for me as an actor too, taking me away from the obvious ‘big guy’ parts people would expect to see.”

He’s got a cold, and had growled the fact in quite a disturbing manner when I first introduced myself, but now there is a major thawing as he succumbs to a hasty bribe of coffee and several hundred bagels with cream cheese.

A joke about his healthy appetite is greeted with indignance. “Did you see that newspaper story about me needing a body-double in the latest porridge ad?” he asks between chews. He is referring to a fitness guru being used as a stand-in for the McCann six-pack in his third, porridge adventure which shows him emerging from a skinny dip in a chilly loch – kilt swinging from a nearby branch.

“That really pissed me off, I mean, the guy quoted said I had a wee willie, which is bad enough, and not true [his voice is full of comic menace]. But making out I was fat? I was in the process of losing weight after a film project.”

McCann’s eyes flicker as passers-by stop outside our window and point nervously through the glass at him, as though they were observing a dangerous zoo animal, but his conversation doesn’t falter for a second. He seems to be used to the attention. “The adverts made me a familiar face, but I’d refused to do them at first.”

I ask him if he’s subsequently become a hit with women, only to find out (apologies to his fans) that he has been for six years living quite happily with his girlfriend. She’s a doctor, a very sensible girl, who takes it all in her stride, he assures me.

Even the steamy scenes in The Book Group?

He grins: “I do have loads of girlfriends in this series. Kenny is a popular bloke. It’s rubbish what actors say about being embarrassed by the crew staring at you when you’re half naked and rolling around with a woman – it’s actually great.”

He grins wickedly before admitting that he was actually deeply afraid during the whole Book Group creation – especially the first series. At the time he was an unknown quantity, had never done more than a couple of “one-line wonders”, as he describes his former experience.

“There were times at the start of it all when I would be standing, terrified in front of the cameras and people I considered ‘real’ actors. I had no idea what was happening, what the guy with the clipboard did, or if people in the studio were looking at me because it was their job to look at me or because they thought I was making a mess of things. Luckily everyone was very supportive and Annie Griffin steered me through it. I was in tears more than once though.”

Griffin, an American director and writer is the creative talent behind The Book Group. There have been questions asked on how she managed to capture the Scots psyche when arguably a more home-grown offering such as the BBC soap River City missed the mark. “I think Annie’s ideas work because she came into Scotland from the outside and has been able to observe us for who we are,” says McCann.

“I’ve known her for a long time. She took a real chance on me by giving me the Book Group role. The first time she told me her idea for Kenny, who is based on me, I’m ashamed to say I told her he wasn’t a good idea. She was a bit crushed, by all accounts, and I was obviously wrong.”

While “Kenny” lost the use of his legs in a climbing accident, the actor who plays him almost died a few years ago when climbing in Yorkshire with no ropes – falling 80ft. “I remember clinging to rocks with my fingertips and there was nowhere for me to go, only down,” he says. “I knew I was going to fall, and that I’d probably die. I ended up just letting go. It was lucky that I rolled most of the way down and just broke my feet and wrist and bashed my head.”

Life was precarious but fun in his pre-acting days. He recalls: “I was a lumberjack for years, a pub bouncer, I’ve sung in a band, in fact I still sing, and I even trained myself to be a tree surgeon. Now that was dangerous, hanging off of dead trees and sawing away at the branches. I also had a job swinging 250ft from a rope, painting the Forth rail bridge. I tell you though, acting is far more scary.”

After getting into showbusiness late in life, at last, he has gained the confidence he needs to be an actor. “I’m a different person from the wreck of the first Book Group series. I’ve grown into it all.”

He has just finished filming a new project with Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton, and he has a forthcoming part in a television drama starring Kelly McDonald. “My roles aren’t huge but it’s a start,” he says. “I’ve also got a chance of filming in Malta for a few months with my own slave girl and chariot. It’s a lot better than cutting down trees but I’d go back to that before taking parts I’m not happy with. I want to make good choices after Book Group. I’m hopeful that I’ve made a breakthrough now and people are getting to know me.”

Illustrating the point, a well-dressed coffee drinker with a clipboard, looking every bit a television executive, appears by our seats and slaps McCann hard on the back. “We think you’re wonderful. Good job,” he barks, before sweeping away.

The porridge-oat man smiles broadly, then turns to me and frowns. “Who the f*** was that?”