Scots bring Billy Connolly back down to earth after X Files movie

BILLY CONNOLLY is about to become a proper Hollywood A-Lister thanks to his lead role in the new X Files movie. But Scotland's funniest man is in no danger of letting his success go to his head - because his fellow Scots continually put him in his place. Despite the global stardom, he reckons his twice-yearly trips home keep his feet firmly on the ground because he just isn't seen the same way as "proper" famous people.

Billy said: "There was a Scottish girl on the plane when I was flying to London on the way to Vancouver from Scotland. She said, 'I've seen you in films and on TV' and I said, 'Well, that's nice'.

"Then she said, 'How do you feel when you meet famous people?' I thought, 'What do you think I am myself?' She obviously thought I am Scottish first and then a famous guy.

"We have a saying in Scotland, 'I ken his faither', which is a put-down. The TV show Nationwide once did a programme on me in Glasgow. At one point I was in the street where I grew up and a girl was asking me for my autograph.

"A little crowd gathered and two little old ladies were watching. One of them looked over at me and said, 'And his father was such a nice man'.

"Some of being famous is great. You know to begin with, you get a following and they love you then they start seeing you in the street and pointing you out and that's nice.

"Then shortly after that you get this other degree of fame through television and films and you're known to everybody.

"Sometimes I don't like it because some people feel they're entitled to say that they don't like you. They say you are rubbish and they say it to your face: 'I don't like your stuff' and I think, 'Who asked you?' They don't seem to care if they are deeply insulting you."

It seems obvious that Billy's poverty-stricken upbringing in a Glasgow tenement has had a huge influence on his comedy - but the star disagrees.

In fact he reckons background has little impact on anyone, positive or otherwise. As he points out, Paris Hilton has all the money in the world but she has not exactly had an easy ride through life in recent years.

He said: "Your background has little to do with anything. I think comedy comes from darkness, from inabilities. All the great comedians have been unable to do things, or they do things badly. Look at Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy.

"Most comedy is about inability. For example, with sex what's funny is how baffling it is, not how great you are at it. It's how complicated the whole thing is. It never ends.

"Great comedy is all about telling real things, the truth in a light way, so the audience goes 'God, that's right - I felt that' and they burst out laughing.

There's a lot of truth involved that makes people identify with comedy.

"All backgrounds are difficult. Paris Hilton's background is difficult. You might say it's easy because she's got lots of money but life isn't any easier for her than it is on a housing estate.

"It could be softer and more comfy but she's been in jail and in trouble and that couldn't have been comfortable and dealing with all that paparazzi is a nightmare.

"I think your background textures what you're going to do. It doesn't dictate what you're going to do. I don't see myself as a victim of poverty."

While Scots may not fawn over Billy like the Americans do, he still loves his trips home - especially when his celebrity pals tag along. And thanks to Billy, one Hollywood star has been taking a little bit of Scotland around the world with him.

He said: "I come back to Scotland in August and always at Christmas with the family. It's great.

Robin Williams loves to visit. He runs the hill race at the Highland Games - he does the race with all the other guys, he's a head case.

"He's brilliant and I love him. So does Aidan Quinn and he doesn't even put shorts on. Robin at least puts shorts on. I gave Robin a kilt for his birthday and he wears it a lot. He wore it at an awards ceremony recently."

Billy now lives in New York with wife Pamela Stephenson, 58, the actress-turned-psychologist, after spending many years in LA. But he refuses to slate La-La Land, insisting he only moved to be closer to his daughters Daisy, Amy and Scarlett - so they can borrow money more easily.

"I'm a great family guy. I love them all. I love my work too but I have to work because this is my job and I always spend all my money. I do have balance though. I go fishing, go out on my motorcycle, I read and I watch telly.

"I do have a lovely place in Scotland but my children were raised in America, first Los Angeles and now we live in New York. But I won't hear a word against Los Angeles. I love it. I'm not one of those LA knockers.

"We moved to New York because my girls go to college on the East Coast and it means we get to see them. If I lived in LA I would hardly see them at all. How would they borrow money from a big distance? It's so much easier when I'm nearby. I should change my name to ATM because there's a sound that is so familiar - 'Daaaaaaddd' - when they want money. I am effectively an ATM: 'Would you like that in tens or twenties?'."

Billy's role in The X Files: I Want To Believe is the most challenging of his career - not only is it a lead role in a major Hollywood blockbuster but the character of the dark, disturbed Catholic priest was written specially for him by X Files director Chris Carter. His character bleeds from the eyes in scenes that grab the attention of paranormal investigators Mulder and Scully.

Billy said: "That was an extraordinary compliment. Chris called and said he wanted to see me about The X Files movie and I had no idea why. But I was keen to meet him.

"I knew there would be more to him than just a film guy because of the material he'd written. So I went along and he told me he had written this part, Father Joe, a disturbed Catholic priest, with me in mind. I said, 'Oh really?' Then he told me more about the guy and I said, 'Even better'.

"Chris wanted to work with me. He told me his brother had met me wandering around in the middle of the night in a little street in Mexico. I used to go down to Mexico for stretches and fish in the sea. I had a purple beard at the time and I had been down in Baja kicking around. So that was a coincidence.

"I have some knowledge of priests obviously because I was brought up as a Catholic. I have several relatives who are Catholic priests and I had pals at school who became priests. I also have a cousin who is a nun and a cousin who is a missionary priest in Pakistan - and I am an atheist." Billy admits the experience of headlining a major movie was a big thrill - although he loves acting anyway as it is an escape from life as a touring comedian.

He said: "It is very enjoyable because I spend my whole life kidding on that I'm telling the truth. Sometimes it isn't the truth; sometimes it's absolute nonsense. It's for effect but I'll tell it to you, to the audience, as if I'm telling the truth. I have to do that or it wouldn't work.

"For example, the time I said that cannibalism was a good idea and that if there are too many people in the world and not enough food, the answer is obvious to me - we should eat each other and if we eat one person each, the problem would be halved overnight.

"I said, 'eat the unemployed'. It has to sound real for it to work. I've spent a lot of my life doing that, which on the one hand helps me to act because I can actually say things quite sincerely that I don't believe in.

"The most worrying thing is that the darker the character, the easier I find it. If he's a really nice, intelligent man I find it awfully difficult to play him.

"I like acting because it amuses me greatly to try to be someone I'm not. I like acting very much and I like the way it divides up my life between comedy and drama.

"Usually, for some reason, known best to someone else, I get a film offer after I've been on the road for a length of time doing the funny stuff and I think, 'That will be great, let's do that', so then the movie takes me away from the road, from the concert roles. The two are quite different."

The X Files: I Want To Believe is in cinemas from August 1.

FONTE: Daily Record (UK)


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