The thick Scottish accent is unmistakable amidst the peals of
girlish enthusiasm emanating from Scotland's latest young movie
star. "I haven't done an interview in so long, I hope I'm
OK." MacDonald, who celebrated her 22nd birthday
in February, is having the time of her life talking about a film
that has changed her career, despite it not getting a release in
"It tends to be the
stuff that everyone else has turned down"
"The BFI don't seem to know what to do with the film. I
keep on trying to get answers about the film's release here, but
I don't seem to be getting very far." While she modestly
adds that "people here don't really know who I am",
she's bemused by the attention she has received from Americans.
"I do get a lot of scripts sent to me from the States, but
it tends to be the stuff that everyone else has turned
down", she says laughingly. Her newest film outing, the
hard-edged Stella Does Tricks, is her second film, and one which
she had to carry.
MacDonald (who played the gutsy Diane in Trainspotting) plays
Stella, a Glasgow teenager who's first seen walking through a
London park in a short dress and pigtails, and then calmly
services a gent on a park bench while holding an ice cream cone
with her other hand. Stella is a school-age prostitute, who can
already turn tricks with the best of them but still enjoys a
giggle about sex with her girlfriends, a young group run by oily,
paternalistic pimp Mr. Peters (James Bolam) the man in the
"The producers were
worried that I wouldn't be able to hack it"
According to flashbacks to her childhood in Glasgow, she's
also a dreamer, who's moved south to the capital to escape her
abusive father, a no-hope club performer (Ewan Stewart). When one
of her friends is maltreated by small-time thug Fitz (Andy
Serkis), Stella decides enough is enough. In company with Eddie
(Hans Mathieson), a disaffected member of Fitz's gang, she first
takes revenge on Fitz by blowing up his car and then prepares to
get out of the game and start over.
Peters lets her go, but not before he has her gang-raped by
his bodyguards. Stella still has a few more scores to settle
before she bids her past goodbye. Travelling north to Glasgow
with Eddie in tow, she first plays a prank on her dictatorial
aunt and then visits her father backstage at one of his gigs,
spraying lighter fuel on his pants and setting fire to his fly.
Reluctantly drawn to Eddie, who has a drug habit, she sets up
home in his apartment and finally starts what looks like a new
life, working as a street-side florist. But the reappearance of
Peters, and Eddie's burgeoning habit, remind her that the circle
is not so easy to break.
"I'm the biggest woos
imaginable, going to pieces in any emotional situation."
It was a risky proposition for director Coky Giedroyc to cast
this relative unknown for such a tough and uncompromising part.
"He was very keen for me to do it, but the producers were
worried that I wouldn't be able to hack it, and before we started
I was worried as well. Of course I didn't tell THEM that, and I
think I convinced them that I certainly COULD do it."
While MacDonald may have found it tough to identify with
Stella directly, she says that there was still a lot about her
that she liked. "I really admired her feistiness and ability
to look after herself after being kicked down. She picks herself
up and carries on, and ultimately comes out on top. I'm not
nearly as tough as she is; I'm the biggest woos imaginable, going
to pieces in any emotional situation." Though playing a
prostitute, MacDonald didn't feel it necessary to undertake much
research on the subject. "Stella's a teenage prostitute and
hasn't really been at it very long, so I didn't see the point of
doing anything on it. To me, the prostitution side of things
wasn't the main issue, but more about the character which takes
over from everything else around her."
"It was always a
fantasy thing, something I never took seriously."
It's a tough role for an actress to play, being a character
that is at times sexually and emotionally abused, and MacDonald
admits that "it was a character that would have scared a lot
of people", including this actress. "Oh I was
terrified, but once I was there on the set, one's feelings don't
seem to matter. It's a job, and I had to get on with it."
Growing up in working-class Glasgow, MacDonald was always
interested in acting, but never on a professional level.
"They're not the sorts of aspirations you have coming from
that environment. It was always a fantasy thing, something I
never took seriously. I'd always assumed that I would go from job
to job like so many other people my age." But the Scottish
film industry began to take shape, and the young MacDonald was
hired for the small but effective role in Trainspotting. While
both films dealt with the harsher realities of urban Glasgow,
MacDonald has since filmed the highly prestigious Cousin Bette.
"It was such an
amazing experience doing that, and also rising to the
challenge of doing a British accent."
Jessica Lange plays the title role as Cousin Bette, a poor and
lonely seamstress, who, after the death of her prominent and
wealthy sister, tries to ingratiate herself into lives of her
brother-in-law, Baron Hulot (Hugh Laurie), and her niece,
Hortense Hulot (MacDonald). Failing to do so, she instead finds
solace and company in a handsome young sculptor (Aden Young) who
she saves from starvation. But the aspiring artist soon finds
love in the arms of Hortense, leaving Bette a bitter spinster.
Bette plots to take revenge on the family who turned her away and
stole her only love.
With the help of famed courtesan Jenny Cadine (Elisabeth Shue)
she slowly destroys the lives of those who have scorned her.
"It was such an amazing experience doing that, and also
rising to the challenge of doing a British accent. I remember the
first time we all got together, sitting in a circle, reading the
script. Here I was, two seats away from Jessica Lange, and as we
got closer to doing my first scene, I became more nervous, sweaty
and my chest was heaving like crazy. It took me two weeks to get
"We all went out for
dinner one night in London, and Toni and I got along so well,
we ignored poor Aden."
It worked out pretty well. She has since became close friends
with Aden Young, who introduced her to a new friend, Toni
Collette. "We all went out for dinner one night in London,
and Toni and I got along so well, we ignored poor Aden." The
actress's Aussie connection continues, playing a lady-in-waiting
to Elizabeth I, played by Cate Blanchett. "I haven't a clue
about that period of history, so I ended up reading like
mad." After that, MacDonald says she "hasn't a
clue" as to what's next. "I just hope this acting thing
isn't a two year fad." After the glowing reviews she's
receiving as Stella, it seems unlikely.