Pollyanna McIntosh – star of Irvin Welsh film Filth – words Alan Woods
On Monday the film Filth made its home entertainment debut, journeying from the big screen to the small screen, as Bruce Robertson’s sordid antics are set to besmirch British homes with a little… well Filth!
And God save the Queen and all that, but sometimes you just need a little Filth to liven up the day! God save Bruce Robertson! And Pollyanna McIntosh!
For young rising Scottish actress Pollyanna McIntosh a.k.a Filth’s Size Queen, this latest adaptation of the Irvine Welsh new book sees a reunion between the actress and the author. Pollyanna has made a name for herself through an eclectic choice of roles which range from The Woman in Lucky McKee’s The Woman, the villainous Crime Minister in the BBC kids show M.I. HIGH, and Philippa Edwards in Bob Servant Independent for BBC Scotland. Past, present and future she remains a transformative actress, adding to this eclectic wardrobe of identities.
To celebrate the home entertainment release of Filth, Pollyanna McIntosh kindly agreed to offer her thoughts and pen a piece reflecting on her experience starring in one of last year’s boldest films (and working with Irvine Welsh).
Hi FLUX readers,
The first film I ever did, at seventeen, was The Acid House. I had a tiny role and I was pleased as punch because I had read everything Irvine had written up to that point – even the Irvine Welsh short stories! Doing FILTH was like coming full circle and similarly exciting.
I’ve always loved Irvine Welsh’s work. I remember this absolute tool of an older man harping on about how shallow Trainspotting was (the movie had just come out) “Just a film glamorising heroin!” and I was so impassioned about the writing that I gave him a right earful. “It’s about growing apart from your mates and finding your own identity, taking a leap and if you think starving cats and dead babies are glamorous then you’re going to some weird parties!” I was a strongly Scottish actress – seventeen (just before I auditioned for The Acid House) and I think he was a little taken aback.
After reading the book of Filth it knocked me on my ass so hard that I had to take a break and not read any more of his for a while. So I was really interested and surprised when I heard that it was being made into a film. I thought gosh how are they going to handle this, because that character is so hard to live with when you’re reading it, to see life through his eyes. I now know that Irvine, when he wrote it, found it was quite a stressful experience to live through his head for that long as well. I think together him and Jon S Baird, along with that cast and crew, did a fine, fine job.
I auditioned from LA by recording a wee video message to Jon which ended in “gies a job!” I remember that because he said that attitude was what made him want to see me do a scene. It’s very smart for a filmmaker to get a sense of the person before seeing them as the character. Jon had this project for so long that he was so detailed about casting. I actually went up for three different roles on tape for him and then we met in Glasgow and I fooled around with two characters for him and he ended up deciding Size Queen was the one for me. She was great on the page so I hope those who dug the book also enjoyed her on screen.
Shooting was a joy as Jon was like a kid in a candy store. He has so much passion and patience as he knows how to get what he wants. He sees it very clearly but loves to play to get there. The cast were, of course, a thrill to work with and what surprised me was how at home they made me feel, how much part of the same family, despite only being on the film a few days. Joanne Froggatt, John Sessions, Brian McCardie, Kate Dickie, James, they were all up for a good natter. It felt more like a theatre company at the end of the day, all having a glass of wine or a pint in the hotel bar, telling jokes and stories and discussing everything from poetry to politics. (Imogen Poots introduced me to Felinghetti for which I’m ever grateful.) I can’t speak highly enough of James and other Scottish greats like Gary Lewis. Jamie Bell is an utterly committed actor with a delightfully wicked streak too.
And at the start of it all is Irvine Welsh, who is open and generous and funny, of course. A favourite memory is doing ADR on the film and Jon asking me to stay and help him and Irvine Welsh do some crowd voices for the scene where James finds the dying man in the street near the beginning of the film. Talk about inclusive! The writer and director in there with you doing “man on phone” voices. There was a lot of nervous laughter from the pair and egging on of each other as they’re not “performers” as such. They didn’t know that I was probably the most nervous one in that sound booth.
I just finished the first draft of a film I’m writing and wrote a celebratory tweet about it. Irvine and Jon both responded encouragingly and, as a fan girl, and as an aspiring filmmaker, that meant the world to me.
Filth – the film based on the book by Irvine Welsh – is out now on DVD and download