Trainspot­ting, Welsh style

Luke Evan­son his new Train jour­ney and his Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness days

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

Dressed ca­su­ally, and speak­ing with that mu­si­cal Welsh lilt, Luke Evans cuts a pleas­ingly lan­guid fig­ure. Well, he can af­ford the ef­fort­less de­meanour: it’s not as if his new film – a big-screen adap­ta­tion of the mon­strously best­selling thriller The Girl on the Train – could be any­thing other than a mon­strous box of­fice hit.

As the new movie opens, Rachel (Emily Blunt), a lonely al­co­holic, fan­ta­sises about a hot, young cou­ple she ob­serves on her daily com­mute. She be­lieves that Me­gan (Ha­ley Ben­nett) and Scott (Luke Evans) have a per­fect mar­riage. But then Me­gan goes miss­ing. And be­tween black­outs and half-re­mem­bered drunk calls to her ex-hus­band, Rachel may or may not be a sus­pect.

Luke Evans as Scott broods and rages ac­cord­ingly.

“I guess he’s a man of few words. When he gets go­ing he has plenty to say. But by then he has all these ques­tions and he doesn’t trust any­body.”

As with Evans’s role in Stephen Frears’s 2010 drama Ta­mara Drewe, star­ring Gemma Arter­ton, we are quite a way in to the movie be­fore he gets to wear a shirt. He re­calls read­ing the script for the first time: “Okay. Sex here. Then sex. Then more sex. Lucky I had been go­ing to the gym.”

Phys­i­cal­ity is some­thing of a spe­cialty with Evans. His swag­ger al­lowed him to pass as Ja­son Statham’s kid brother in Fast & Fu­ri­ous 6 and 7; his de­ranged film­maker was the best and scari­est thing in Ben Wheat­ley’s High-Rise.

“I didn’t think I was go­ing to be cov­ered in blood for most of High-Rise,” says the erst­while star of Drac­ula Un­told. “An­other film cov­ered in blood. What the hell is go­ing on?”

Evan­gel­i­cal kid

Evans was born to David, a brick­layer, and Yvonne, a cleaner, and raised in the tiny Welsh vil­lage of Aber­bar­goed. The fam­ily were Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses and the young Luke would join them on their evan­gel­i­cal tours of the lo­cale.

“From the age of, well, still a baby in a pram to the age of 15, I was knock­ing on doors,” he re­calls. “Hav­ing doors slammed in your face, peo­ple shout­ing at you, kids laugh­ing at you. It was hard. In the val­leys you only had to look a lit­tle dif­fer­ent or sound a lit­tle dif­fer­ent or be a lit­tle dif­fer­ent for peo­ple to treat you like a freak. I ticked all the boxes. I was seg­re­gated at school. Peo­ple don’t want to be your friend. They don’t want to be seen with you. It was hor­ri­ble.”

Hor­ri­ble, but ul­ti­mately char­ac­ter-build­ing, he in­sists.

“It did some­thing to me. Some­thing good. I cer­tainly didn’t think so at the time. But you learn to pick your­self up and brush your­self off. You get up in the morn­ing. Put a smile on your face. And you go back to school, where you’re be­ing bul­lied. Be­cause you know there’s some­thing bet­ter and this isn’t go­ing to be for­ever. Even­tu­ally, this is one of many chal­lenges life will throw at you. I’ve met a lot of young adults through the Prince’s Trust that have had their con­fi­dence de­stroyed by bul­ly­ing. It’s hor­rific. But it does get bet­ter. I’m proof of that.”

It helped that Evans found his voice: “I started go­ing to eisteddfods, which are Welsh singing and act­ing com­pe­ti­tions. And I won all of them. I had never won any­thing for rugby or cross-coun­try or swim­ming. But sud­denly I had 16 tro­phies.” Em­bold­ened by these early suc­cesses, he left for Cardiff, found a job and be­gan pay­ing for lessons with Louise Ryan, a singing teacher whose pupils in­cluded Char­lotte Church. In 1997, he won a schol­ar­ship to the Lon­don Stu­dio Cen­tre. He had just turned 17.

West End boy

“I was ready,” he smiles. “And I loved ev­ery sec­ond. If I could have moved at 10 I would have. A city life for me! I don’t know why. My par­ents were su­per-con­tented in their lit­tle ter­raced house. They still are. They would never leave our vil­lage. They love it. But I had wings I couldn’t spread.”

Liv­ing and train­ing in Lon­don (“es­pe­cially be­ing at mu­si­cal theatre col­lege”) al­lowed Evans, who is gay, to spread his wings “. . . both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally”. He be­came a well-known fix­ture in such West End block­busters as Miss Saigon and Rent. Hol­ly­wood was never part of the plan for the Hack­ney res­i­dent, un­til his well-re­viewed turn in a rare straight dra­matic role, Small Change at the Don­mar Ware­house, brought agents and agen­cies call­ing. “I never thought about film,” he says. “It hap­pened so sud­denly. I re­mem­ber watch­ing Emily Blunt on TV while I was in some two-bit show. Now I’ve done scenes with her.”

Luke Evans may not have been ready for the moviev­erse but the moviev­erse was ap­par­ently ready­for Luke Evans. A late overnight suc­cess, aged 30, he be­came the go-to ac­tor for block­busters and fran­chises, play­ing Apollo in Clash of the Ti­tans (2010), Aramis in The Three Mus­ke­teers (2011), and Bard the bow­man in The Hob­bit Tril­ogy.

Be­tween these gigs, he still finds time for val­leys: “I was home just last week­end,” he says. “I went to a lovely pub at the top of a moun­tain with my aun­tie and my cousin and his fam­ily. I love walk­ing into my par­ents’ house and sit­ting down where I have al­ways sat down. Your life might change ev­ery sec­ond of the day and you’re do­ing all these crazy things. But that past – that real life, where you came from – is just as real and strong as ever.”

On his first read­ing of ‘The Girl on the Train’ script: ‘Sex here. Then sex. Then more sex. Lucky I had been go­ing to the gym’

Luke Evans

‘Your life might change ev­ery sec­ond of the day... but real life, where you came from, is as strong as ever’

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