Total Film


John Simm shuffles edgily in his seat. That question has reared its head. Again. Yes, he's used to answering - but it still irks him. "I've been asked if I take drugs a million times," he replies. "And I keep saying the same thing: 'I'm not telling."

British film has, for most of the decade, ignored one of '90s Britain's biggest phenomena: clubbing. That should change with Human Traffic, director Justin Karrigan's paean to Weekend Party People, a flurry of straight-to-camera gab and sheer exub- erant indulgence. And at the centre of the hands-in-the-air and E-in-your-head storm stands raver Jip (Simm). "It was harder than anything I've ever done," Simm recalls, looking nervous and withdrawn, "because it's so far removed from what I am: happy, smiley, shouty... all that. It's not me. I watch it and annoy myself, jumping around like a nutter, like a little bloody nonce."

It's been a strange trip getting there: raised in Nelson, near Burnley, Simm was encouraged by his drama teacher, leading to a drama course in Blackpool. "I had a right laugh there. I got pissed, lost my virginity, did some acting..." Nine years ago he arrived in London, a skint student - and hasn't looked back since. "I couldn't stay in Nelson any longer! If you have any ambition, you have try get out or you're sucked in and end up with a 'tash and two kids." It's a life reflected in the parts he's taken. Since winning the Best Actor award at the Valencia Film Festival for coming-of-age film Boston Kickout, Simm has made his name as Danny Kavanagh, the roguish Scouser in BBC1's The Lakes. Penned by Jimmy McGovem from his own experiences, Simm plays him as a young man, and got to romp with a string of naked ladies. "I thought doing sex scenes would be great," he says. "In fact it was really embarrassing. There were 12 crew watching and I had this cup thing over my bits stuck on with tape. The worst thing is, I heard about this guy who wasn't allowed porn in the house so he bought the first series of The Lakes. I can't even think about it..."

"The whole cast was shit hot. I reckon the first series, which McGovem wrote, was the best. It was subtle and character-based instead of plot-driven and outrageous. The second was easier to film, but the first really messed me up. It was full-on, living for three months in a room on my own, dragging dead babies out the water every day: It was heavy but worth it. My character was really dark, but I prefer those." Aside from the nine-to-five, Simm is also in indie band Magic Alex, who support Echo And The Bunnymen this summer: "I never thought the band would get this far. I'm trying to balance it so it's not like a wanky project. I'm looking forward to touring but it'll be a nightmare. I'll get grief in Liverpool when they find out I'm not a Scouser. Then I'll get shit from Mancs who think I'm a Scouser. Everywhere else they'll be shouting: 'Don't give up your day job!'" And they'd be right.