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How David Found His Film Feet

YOU know you're doing well when you have someone follow you round with a chair, just in case you need to sit down.

David Tennant was given that kind of star treatment while acting in a Hollywood movie with Johnny Depp.

There is no sign of any flunkies as he slouches in his seat in a Midland bar, his long legs stretched out before him, as he relaxes during a break from rehearsals with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon where he is one of the summer season's major actors.

He plays leading roles in The Rivals and The Comedy of Errors and is about to take on the romantic hero in Romeo and Juliet.

But he had the chair treatment during the making of the romantic comedy LA Without a Map, in which he played a Bradford undertaker who falls in love with a Hollywood actress (Vinessa Shaw) and follows her to America.

David says: 'Johnny Depp was great, the least starry of all the actors out there. He knew all his lines and turned up on time, which is more than can be said for some Hollywood people who are messed up, full of nonsense and tiresome to work with.

'Making the film in Los Angeles - with English producers, a Finnish director, French money and American cast - was fantastic and absurd.

'I had a huge camper van to relax in but the strangest thing was that someone followed me round the set with a chair. I thought it was very embarrassing - I mean, I can sit down by myself - but it was their job.

'It was also embarrassing to have my first graphic sex scene. All the time you're worrying about what the other person is thinking. When you finish you think 'Is that what everybody else does or is it just me?'

'Before those scenes I vow to go to the gym but then I think 'to hell with it'. It seems to make absolutely no difference to me, I just stay a skinny streak of nothing.'

David's fans would not agree with him. He first shot to fame in the award-winning BBC drama Takin' Over the Asylum, playing Campbell, a manic depressive patient in a psychiatric hospital. His life changes when Ken Stott becomes the DJ on the hospital's radio station.

More recently he has starred as a mad, murdering artist in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and as a murder suspect in The Mrs Bradley Mysteries with Diana Rigg.

Now it's David who will be dying on stage every night as the doomed Romeo.

'I figure that it's my last chance to play him,' says the 29-year-old. 'You have to be quite young to remember that idealism. I always thought I wanted to do it before I was 30 so I'm just getting in under the wire.'

Despite all David's great work, he flinches when you mention his one flop - Duck Patrol. He starred with Richard Wilson, Sue Johnston and Craig Fairbrass in the ITV sitcom about the river police which critics panned as a lame duck.

'It seemed such a good idea at the time and it helped me to buy my flat,' he says. 'We had a great cast and had the most fantastic time making it. But there's only so much you can do with the script.

'That's why it's nice to come to the RSC where I don't have to worry about the script and whether to change it.

'Not that I don't sometimes change it a bit by accident. With three plays, I have an awful lot of lines to learn and occasionally I forget the right word. I know the sense of it and I just bluster through, speaking fast and making it up.'

David's film career also continues apace, with The Last September now on limited release in cinemas. Set in Ireland in 1920, it stars Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith. David plays the army captain suitor of Keeley Hawes.

There was the chance for David to return to Hollywood when the Americans bought the film rights to Takin' Over the Asylum. But those hopes were soon dashed when they decided to rewrite and recast it.

'They were going to cast Jim Carrey and then Nicolas Cage in the Ken Stott role. Then they turned Campbell into a black kid from the ghetto, which clearly ruled me out!'.