The Scots minister's son who made the long trek to America... and ended up with a superbabe in Hollywood's latest movie blockbuster

HOLLYWOOD'S hottest new ticket, David Tennant, has just lived out every actor's dream.

The 27-year-old Scot has landed a starring role in a movie - and forged a deep friendship with heart-throb star Johnny Depp.

And he gets to play a sizzling bedroom scene with superbabe Vinessa Shaw.

From the moment he set foot in Hollywood, David was riding high on the crest of a wave.

The young star palled around with Donnie Brasco star Depp, who invited him to the notorious Viper Room, the nightclub which he owns.

On the set, David whooped it up in an atmosphere of staggering luxury. There was an enormous, air-conditioned personal camper van for lounging in between takes.

There was even a lackey to follow him around with a chair just in case he felt in need of a rest!

Lording it in this madcap manner must have seemed a million miles from industrial Bathgate, where David was raised a son of the manse.

The young actor will swear on a stack of Bibles that performing runs in the family.

His father has been a star turn in Scottish church circles, a Presbyterian minister prone to giving rousing speeches from the pulpit.

While David was learning his craft with the exalted Royal Shakespeare Company, his clergyman dad Sandy MacDonald was helping Cardinal Tom Winning in Celtic's award-winning offensive against sectarianism. Then David won a plum role in a TV drama series, with a breakthrough performance as chronically-depressed disc jockey Campbell Bain, in the award-winning BBC comedy drama, Taking Over the Asylum.

Sandy, meanwhile, was scaling lofty heights as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

But, there comes a certain time when even a mighty holy roller realises he hasn't a prayer of outshining his talented son!

David's Hollywood debut comes with the romantic comedy, LA Without A Map.

Aptly, it's about a young Scot's adventures in Tinseltown, the town that boasts more stars than heaven. His performance has already won him high praise in the showbiz bible, Variety.

Based on the cult autobiographical novel by Richard Rayner, it charts the adventures of a bored undertaker who writes obituaries for a local paper.

He falls heavily in lust with a Hollywood actress, who stumbles into the village for a one-day visit, and packs his bags for the next plane to Hollywood.

This isn't exactly the best foundation for a relationship, so he takes off for his Hollywood education in a series of adventures involving seedy hustlers, fast-talking agents and hotshot directors.

There's a whole series of in-joke cameos from movie people he meets, including Johnny Depp - playing himself.

David really got a feel for everything his character goes through. For this, too, was his first visit to America.
For him, LA seemed just one big nightclub - it's four in the morning and nobody wants to go home.

He clubbed around with Depp, who introduced him to the infamous Viper Room where young star River Phoenix died on the pavement after an overdose of illegal narcotics.

"Everyone is so wired up and slightly artificial the whole time," says David, who incidentally has both feet firmly on the ground.

"There are some lovely people, but it's quite hard just to be normal. It's such a culture shock. I think that would drive me mad after a while.

"If I was going to live there, I'd need to have some really good pals that you could just go and hang out with and just be normal.

"I had a friend with whom I was at drama school, and who is out there now. It was good to have him there just to have a bit of a touchstone to reality."

Nowhere was that more needed than on the actual film set. Everywhere David went, a minder would follow, just to carry his personal chair!

David recalls: "They do look after actors terrifically well in LA - almost too well.

"The big trailers and all that kind of business are the norm. And you get followed about with these chairs everywhere you go. You think, `Please don't follow me about, it's very embarrassing. If I want to sit down I can sort myself out'.

"But they're adamant about it. They're like, `I have gotta do this, this is my job. If I don't follow you with this chair, I am out of here'. It's terrible."

The film's producer, David recalls, was very keen that there were no "favoured nations" as she called it. "So we all got exactly the same kind of treatment.

"In a sense, Johnny was doing a favour and he enjoyed coming in and doing his little cameo.

"When Johnny came on the set, there was a definite air of muted hysteria going on. He is a huge international star and there's no reason why they shouldn't get excited about it. But he is decidedly down to earth. Very laid-back about it all."

When it comes to the melodramatics, David has no doubt he's a chip off the old bloke.

"The way dad works is fairly extrovert I suppose," David says with a laugh. "I have a vivid memory of him high-flying with the robes from the pulpit.

"It leaves its mark spiritually. I think it must do when you are brought up by two parents who are practising Christians in the good sense of the word.

"It can't help but influence the way you lead your life."

The whole Tinseltown experience, he says, was "fascinating", but it was nice to get home as well.

"Home is London now," he sighs. "I feel fiercely loyal to Scotland and, slightly absurdly, you tend to become terribly nationalistic when you move away.

"Only then do you realise what it is to have a country that has a strong national identity, which I don't think England does.

"But I like the bigness of London. Because actors tend to end up here, I've got a lot of friends from back home who are now down here."

In spite of the Hollywood breakthrough, he's careful not to let it go to his head.

"In a profession like this, there's always a lot more steps up and a lot more steps down."

The actor has also completed The Last September, a film about the Irish troubles, starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Keeley Hawes.

Dad, meanwhile, is now content to be behind the scenes, as it were.

He's a bigwig in Kirk administration, based in Edinburgh.

So, before he became an actor, was there some expectation that David - who has a brother, Blair, and sister, Karen - would join the `family firm'?

"Absolutely not," replies David emphatically.

"My parents were very careful - and still are very
careful - not to impose any doctrine on their kids."