"Do you wanna be in my gang" from The telegraph
Actor Jonny Lee Miller is Mr Cool, with his pop-star girlfriend
and Primrose Hill pad. But he's no snob, he tells Christa
OF the three stars who emerged from the hit film Trainspotting
- Robert Carlyle, Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller - Miller
may not be the most famous but he certainly sounds the most
interesting. On his wedding day, he was dressed head to toe
in black leather, while his wife, the actress Angelina Jolie,
wore a shirt on which she had painted his name in her own
Working out: Jonny Lee Miller's first job was at the Hard
Rock Café. 'I wanted to hang around these crazy, different
people, and we all got free hamburgers'
The couple have since divorced, but Jonny has fond memories
of their life together. He particularly misses Harry, the
pet albino corn snake that used to sleep at the bottom of
their bed and was fed mice, freshly executed by his master.
"I won't tell you how I did it," he says, solemnly, "because
I'll have all sorts of people leaving bombs on my doorstep.
. . but I will say I am very, very quick."
We are sitting in the hip St Martin's Hotel, off Leicester
Square. It seems an appropriate place in which to find the
intense, ashen-skinned young actor, his small, wiry frame
perfectly complemented today by a tight black polo neck, cargo
pants and sneakers.
Although nobody bothers us, his edgy presence has obviously
been clocked by the dwindling lunch crowd, and I can't help
noticing two young girls - model types with dead straight
hair and fashionably exposed lumbar regions - looking over
at our table hopefully, drawing out the cigarette and coffee
stage for as long as possible.
Jonny Lee Miller, 26, is by no means a household name. Although
his appearance as the peroxide-blond "Sick Boy" in Trainspotting
was memorable, his subsequent roles - including a shell-shocked
soldier in Regeneration and an 18th-century highwayman in
Plunkett & Maclean - have not catapulted him to global
Among a certain London social circle, however, Jonny Lee
Miller is king. Not only is he part of a "Primrose Hill mafia",
which includes his best mate, Jude Law, and Law's wife, Sadie
Frost, and not only does he count Anna Friel and Kate Moss
as ex-dates, but his current girlfriend is the All Saint Natalie
Appleton (with whom he shares a chihuahua and a Great Dane).
Is it, one wonders, possible to get any hipper than that?
Apparently not, according to Elle magazine, which presented
the aesthetic twosome with an award for being "London's Coolest
"Oh, Nat's much more famous than I am," grins Jonny, proudly.
And then, almost as if he is worried that I might think "Nat"
a big head, he tells me, "She's the loveliest, sweetest, most
normal girl. . . There's such a strong family bond there,
you know, with her sister and her mum and her dad."
In person, thankfully, Jonny is not quite the study in cool
one might expect. Despite the very realistic rat he has had
tattooed on a forearm, and his extremely convincing wide-boy
accent, he has none of the easy bravado that, say, his friends
McGregor and Law seem to exude.
He jiggles his knee up and down and scratches invisible itches
with his bitten fingernails. There is something, too, about
his delicate, bird-like features - the way his lower jaw protrudes
slightly and his nostrils flare when asked a question - that
make him seem vulnerable. This is a quality that makes his
performance as Edmund Bertram in a new film of Mansfield Park
so faultless. On the other hand, it is not difficult at all
to imagine him throwing a wobbly. Take the time a photographer
managed to make Natalie's daughter Rachel cry.
"I was picking her up from school and he followed us," he
says, nostrils flaring at the memory. "I swear if I'd seen
him, I'd have broken his bones. And I would have got away
with it, too. The idea of following a seven-year-old girl!
In my book that sort of man is a paedophile, there's something
wrong with him. . . although," he adds, suddenly looking a
little sheepish, "I have learnt you can't really do that sort
of thing. Well, you can, but you shouldn't really talk about
Jonathan Lee Miller (he couldn't call himself Jonathan Miller,
because of the famous doctor, and inserted his middle name
because he liked the "country and western feel") comes from
good, solid thespian stock. His great-great grandfather was
an Edwardian music hall performer and his grandfather was
the British actor Bernard Lee, who played M in the first 12
Bond films. Idolised by Miller, and reputed to be something
of an eccentric on set, Lee was once discovered on a dubbing
session in Pinewood sweetly murmuring obscenities into an
Jonny's father, a former stage actor called Alan Miller,
worked at the BBC for 20 years, and Jonny has fond memories
of hanging out at Television Centre with his sister, watching
Top Of The Pops and Blue Peter being made.
His own desire to perform was nurtured with a travelling
youth theatre company. A shy, lacklustre student, he left
school (Tiffin Boys' in Kingston-upon-Thames) when he was
16. His first job was working as a porter at the Hard Rock
Café in Piccadilly, a position he chose because he
thought it would be good for his career.
"I wanted to hang around these crazy, different people, and
besides, it was fantastic, hilarious fun. We all got free
hamburgers and once, they took us all on a coach to France
for a holiday."
His next job, as an usher at the Drury Lane theatre, allowed
him to go out in the day for auditions and he began to get
some television work. These were obviously fun times. He recalls
being arrested for something "very naughty" and being held
in the station by two policemen.
"They said to me, 'What do you do?' I said, 'I'm an actor',
so they gave me this look, you know, That Look?" He narrows
his eyes and leans back in his chair to make the moment live
"They don't want to ask, they're trying not to, but they
can't help it. So I say, 'Well, I've just been in The Bill,
A successful career in television beckoned, but when he was
offered a contract to appear in EastEnders, he turned
it down, as it didn't fit in with his master plan - to "become
a movie star".
In 1994, he went to Hollywood to make a techno-thriller,
Hackers. On the set, he met and fell in love with Jolie. The
couple got married quickly, so quickly, in fact, that Jonny
didn't even meet his new father-in-law, the actor Jon Voight,
until after the wedding.
The press, meanwhile, were fascinated. Jolie let it be known
that she was interested in exploring sado-masochism and did
not rule out the possibility of a lesbian affair. She also
told one reporter that Jonny was "pretty wild", a suggestion
that he never denied.
Perhaps predictably, the marriage did not last very long
- Jolie wanted to live in New York; he missed being able to
watch his team, Chelsea, on television. But the parting was
amicable. When I tell him that Jolie has accepted the part
of Lara Croft in the multi-million dollar film version of
Tomb Raider, his eyes light up with genuine affection.
"Oh, so she is doing that!"
Although he has not ruled out the possibility of doing a
blockbuster one day, "as long as it is a bit edgy", he seems
perfectly happy with the very British path his career is taking.
He has just agreed to perform on stage in a production of
The Caretaker, directed by Patrick Marber. This year, he will
appear in a film adaptation of Iain Banks's thriller Complicity,
in which he plays a journalist involved in a murder. There
is also Love, Honour and Obey, a film by his good friend Dominic
Anciano - a former boyfriend of that other Primrose Hill lovely,
Rachel Weisz - which also stars, surprise, surprise, Jude
Law and Sadie Frost.
Then, perhaps most important of all, there is Natural Nylon,
the film production company Miller set up with Law, Frost,McGregor
and Sean Pertwee, whose latest project is The Hell Fire Club,
a rollicking, 18th-century costume drama about the louche
society that caused a political scandal.
As Miller describes it, "It's an awesome story which does
allow us all to be together, without twisting reality too
When I suggest that this clubbiness smacks a little of playground
elitism, however, he disagrees. "I've been excluded from enough
clubs and groups in my own life to know that if I smell that
sort of thing, I hate it," he shrugs.
"And, I mean, it's very open, our club. OK, everyone might
have thought we were a gang, but then we teamed up with Dominic
and his friends and now everybody thinks we're all just one
"Soon, we'll find another gang and get together with them,
too, do you know what I mean?"
Sort of. But why do they all have to be so wretchedly good-looking?
Has he ever, for example, been out with anyone just a tiny
bit plain? Miller takes a second to consider this - he can't
be too long, because his godson, Rafferty Law, is having a
tea party this afternoon.
"Er. . . no," he says, at last. "I don't think so. Opposites
don't usually attract, do they?"
- This interview was sent to me by the very lovely Agnes
Muench of the SPecial Sean Pertwee page.