Queen of Cal­i­for­nia

Louise Lin­ton swaps life in a Scot­tish cas­tle for Hol­ly­wood roller­coaster

The Herald Magazine - - Front Page -

T he voice of Louise Lin­ton comes breath­lessly down the line from Los An­ge­les. The sun is barely up in Cal­i­for­nia and the Scot­tish ac­tor is still walk­ing on air fol­low­ing a week­end in which she not only made her first solo flight as a pilot, but dis­cov­ered she had been cast in Wil­liam & Kate, an up­com­ing film about the ro­mance of Prince Wil­liam and Kate Mid­dle­ton. Lin­ton will play Mid­dle­ton’s best friend, Vanessa.

“Orig­i­nally I went for the role of Kate but they said: ‘You don’t look any­thing like Kate Mid­dle­ton. Can you pre­pare scenes for a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter?’” ex­plains Lin­ton.“I was given five min­utes to pre­pare an au­di­tion for a sep­a­rate char­ac­ter en­tirely. I thought I’d done a hor­ri­ble job so I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to get it, but I did. It’s ex­cit­ing – I feel like I’m on a roll.”

You may not have heard of Lin­ton, but that’s about to end. With five Hol­ly­wood movies in the pipe­line, she has al­ready had Robert Red­ford knock­ing on her door and an in­vi­ta­tion from Sir Sean Con­nery to be an am­bas­sador for his char­ity.

When we first meet a few weeks ear­lier, Lin­ton, 25, has flown in from LA to visit her fam­ily and is cheer­ily bat­tling jet lag. In a cor­ner of an up­mar­ket Glas­gow sa­lon, there are few peo­ple who could look glam­orous in rollers and a hair­dresser’s gown, but she pulls it off. Lin­ton was born and brought up in Edinburgh, and ev­ery­thing about her smacks of good breed­ing. She at­tended the pres­ti­gious Fettes Col­lege and as a teenager spent time liv­ing at the gothic 18th-cen­tury Melville Cas­tle, near Dalkeith, which her fam­ily own and run as a lux­ury ho­tel.

When it comes to acting the die was cast for Lin­ton at an early age. She took the lead in her first school play aged six (“I played Hi­awatha and got to per­form in front of the Queen”) and at­tended drama school in Edinburgh fol­lowed by a stint at the Lon­don Academy of Mu­sic and Dra­matic Arts.

De­spite veer­ing off track to gain a BA in jour­nal­ism from Pep­per­dine Univer­sity in Mal­ibu, three years ago she joined the hordes of as­pir­ing ac­tors who de­scend on LA each year with their eye on the ultimate prize: liv­ing the Hol­ly­wood dream.

While many slink back head home, tails be­tween their legs, Lin­ton was de­ter­mined not to be among them. She got off to a stel­lar start, land­ing a part in her very first LA au­di­tion: the role of Si­mone de Lille, a French tu­tor for a wealthy Man­hat­tan fam­ily, in CSI: NY.

Sup­port­ing roles in US drama se­ries Cold Case and com­edy mock­u­men­tary Screw­ball: The Ted Whit­field Story fol­lowed, with Lin­ton see­ing off competition from hun­dreds to be cast by Robert Red­ford in the thriller Lions For Lambs, which he di­rected and starred in along­side Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep. “My role in Lions For Lambs was small but I was de­lighted to work with a di­rec­tor of that cal­i­bre,” she says. “Most of it ended up on the cut­ting room floor, but I wasn’t up­set be­cause it gave me an op­por­tu­nity to work with Red­ford, and I hope I can work with him again some day.”

She just might. The roles have since come thick and fast. Lin­ton, who be­gan film­ing Wil­liam & Kate last week, which stars Bri­tish ac­tor Camilla Lud­ding­ton as Mid­dle­ton and New Zealand-born Nico Evers Swindell as Prince Wil­liam, has re­cently wrapped four big-bud­get Hol­ly­wood movies: sci-fi flick Scav­engers, ro­man­tic drama Five Hours South, rom-com She Wants Me and pacey thriller The Power Of A Few.

Lin­ton filmed Five Hours South, due for re­lease this year, in Italy along­side Jor­dan Bridges, scion of the Bridges acting dy­nasty. The movie is about a small-town po­lice­man who pur­sues his pas­sion for break-dancing. In sharp con­trast, Scav­engers, also due for re­lease this year, sees Lin­ton play Emerson, the cap­tain of a team of in­ter­galac­tic scav­engers flee­ing a stricken planet Earth.

“The lat­ter I was de­lighted to get be­cause it was my first fe­male lead,” she says. “The film is set in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world which has been can­ni­balised by the hu­man pop­u­la­tion, and there is noth­ing left. It was a phys­i­cally ar­du­ous part and shot in

De­cem­ber on a very cold set in Los An­ge­les. It’s the least glam­orous role I have ever played – I usu­ally get cast in blonde girl roles. This one, though, was heav­ily dra­matic. They dyed my hair dark brown and I wasn’t per­mit­ted even a lick of Vase­line on my lips – no make-up, none. I had some lip salve on set, hid­den in my cos­tume, and would sneak a lit­tle bit on be­fore each scene. The make-up artist caught me one day and went bal­lis­tic.”

Lin­ton’s next movie, She Wants Me, star­ring Hi­lary Duff and Char­lie Sheen, meant do­ing a 360. “It was com­plete op­po­site to Scav­engers – they had me in a bikini the whole time,” she says. “I was play­ing Jessica, the blonde girl-next-door who starts dat­ing the lead girl’s boyfriend. The film is a bit like Love Ac­tu­ally with dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters in in­ter­link­ing re­la­tion­ships. It was fun go­ing from a se­ri­ous ac­tion role play­ing a tough woman with no lim­its in com­mand of an en­tire ship of men, to slip­ping into play­ing the stereo­typ­i­cal LA girl.”

How did she get along with Sheen and Duff? “They were both very pro­fes­sional,” says Lin­ton. “Ac­tu­ally, Char­lie worked the day af­ter, um, all the con­tro­ver­sial things hap­pened in New York [Sheen is re­ported to have trashed a ho­tel room last Oc­to­ber af­ter ac­cus­ing a pros­ti­tute of steal­ing his wal­let and mo­bile phone]. The ex­pec­ta­tion on set was of it all be­ing a bit awk­ward, but it was a ter­rific ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Most re­cently she has been film­ing The Power Of A Few – billed as “in­ter­na­tional terrorism col­lides with ur­ban crime” – in New Or­leans along­side Christo­pher Walken and Chris­tian Slater. Lin­ton plays a sin­gle mother ad­dicted to drugs. “I had to com­pletely transform my­self – it was an­other ugly role,” she says. “They are com­ing more fre­quently now, which is a good thing be­cause usu­ally those roles do tend to be more meaty.

“We were film­ing in the Lower 9th Ward which is where the [Hur­ri­cane] Ka­t­rina flood­ing was. My trailer was next to the levy that broke and very lit­tle re­gen­er­a­tion had taken place. There is barely any elec­tric­ity and all of the houses we were film­ing in had been nine feet un­der wa­ter. Spray painted out­side was the num­ber of peo­ple who had been saved from each one. It was a provoca­tive shoot given the en­vi­ron­ment, al­though that did help me get into char­ac­ter.”

There are el­e­ments of rain­drops on roses, whiskers on kit­tens about Lin­ton, but for all her sunny de­meanour she is un­der no il­lu­sions about her cho­sen in­dus­try. “Acting in­volves a lot of dis­ap­point­ment and re­quires the abil­ity to swal­low your pride and roll with the punches,”she says.“Ev­ery­one thinks movie sets are glam­orous, but it’s hard work. Of­ten you are on set for 12 hours – and then they de­cide to do your scenes in the 11th or 12th hour, by which point you are fairly ex­hausted.

“There is al­ways a lot of sitting around, which I try to make good use of. I’m fin­ish­ing up law school so usu­ally have five or six big books on crim­i­nal law with me. On the set of She Wants Me I was never so­cial­is­ing or out of my trailer, I was study­ing the whole time. While pur­su­ing acting I wanted to have a sense of equi­lib­rium and bal­ance in my life. It’s easy to be per­ceived as vain or un­in­tel­li­gent when you are an ac­tress.”

With Lin­ton there’s not much chance of that. Spend only a few min­utes with her and it’s ev­i­dent how whip smart and forth­right she is. While she may ap­pear to have lived a charmed life, Lin­ton was only in her mid-teens when her mother Rachel died from breast cancer. Los­ing a par­ent at a young age, she ad­mits, has moulded her own life path.

“My mother was a gen­uine al­tru­ist,” she says. “She was down to earth, ex­tremely gen­er­ous and in­volved in the Mur­ray­field Parish Church. Her death has shaped me. It has made me more em­pa­thetic and taught me to ap­pre­ci­ate life is short. You have to live it to the fullest, not just in per­sonal en­deav­ours, but also in be­ing a kind and hu­mane per­son and by help­ing as many peo­ple as you can.”

That in­cluded Lin­ton, then aged 19, spend­ing a gap year teach­ing in Zam­bia – an ex­pe­ri­ence which proved eye open­ing in more ways than one when she spent a night hid­ing in the bush as Hutu rebels at­tacked the vil­lage she was work­ing in.

“I was work­ing in a vil­lage at the south­ern end of Lake Tan­ganyika.We were only 30km from the Con­golese bor­der – DRC – and had heard ru­mours that the war there was pos­si­bly go­ing to spill over its borders, but I never an­tic­i­pated see­ing any­thing in our vil­lage. Then one day they [Hutu rebels] ar­rived by boats,” she ex­plains.

Lin­ton made it to the safety of the for­est, but oth­ers weren’t so lucky. Men were shot, women raped and huts burned as she cow­ered ter­ri­fied nearby. “I hid in the nearby bush overnight and heard the vil­lage I worked in be­ing ran­sacked, gun­fire and peo­ple scream­ing,” re­calls Lin­ton. “The next day the game war­dens had been shot, sev­eral peo­ple in the vil­lage lost their lives and chil­dren had gone miss­ing.

“I was there for many more weeks af­ter­wards but had to leave when the threat

be­came more se­ri­ous.The sec­ond Con­golese war is still on­go­ing – more than six mil­lion peo­ple have lost their lives. It gave me a very help­less feel­ing be­cause, even if you were to solve the prob­lems in Congo and the sur­round­ing coun­tries, you still have is­sues go­ing through­out Africa. It is a con­ti­nent in dire need of in­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion.”

It’s some­thing she would like to re­visit again in the fu­ture, but for now Lin­ton is fo­cus­ing closer to home on her role as an am­bas­sador for Ersk­ine, one of three mil­i­tary char­i­ties sup­ported by Sir Sean Con­nery. “I met Sean at his char­ity event, Dressed To Kilt, last April and through that got the op­por­tu­nity to be an young am­bas­sador for Ersk­ine,” she says. “I started work­ing with them last May.There are wars on­go­ing and those com­ing home in­jured need our sup­port.”

A lthough now based on the US west coast, Lin­ton re­mains close to her fam­ily in Edinburgh. Her fa­ther, Wil­liam Hay, is a prop­erty de­vel­oper while her sis­ter Suzanne, 35, man­ages a prop­erty port­fo­lio and dab­bles as a chef. Brother David, 33, mean­while, works in ho­tel and prop­erty de­vel­op­ment.

Al­though hugely proud of Lin­ton’s blos­som­ing ca­reer, they re­main non­cha­lant about her star-stud­ded life­style. “They are very laid­back about it,” she says, smil­ing. “They have been hear­ing about the ups and downs for the past three years so aren’t stag­gered when some­thing good or bad hap­pens: they see it as a job like any other.

“They get the phone call when I lose a big role as well. This past year I was down to the wire on nearly a dozen big film roles and had to wait with bated breath to see whether I got them. It was of­ten down to one other girl and me. On a lot of oc­ca­sions it went to the other girl, chiefly be­cause she was more fa­mous. That is hard and dis­ap­point­ing, es­pe­cially when you have in­vested weeks of work into cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter.”

How has the fact her fam­ily own a cas­tle gone down in the US? Do peo­ple imag­ine her to be a princess? Lin­ton rolls her eyes and smiles. “They have a very ro­man­ti­cised view of it,” she says. “There was a ru­mour to that ef­fect go­ing around my law school which I quickly nipped in the bud.”

In­ter­est­ingly, she has cho­sen to use her grand­fa­ther’s sur­name for her stage name, rather than her own Hay. “I’m aware I’m step­ping into an in­dus­try which can be glowing but also chal­leng­ing, so it was a mea­sure to pro­tect those who share my last name,” she ex­plains.“Lin­ton is my brother’s mid­dle name and one of my fa­ther’s names. There is a fa­mous au­thor called Louise Hay too so I wanted to avoid con­fu­sion.”

By now we’ve moved from the main sa­lon into a treat­ment room so Lin­ton can lie down and get her false eye­lashes at­tached. I have to say she’s a trooper – there’s not many peo­ple who would lie serenely on a trol­ley with a dozen chunky rollers dig­ging into their head.

Lin­ton won most stylish fe­male at the Scot­tish Style Awards in 2009, some­thing she still ap­pears be­mused about. Since mov­ing to Los An­ge­les, has she gone all Cal­i­for­nia hippy chick? “No, quite the op­po­site,” she says, sound­ing hor­ri­fied. “LA is ex­tremely ca­sual but I re­tain a bit of the Scot­tish for­mal­ity in the way I am and dress. The longer I’m away from Scot­land

‘Acting re­quires you to swal­low your pride and roll with the punches’

the more I miss it and grav­i­tate to­wards want­ing to iden­tify my­self as Scot­tish.”

The only time she goes coy is when the topic of re­la­tion­ships is raised. All she will di­vulge is that she’s see­ing an LA-based pro­ducer who spent Christ­mas with her fam­ily in Edinburgh. It’s per­haps in­evitable Lin­ton is cau­tious of say­ing too much. She was mar­ried to LA-based de­fence lawyer Ron­ald Richards but the cou­ple di­vorced two years ago.

“My ex and I are best friends – we even had break­fast to­gether the other day,” she says, grin­ning. “We share cus­tody of our lit­tle dog and are dear, dear friends.”

Lin­ton is most happy, she says, when spend­ing time with her fam­ily and the afore­men­tioned canine, a chi­huahua called De Beers (af­ter the di­a­mond com­pany). “I know – it’s so LA,” she says, gig­gling.

Her other big pas­sion is learn­ing to fly. “I’m tak­ing fly­ing lessons and hop­ing to get my pilot’s li­cence this year,” she says. “I fly for a cou­ple of hours ev­ery Satur­day. I de­vi­ated on one of my fly­ing lessons re­cently. I flew over my boyfriend’s house and dipped my wings. My in­struc­tor just rolled his eyes.”

She ad­mits to be­ing a driven “text­book type-A per­son­al­ity”. An­other huge smile. “I don’t think laid­back is a word you could use to de­scribe me,” says Lin­ton. “I’m def­i­nitely am­bi­tious, but I’m car­ing too and try hard to make ev­ery­one in my life as happy as pos­si­ble.

“Acting is go­ing to be my ca­reer for the rest of my life. I would like to still be do­ing this when I’m He­len Mir­ren’s age. I want to fin­ish off [law] school, but my fo­cus is acting.” Is law, then, the safety net she hopes she never has to use? A fer­vent shake of the head. “It’s a hobby,” she says firmly.

As for a phi­los­o­phy, Lin­ton en­deav­ours to live by her old Fettes motto: in­dus­tria. “Even in the face of great ad­ver­sity, you have to pull your­self up by your boot straps and keep try­ing,” she says. And with Lin­ton you get the feel­ing she’ll do just that.

Above one-shoul­dered black dress, £265, and sil­ver feather coat, £87, by Biba at House of Fraser. Head piece, £195, Wil­liam Cham­bers

Op­po­site page vintage brown fur coat, stylist’s own. Ear­rings, model’s own. Head piece, price on re­quest, Joyce Paton

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