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Past Times

The famous play that led Fifer Dougray Scott to film fame and fortune

Dougray Scott will complete his own kind of origin story when he heads to New York for Tartan Week.
Graeme Strachan
A head and shoulders shot of Dougray Scott, who is is heading to Kirkcaldy
Dougray Scott has never forgotten his roots. Image: Shutterstock.

It was Death Of A Salesman that led to the birth of Dougray Scott’s acting ambitions.

The Arthur Miller play shows how the American dream is unattainable for some.

And it sparked something in the Fife teenager who, unlike protagonist Willy Loman, would go on to fulfil his dreams.

It was a powerful stimulus.

Himself the son of a salesman, Scott’s journey to Hollywood stardom (via Sparta, of course) began with that classic text.

Inspired in part by life in the Brooklyn house where Miller grew up, Scott will complete his own kind of origin story when he heads to New York for Tartan Week.

The Emmy-award winning former Auchmuty High School pupil will lead the 26th annual NYC Tartan Day Parade today.

Death Of A Salesman tells us Willy Loman was “liked, but he’s not well liked”.

Superstar Scott will be cheered by crowds up Sixth Avenue knowing that he also is not well liked – he’s loved.

Where is Dougray Scott from?

He was plain old Stephen Scott when growing up in the Woodside area of Glenrothes.

His mother, Elma, was a nurse, and his father, Alan, acted for a spell with Glasgow’s Unity Theatre and for 33 years travelled around Scotland selling fridges.

Scott was the youngest in a family of two sisters and a brother.

He was first bitten by the acting bug at school

Scott was quite shy and acting took him out of his shell.

He went on to do the foundation course in drama studies at Kirkcaldy College.

In 1984 he was accepted at the College of Music and Drama in Cardiff where he graduated as most promising student in 1987.

Dougray Scott has been acting on stage and screen since the 1980s. Image: Shutterstock.

There was already a Stephen Scott registered with the actors union.

So, he took his grandmother’s surname, which was also his middle name.

London beckoned.

Sporadic work followed including theatre productions.

To make ends meet he worked as a waiter and a theatre usher, and made friends with Ewan McGregor, with whom he shared digs for a time.

Suffering for his art in Taggart

He kicked off his acting career and suffered for his art in one of Taggart’s scarier episodes in 1992, in which deadly snakes were the murder weapon.

Scott played zookeeper Colin Murphy in the three-part Nest of Vipers.

He said: “Mark McManus (who was a former boxer) punched me for real, because he thought it would be great for the film.

“He caught me and floored me.

“I had a great time!”

Dennis Waterman and Dougray Scott in Stay Lucky. Image: Shutterstock.

He also landed a part in Lovejoy alongside Ian McShane.

Small but pivotal roles followed in Stay Lucky with Dennis Waterman and Cavanagh QC with John Thaw before he won a part in Soldier Soldier in 1995.

It was watched by 16 million people and was a mainstay of the ITV schedule but he left after just one series to work on more challenging roles.

Dougray Scott was hugely popular in Soldier Soldier. Image: Shutterstock.

“I really enjoyed doing Soldier Soldier,” he said.

“But it didn’t stretch me as an actor.

“I’m not in this business to make a name for myself as any sort of a star.

“More than anything else, I wanted to be able to do good work.

“For me, that means playing a diverse range of characters, working with good writers who have new ideas and the best directors.

“But, more than that, I don’t want to have to compromise as an actor and I approach each role in that spirit.”

Becoming a reluctant leading light

He knew it was a risk walking away from the regular earnings but the Fifer has never shied away from doing something that the rest of us may balk at.

Scott refuses to take the easy option.

He was Joe McFadden’s worldly-wise brother in The Crow Road, before a starring role in Twin Town in 1997 brought him to the attention of Hollywood’s elite.

Having seen Twin Town, in which he played bent copper Terry Walsh, the head of Twentieth Century Fox facilitated Scott’s transition to the big league.

Bill Mechanic decided he was the ideal candidate to play Prince Charming opposite Drew Barrymore in Ever After.

He won the role ahead of Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.

Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott in Ever After when he played Prince Charming. Image: Shutterstock.

Triumph turned to tragedy.

Scott was 30 when his father died after living with Parkinson’s for many years.

He was heartbroken he did not live to see his success in Hollywood.

Mechanic then brought his protégé to the attention of Tom Cruise, who was looking for an actor to star alongside him in Mission: Impossible II.

“I think my pals back home are still getting over the fact that I’ve worked with Drew Barrymore, the girl from ET,” he said.

“I’m sure they’ll reckon it’s hilarious that I’m going to be in a movie with Tom Cruise.

“I think it’s bizarre because I’m a fan myself.”

He almost killed himself on location after falling off a speeding motorbike while trying to match the action man screen antics of Cruise.

It would earn $215 million domestic and $546 million worldwide that summer.

Movies and TV shows… and Arthur Miller again

Scott was sought after for other such blockbusters.

Instead he followed up with Enigma in 2001 alongside Kate Winslet.

Noted for his intense preparation, he studied the maths used by the men and women at Bletchley Park who worked in a secretive world of encryption.

Dougray Scott alongside Kate Winslet in the 2001 movie Enigma. Image; Shutterstock.

Researching roles are a significant perk of the job for him.

He followed up Enigma by learning his craft from a professional picture-framer in Chelsea for the role in Ripley’s Game alongside John Malkovich.

He portrayed Arthur Miller in My Week with Marilyn, which was a full circle moment after falling in love with drama by reading Death Of A Salesman.

Dougray Scott with Michelle Williams when he portrayed Arthur Miller. Image: Shutterstock.

Some of his other film and television credits include To Kill a King, Dark Water, Desperate Housewives, Doctor Who and Taken 3.

He has always spoken of his love of Fife

Scott is just getting better with age.

The Fifer won a Scottish Bafta and International Emmy in 2022 for his portrayal of detective Ray Lennox in Irvine Welsh’s drama Crime.

He has appeared in a diverse portfolio of films and TV over the decades.

Yet there’s nothing starry-eyed about the man who made his stage debut in Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer at Auchmuty High School.

Dad-of-three Scott has never forgotten his roots.

A kiss from his beloved mum at the 2002 Markinch Games. Image: Shutterstock.

He fulfilled the role of honorary chieftain at the 2002 and 2003 Markinch Highland Games and was a regular visitor to Glenrothes before his mother passed away.

He said she will be looking down from on high with pride when he leads the flagship event of NYC Tartan Week down Sixth Avenue.

Scott will wear a Morrison tartan kilt in honour of Elma.

He will also be thinking of his father and the incredible journey that began with Arthur Miller and took a shy boy from Glenrothes to Hollywood stardom.