Scotsman Obituaries: Brian McCardie, Scottish actor who was unforgettable as Line of Duty villain

Brian McCardle in his chilling turn as Tommy Hunter in Line of DutyBrian McCardle in his chilling turn as Tommy Hunter in Line of Duty
Brian McCardle in his chilling turn as Tommy Hunter in Line of Duty
Brian McCardie, actor. Born: 22 January 1965 in Bellshill. Died: 28 April 2024 in Glasgow, aged 59

Producers were bemused after they approached Brian McCardie to play the ruthless crime boss Tommy Hunter in the TV series Line of Duty and he suggested that he might model his look not on Ronnie or Reggie Kray, but on Eddie Large from the goofy comedy duo Little and Large.

“Everyone’s thinking, three-quarter length leather coat, skinhead, driving a 4x4 with blacked-out windows,” McCardie said. “These guys have families, nice houses. They are members of the golf club in v-neck jumpers. These guys are in every town. They don’t drive cars with blacked-out windows or have leather coats and skinheads. The people who work for them do.”

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He drew quite specifically on his memories of Eddie Large on the pro-celebrity golf circuit, alongside Bruce Forsyth and Terry Wogan, to create the look of Tommy Hunter in the first couple of series of the hit series Line of Fire. The unexpected appearance served to make the character even more sinister.

McCardie enjoyed a successful career playing villains, including the bigwig inmate who orders an attack on Sean Bean’s character and blackmails Stephen Graham’s warder into smuggling drugs in Jimmy McGovern’s prison drama series Time in 2021.

Even when he was supposedly on the right side of the law, as police detective Dougie Gillman in a film of Irvine Welsh’s Filth, he came across as the epitome of menace and villainy.

Early in his screen career, however, it was quite different. He played Liam Neeson’s younger brother in the 1995 historical Scottish drama Rob Roy.

That opened doors in Hollywood and he went on to appear with Michael Douglas in the period adventure The Ghost and the Darkness, and with Sandra Bullock in the Speed sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control, as the ship’s Scottish navigator.

The money was good, the actual experience less so. “I knew it was going to be a terrible film as soon as I read the script,” said McCardie. “Everyone knows cruise ships don’t exactly go fast.” Before long he would turn his back on Hollywood and its riches and return to the land of his birth.

He was born Brian James McCardie in Bellshill in Lanarkshire in 1965. His father was a toolmaker, his mother a nurse. He began acting at Our Lady’s High School in Motherwell, studied drama at Rose Bruford College in London and began picking up roles on television in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He made early appearances on EastEnders and the revived Doctor Finlay series and played no fewer than four different characters on Taggart.

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McCardie had been living in Brixton in London, but returned to Scotland for a couple of months before filming Rob Roy to immerse himself in his native land once again.

He told himself not to be overawed by a cast that included Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, Tim Roth, John Hurt and Brian Cox. He met an even bigger star at the New York premiere in the shape of Lauren Bacall and his confidence soared when she told him he was “fantastic”. He recalled: “I walked away like I was Humphrey Bogart.”

Rob Roy was written by the brilliant Scottish writer Alan Sharp as a “Scottish western”. It had the misfortune of being overshadowed by Braveheart, which came out around the same time.

McCardie was back in the Scottish Highlands as David Balfour, the young hero in a two-part American TV production of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, though it actually used Ireland to double for Scotland. It was followed by The Ghost and the Darkness, Speed 2 and 200 Cigarettes, in which he was part of a cast that included Kate Hudson and Courtney Love.

“I had done five Hollywood films in four years. And then I just walked away from the industry altogether for maybe five or six years. I fired my agent so that I was uncontactable and left the industry altogether,” he said in one of his last interviews, with the Herald newspaper, just weeks before his sudden death.

He was not the first to label Hollywood as “sordid” and was determined not to be seduced by the mighty dollar. Of his decision to walk away, he said: “I did it for the right reasons, I believed at the time. If you look back over a life, you think, Well, Brian, financially that was insane... but it was the right decision for me.”

Back in Scotland he eventually returned to acting on his terms. He found himself in constant demand and played the legendary Scottish footballer Dave Mackay in the film The Damned United and was Sir Marcus MacRannoch on Outlander. He had also been cast as an unrelated character in the forthcoming spin-off series Blood of My Blood.

In recent times he enjoyed a quiet life on the island of Bute, writing poetry and looking at the scenery, the wildlife and the stars. He nearly married once or twice, but never did, and had no children.


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