Scot hopes Hollywood role will be launchpad to stardom

TWELVE months ago he was just one more wannabe, facing an uncertain future as he prepared to graduate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

But today Sam Heughan is set for international stardom after being chosen to be the lead role in a forthcoming Hollywood movie.

Heughan, 22, will play the eponymous hero in Macedonia’s Alexander the Great, the first part of a three-film biopic of the ancient hero planned by the veteran producer Ilya Salkind. And if history repeats itself, the role could catapult Heughan to the top of the most-wanted list when it is released later this year.

Salkind is best known in Hollywood as the producer who in 1978 spotted an unknown young actor called Christopher Reeve fresh out of drama college, and made him a star overnight with his Superman trilogy.

Confirming that he has reserved the right to employ Heughan in all three of his planned films on Alexander, Salkind said: "We looked at hundreds of young actors to play this role, which requires both striking visual attraction and the look of a great future warrior.

"When we spotted the athletic, 6ft 2in-framed Heughan and his captivating sensuous masculine visage, we knew we had found him.

"The plus side is that, like Reeve, he comes with total preparation in his craft and is now ready for his breakthrough. We will put an international campaign behind him and the picture throughout production."

Salkind is so confident of Heughan’s talents that he plans to release Macedonia’s Alexander the Great in October this year - the same month that Hollywood producer Oliver Stone will release his biopic of Alexander the Great, starring the Irish actor Colin Farrell.

The success of Heughan, who comes from New Galloway, Dumfriesshire, will be seen as simply the latest in a string of accolades by those who have followed his fortunes in recent years.

While studying at RSAMD, Heughan was one of just four students in his year to represent the Glasgow performing arts establishment at the BBC Carlton Hobbs radio talent competition.

In 2002, while still a student, Heughan won rave reviews for his portrayal of John in David Greig’s play Outlying Islands.

The role won Heughan a nomination for most promising new performer in the Olivier Awards - the British theatre industry’s most prestigious prize-giving event.

He recently finished filming Granada Television’s Island at War, a drama about three Channel Islands farmers under Nazi occupation, before plunging straight into his role as Alexander the Great.

Hugh Hodgart, the head of acting at the RSAMD, said he was delighted that Heughan’s talent had earned such early recognition with a role famously played by the late Sir Richard Burton in 1956.

He said:

"Sam was always an extremely hard working student, very open and very generous towards his fellow actors as a student.

"These are not just nice things about him - they are essential professional qualities that are vital when you are working on a collaborative project such as a film.

"They are the qualities that can give a talented actor the edge when it comes to getting work."