Sam Heughan: ‘I’ll throw my hat in. I’d be a brilliant Bond’

Posted by admin on November 21st, 2023

The Scottish actor on rethinking sex scenes, losing out on Bond to Daniel Craig and his steamy new Channel 4 drama The Couple Next Door

If anyone knows a thing or two about sex scenes, it’s Sam Heughan. Over the past decade, the 43-year-old Scottish star of Outlander, the cult-hit historical drama, has filmed hours of notoriously raunchy footage in his role as Jamie Fraser, the dashing 18th-­century Highland rebel, with his wife, Claire – a time-traveller from the 20th century, played by ­Caitríona Balfe.

Yet two years ago, Heughan, as one of the executive producers (with Balfe), introduced an intimacy co-ordinator to choreograph such scenes, which had been criticised by many as excessively violent.

“The industry’s completely changed since Outlander started,” Heughan says, sitting in a Soho bar on a visit to London from his home outside Glasgow. “Not just our show but also shows like Game of Thrones were very graphic, with no room for the imagination, in a way that’s quite jarring now. As young, keen actors, we were just expected to get naked and go at it. Caitríona and I formed a bond and trusted each other, but there were times when we were pushed too far.” He was especially troubled by a scene involving full-frontal nudity in ­season one, when Jamie was tortured and raped by his rival, Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). “That really didn’t sit well.”

Everything changed following the MeToo scandal, leading ­Heughan to employ Vanessa Coffey to choreograph the sex scenes. “So now everyone knows what the boundaries are, like in a football or rugby match. It’s been so helpful and freeing, and it was because I didn’t want younger actors to go through what we’d gone through. Now, the scenes are sexually charged, but not gratuitous.”

Despite his heartthrob status, Heughan – who’s 6ft 2in, with the strapping physique his role necess­i­tates – is modest and thoughtful company. He also had Coffey enlisted to co-ordinate his latest pro­ject, Channel 4’s erotic thriller The Couple Next Door, filmed during the short break between Outlander’s seasons nine and 10, in which he plays Danny, a policeman living in a Leeds suburb in an open marriage with Becka (Jessica De Gouw).

“We didn’t want to make a salacious or seedy show about swingers,” Heughan says. “It’s about the psychology behind it – what is it to be in an open relationship where two characters love each other so much that they can invite people into that relationship? I think it’s possibly the greatest form of romance to allow your partner this, if it’s the itch they need to scratch. My character struggles with it.”

The couple’s (initially) strait-laced neighbours are played by Alfred Enoch and Eleanor Tom­linson, who in 2019 finished five seasons as Demelza in Poldark. With Outlander about to start ­filming its final season, she and Heughan compared notes on moving on from a huge, long-running costume drama.

“It’s emotional. For me, the prospect’s hugely bittersweet. It feels like getting out of an institution. Outlander’s like a family, it literally defines who I am.” After all, Heughan has created an empire of Outlander spin-offs, including books, television travelogues and his spirits brand, The Sassenach – named after Jamie’s nickname for the English Claire – not to mention his charity, My Peak Challenge, which has raised nearly £5 million to fund a variety of causes, including ­hunger relief and blood-cancer research. “I’m ready for new challenges, but also nervous about what it’s like in the real world,” he says.

Still, he felt now was the right time to wrap. “Outlander could have finished after the ninth season, but, personally, I felt we hadn’t quite got there. So now we have the problem of pushing the writers to do something that’s hopefully satisfying for the audience, but also exciting.” So Heughan doesn’t yet know how Outlander ends? “No idea, and it’s really tough because Diana [Gabaldon, the author on whose novels the series is based] has written so many books.”

The show has a vast international fanbase; VisitScotland has cited a 67 per cent rise in visits to the show’s locations, such as Culloden and Inverness. “I do feel like I’m an unofficial ambassador for Scotland, and sometimes I don’t think the show is given enough credit for what it’s done for Scottish tourism,” Heughan says. “I think the numbers are even bigger than they say, because reams of Americans are just making their own itineraries. Doune Castle’s numbers are up 800 per cent, it’s been completely renovated as a result.”

The show has also transformed the local film industry. “For 10 years, we’ve been employing ­people at over 200 Scottish locations, we’ve started an intern scheme, we’ve built a studio with five sound stages where there was nothing before. So it’s going to leave a legacy.”

The son of an artist single mother (his father walked out when he was a baby), Heughan spent his early childhood in the Borders, his teens in Edinburgh, before studying at Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, where his mentor was third-year student James McAvoy.

Having worked in London and Los Angeles, Heughan fell back in love with Scotland when he was cast in Outlander. Initially against independence, filming the first ­season in the run-up to the 2016 ­referendum transformed him into a vocal advocate. “Scottish politics right now is a bit of a mess, which is a shame, but maybe they’ll find a new rallying cry. We’re a great wee country with amazing resources, most of which are controlled by the British. Similar small European countries have great identities.”

Initially, Heughan is hesitant to discuss the issue, aware taking either side will provoke a social-media backlash, but then he decides: “Why can’t actors have opi­n­ions? The problem is you have to come down on one side, there is no room for deb­ate. Everything has be­come so aggressive and then social-media algo­rithms mean you only get to see one side of the argument.” [Read more]


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Sam as Jamie Fraser
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Claire Beauchamp Randall, a nurse in World War II, mysteriously goes back in time to Scotland in 1743. There, she meets a dashing Highland warrior and gets drawn into an epic rebellion.
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Evie and Pete move to an upscale neighborhood, and find themselves twitching and anxiety. They Become friends with couple next door, Danny and his wife,Becka . Danny shares a passionate night with Evie, his beautiful but troubled neighbor.

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