When Irish actor Stuart Townsend was a teenager, he did his share of teenage things. He regularly had fist fights on the last bus horne ("They ended up taking the bus off the route"), lost his virginity at 15 on a French exchange trip to a married woman with a whip above her bed ("She didn't use it thank God, I'd have run a mile") and was expelled from school three times.
But then when he was 20, his girlfriend started drama classes. Townsend had found his vocation. Even if his friends thought he' d turned into a poncey luvvie. "My mates called me Julia Roberts," laughs the 24-year-old.
Braving his friends' "wit," Townsend did a string of stage parts.
For one play, he had to take off all his clothes and run across the stage. "By the end of the season," he laughs, "half the audience was full of young girls." We bet.
His big break was playing a tear away traveller in Trogan Eddie. But the movie which will make his fortune is comedy Shooting Fish (out 17 October), the story of two orphan entrepreneurs saving up for a stately home. Townsend plays Jez, a nerdy boy-next-door, who wears his sex appeal like a knitted bonnet.
"He's sickly sweet," Townsend jokes. "Girls don't want that. They want some one who'll treat them badly." And you're happy to do that? "I'm a nice guy," he protests, laughing. "You don't buy that at all do you?"
- Louise Brealey