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More fame for Lewis-born actor

More fame for Lewis-born actor who shares the screen with some of the country's top stars From Zhivago to the Earl of Essex

A LEWIS-BORN actor's career has spiralled in recent years, so much so that he is being acclaimed as one of the country's top stars. As well as having the lead role in Dr Zhivago, Hans Matheson's latest roles have seen him starring alongside actresses Demi Moore and Anne-Marie Duff.
Hans (30) is one of the stars of BBC TV's lavish production of 'The Virgin Queen', playing alongside BAFTA award-winning actress Anne-Marie Duff. Having already had a high profile following his TV role as 'Dr Zhivago', Hans can be seen this weekend as the flamboyant Earl of Essex when he courts Queen Elizabeth 1 in the BBC production.
He has just completed the filming of the atmospheric thriller, Half Light, in which he plays a lighthouse keeper, co-starring with the one of the top actresses around, Demi Moore.
Hans, whose father Ado is from Stornoway and his mother Sheena from Parkend, has been acting for the past 10 years and has had a variety of roles both on TV and in films. Added to that, he is also an accomplished musician and singer, taking after not only his father Ado, but also his grandfather, Alasdair Matheson, a well known Gaelic singer, who owned the Crown Hotel in Stornoway.
Although born in Stornoway, Hans spent his early years in Canterbury and enjoys his visits 'home' to his native Lewis, although these sojourns are not as often as he would wish. Of his role in 'The Virgin Queen' — which can be seen on the next two Sundays at 9 o'clock on BBC 1 — viewers can follow Elizabeth 1's enigmatic relationship with the young Earl of Essex, played by Hans.
He didn't have to delve too far into the past for inspiration for his role as the manipulative Earl, whose lust for power eventually proves his downfall.
Explains Hans: "Marc Bolan was quite a strong figure for me to look towards for him. I didn't want to forget Essex's swagger, and Bolan seemed like he was from Mars or something — there's been no one quite like him since, and I wanted that kind of excitement about Essex. I listened to Bolan a lot in the dressing room. And also Kurt Cobain, just because of his aggression. Essex is very aggressive — he would just do really horrible things to people and because he is the Earl of Essex they can't say anything. He's like a spoiled little brat." He joked: "In my role as the Earl of Essex, I got to live out my fantasies! But to be honest, I was never allowed to be like that in my life. Essex really was a spoiled brat. He wanted to be famous. He wanted to go to war all the time so he could be worshipped by people. It was interesting playing that — you have to slap people in the face. I felt so guilty, but I warned Anne-Marie Duff before we started filming! "A lot of the time with characters you play, you can find safety zones that you can go and hide in. With Essex I felt I had to constantly come outside of my safety zone, which was very liberating for me. When I read the script I thought. I've got to be so over-the-top and melodramatic, and if I don't go there, then this is going to fall on its face. But in the end if you take those risks, there's always a reward — it gives me a lot of vitality and suddenly you find a new world that didn't exist before," he said. Regarding Essex's relationship with the Queen, he says: "It's strange for a 25-year-old man to have a relationship with a 60-year-old woman really… but without a shadow of a doubt her power is attractive and all the men in court wanted her. She was the equivalent of the biggest film star or rock star around. And being that close to what everybody desires, I think is what kept him there." Hans went on: "I can't think of two more extreme characters than Zhivago and Essex, so it's going to be difficult to follow those — but hopefully something will come along!" he says.
'Half Light', scheduled for UK release in June, is being released on DVD in the USA this month with Hans plays Angus, the lighthouse keeper. The film is about Rachel Carlson, a successful mystery novelist whose life falls apart when her five-year old son drowns at her country home. A year later, in an effort to heal her wounds and help her to start writing again, her best friend rents her a secluded cottage in a remote fishing village. As Rachel adapts to life in the charming village, she slowly develops a relationship with the lighthouse keeper who lives and works on the deserted island off her coast.
However, just as Rachel begins to feel restored, she begins to receive haunting messages from her dead son, warning her of danger. Unsure whether the messages are real or whether she's losing her mind, Rachel is plunged into a world of madness, murder and the supernatural. "What I think we've achieved, is something which is not only very atmospheric, but deeply frightening at the same time, and they're the most haunting films of all," said director Craig Rosenberg.
The film was shot on the usually benign island of Ynys Llandwynn off the coast of Anglesey in North Wales, with some extra location work in Cornwall. Of the film, Hans said: "It wasn't the most stimulating experience I have had, but I was lucky to be doing something like that," said Hans.
And what of the future?
"I am moving towards other things at the moment, possibly directing films and perhaps writing a screenplay. I am reading a few TV scripts at present and would like to find something I really believe in, maybe something to get my blood boiling!" he says. Although he has had a good deal of work, much of his time is involved in reading scripts and weighing up what is on offer.
"I read a lot of books and plays, and normally have three meetings a week with different casting directors," he says. "When I am not doing that, I have my piano," he says.
At the end of last year, he and his father, Ado entertained at the Highlands and Islands Society of London, singing and playing the guitar. Hans is not only a talented actor but plays many instruments, including guitar, violin and harmonica and writes his own songs. He accompanies his father on the successful CD 'Out on the Islands' which has proved popular in the Western Isles and much further afield. It is still in demand not only for the music, but for the lyrics which were written by the Mathesons themselves. Plenty talent there!
The list of films and TV that Hans has appeared in over the past 10 years is impressive. They include: Half Light; The Virgin Queen; Imperium:Nero ; Comfortably Numb; Doctor Zhivago; Deathwatch; I Am Dina; The Mists Of Avalon; Canone Inverso- Making Love; Bodywork; Tube Tales; Steal Away; Still Crazy;Les Miserables; Marius Pontmercy; Family Money; Stella Does Tricks; Mojo; The Future Lasts a Long Time; Poldark; Bramwell; Wycliffe; Old Habits; Christmas; and The Bill.
Not bad for a Lewis lad who can turn his hand to acting, singing, and in the future, we hope, directing.

Stornaway Today February 2, 2006