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There's Nothing Wrong With Sex on TV

Now Magazine- Fraser Masse
Hans Matheson on playing Doctor Zhivago and splitting with Samantha Morton

A generation ago, the film version of the epic Russian love story Doctor Zhivago turned the then unknown Omar Sharif into one of the major sex symbols of the time. Now another relative newcomer, Hans Matheson, is waiting to see if a new ITV version of the story will do the same for him. The 7 million pound production has been dogged from controversy from the start . First Hornblower star, Ioan Gruffudd dropped out of the title role amid rumours that the fee being offered wasn't high enough - his popularity seemingly pricing him out of the job.
Then Andrea Corr - who was to have played Lara, the object of Zhivago's passion - also withdrew from the project, apparently because she was uncomfortable with the amount of nude scenes.
Instead Hans, who hails from Stornaway in the Outer Hebrides and another relative newcomer Keira Knightley, were brought in as replacements.
"Keira and I aren't intimidated by the fact that Omar Sharif and Julie Christie have done these roles before us," he says. "That film was a magic moment in a lot of people's lives. But now the story deserves another look.
"If actors worried about who had done roles before them, then no-one would ever audition for Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet again. My only hope is that people who loved the film version don't see this one and want to throw rotten tomatoes at me in the street as a result.
"As for Ioan, I think it would have been interesting to see his take on the character. He's very good. We did our first acting jobs together way back on an episode of Poldark.
"He's a lovely guy. But I'm much cheaper. To me the fee doesn't really matter. I'm keeping my head above water. I'm not struggling so I can say it's not really about the money. I won't say what I did earn because you'd be shocked at how little it was. But it was a wonderful opportunity to play a wonderful character and try to do justice, in some way, to a great novel."
Hans also had no qualms about the sex scenes. "I don't think Andrea Corr realised what would have to be performed on screen," he says. "I don't think there was anything that hasn't been seen before. There's nothing that people wouldn't have seen happening in their own bedrooms."
"For myself, I think sex has been a controversial issue on screen for too long. When it comes down to it, who doesn't like to watch a bit of sex on the telly? I think it's time we got over it. There's nothing wrong with human bodies And there's nothing in bad taste in Zhivago.
Despite having only a few low profile roles to his name so far - the movie version of Les Miserables, Stella Does Tricks and Mojo - Hans is already becoming somewhat of a heart-throb - with a number of websites dedicated to him by female fans
At least with Doctor Zhivago, he's going to find himself at the centre of attention because of his own acting skills. His last brush with fame, on the other hand, was as the boyfriend of Samantha Morton, who has since gone on to Hollywood fame in movies such as Minority Report, Sweet and Lowdown and Morvern Callar
"Love's a strange thing," he says "It was a powerful relationship because of the amount of love we felt for each other and the pain of the break-up. I saw her again recently and was proud of myself for how well I was able to deal with it."
At the time of their break-up, Hans remarked that ending the relationship had made him a better person and a better actor. It's a quote that now haunts him.
"I was 21, I'm 27 now - it's the sort of thing you say when you're young." he admits.
"I was overwhelmed by that break-up. But what I said at the time made it sound like I felt it was wonderful to break up with her because I'd be able to use the experience in my acting.
"That's such a horrible thing to have said. The truth of the matter is that life's painful for everyone - no-one escapes. At the end of the day, all painful experiences make you a more compassionate person because you can relate to other people's pain. Of course, all life experiences also make you a more dynamic actor. But that doesn't mean you look forward to experiencing pain.
"I've learned since not to say those kind of things. I know I've had a very easy and privileged life. I've never had any real problems. Maybe the first ones will come when Doctor Zhivago comes out and I'm dodging tomatoes in the street."

November 27, 2002