Scots actor's battle to make it as a movie action man

Bryan Larkin Image copyright Giordano
Image caption Bryan Larkin has carved out a career making short films and starring in big budget features

In his youth, Bryan Larkin was captivated by action movies. Now, the Scottish actor is appearing opposite some of its biggest names of the genre. But reaching this point in Larkin's career has been far from easy.

Larkin was born in Glasgow and grew up in East Kilbride.

His boyhood idol was Bruce Lee, the martial arts master and star of movies Enter the Dragon and Game of Death.

Larkin had his own first brush with acting at 14 when he took a standard drama module at high school.

But his heart was not in it.

"I faced the crippling fear of being judged and speaking in front of the class so I didn't really pursue it," says the 43-year-old, who was also bullied at school.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Bruce Lee was an idol to the young Larkin

To boost his confidence he took up weight training and also karate to better stand up to the bullies. Bruce Lee and his films influenced Larkin's choice of martial art.

Larkin says: "I competed for a couple of years in weightlifting and won Scottish titles as a junior."

But his chances of a career as a body builder came to an end when he contracted salmonella.

'Tough life'

Once recovered, Larkin went on to take up work in a gym before jobs in double glazing, cleaning toilets, sweeping floors and as a security guard.

"I also read electricity meters and even wanted to join the police. I would probably be walking the beat in Glasgow if I hadn't found acting," he says.

Larkin's love of movies did not change, even if his place of work did.

Image copyright Bryan Larkin
Image caption A young Bryan Larkin, right, doing karate

The Glaswegian decided to try his hand in acting again driven, in part, by his love of cinema and the stars of the movies he watched in his youth.

"As well as Bruce Lee, Sly Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger were enormous influences because these guys played underdogs and fought the bad guys.

"I had the Rocky soundtrack on repeat very often. Stallone's films Rocky and First Blood had a huge influence on me and then later it was Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver that made up my mind that I wanted to act.

"I took some workshops in Glasgow and then auditioned for drama school.

"While I was there I started making my own short films."

Larkin went on to secure roles in small films at first and also parts in popular TV shows including crime dramas Taggart and Rebus.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Larkin has been cast in martial artist and star of Chinese action movies Donnie Yen's forthcoming film, Chasing The Dragon

He also continued to make his own films. His short - Scene. - won him a Bafta Scotland award for best first-time performance.

In 2009, he released another short, Running in Traffic, a drama about two characters who have experienced loss in their lives.

The film's plot emerged following the death of Larkin's father, Frank, who served in the RAF before retraining to become a lecturer.

Larkin said: "My father was supportive of my transition to acting. He was a keen movie buff and loved photography so he had an appreciation for things creative.

"It was tough on all the family for a few years after he passed away.

"I made Running in Traffic based on how it affected me. It was a very cathartic process and I am very proud of the film."

He adds: "My father had a really tough life growing up and I really admire how he re-educated himself at 42 and decided to become a lecturer at Strathclyde University. We shared a common interest in creative things."

'Outlander was fun'

In terms of acting roles, the past few years have seen him voice characters in video games and appear in TV series Outlander, Shetland and Doctors.

He played Geordie in the first season of Outlander, a character who suffers a bloody and fatal mishap during a boar hunt.

"Outlander was really fun to work on," says Larkin.

"It's such a successful show and I am delighted to have been a small part of it.

"A lot of people still talk about my performance in that one episode and sometimes I wish I'd held out for a larger role, but then I wouldn't have had the career I have now. It's all about making choices and I might be doing something very different now.

"What made Outlander special for me was the writing and characters were so good, the actors were good and the crew were good. That's not always the case with projects."

The past few years, Larkin also appeared in the kind of big budget action he loved growing up.

In last year's London Has Fallen, starring fellow Scot Gerard Butler, Larkin played an SAS lieutenant.

And he has just finished shooting scenes for Chasing the Dragon, a gangster movie starring martial arts and mega star of Chinese cinema, Donnie Yen.

Yen played Chirrut Imwe in last year's Star Wars movie, Rogue One. His character uses a form of martial arts to get the better of laser blaster-wielding stormtroopers.

Larkin flew to Hong Kong and China for his scenes in Chasing the Dragon.

"All I can tell you is, Donnie is an artist," says Larkin.

"He's very collaborative and he works you hard, and I love that. He's a perfectionist and we built my role together pretty much from scratch.

Image copyright Lucasfilm/AP
Image caption Yen, bottom right, in last year's Star Wars movie Rogue One

"I was cast in the movie before Rogue One was released. Donnie and I will be shooting more scenes together for Chasing The Dragon this spring before the film is released.

"I love working in Asia, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

"There was a lot of trust placed upon me, they valued my input and when you have that amount of people believing in you then you really want to do the best job you can."

Larkin, who modelled for a Hong Kong-based fashion label as well as making a movie there, adds: "Donnie and Andy Lau, the other lead actor, are both phenomenal actors, they are so connected to the material and you just want to meet them at their level."

And would Larkin ever fancy following Yen's route into the Star Wars' universe?

"I think almost any actor will give you the same answer," says the Scot.

"I was a huge Star Wars fan as a kid. I still have the action figures from the 80s in a box at home."