The Edinburgh Festivals – the Edinburgh Fringe being by far the biggest constituent part of the city’s annual cultural carnival – are largely about outsiders: thousands of amateur or semi-professional performers and writers, either eager to make a name for themselves or simply enjoy the buzz of being part of the world’s largest arts festival.
But be it to bring a bit pizzazz to a major production, launch a career revival from the ground up or return to their first love of stage performance, in among the unknowns every year there tends to a smattering of celebrities too, principally from film and TV (keep your 'Birdman' jokes to yourself, now). Here’s a round-up of five famous faces to look out for in Edinburgh this year, and the prospect of them being amenable to a celebrity selfie. Because nobody asks for an autograph anymore these days, right?
Who? East Kilbride born Scottish actor, 53. Made his breakthrough in the 1990s in a hugely successful British rom com before later becoming a fixture in a major Hollywood film franchise. More commonly seen in big budget TV productions these days, the type which typically involve him wearing sandals.
Most famous for: ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ (1994), ‘Sliding Doors’ (1998), ‘The Mummy’ trilogy (1999-2008), ‘Spartacus’ (2010–2011), ‘Atlantis’ (2013-2015).
Why’s he in Edinburgh? Hannah appears as a mysterious illusionist and showman in ‘The Titanic Orchestra’, a little-known Bulgarian play about four tramps huddled together in an abandoned railway station. It’s his first visit to the Fringe in 25 years.
Selfie prospects: 5/10 – keeps himself to himself does Hannah, but seems like a decent chap so we’ll call it even.
The Titanic Orchestra, Pleasance Courtyard, Aug 5-16, 18-23, 25-31, 5.25pm
Who? English actor, comedian, author and political activist from Blackpool, 75. Had a long-standing part in Channel 4’s flagship soap opera in the 1980s, but is by far best known as the miserly, flatulent, misanthropic paterfamilias of one of the most famous British sitcom families of them all.
Most famous for: ‘Brookside’ (1982-1988), ‘Cracker’ (1994-1996), ‘The Royle Family’ (1998-2012).
Why’s he in Edinburgh? A one-off spoken word Fringe show called ‘Guilt My Arse’, which despite its funny title – borrowing from Jim Royle’s favourite catchphrase – actually addresses a serious subject. In 1973 Tomlinson was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of 'conspiracy to intimidate' as a picketer in a building workers dispute in Shrewsbury. The trial lasted 55 days and in today’s money cost around £10 million. Why is the establishment still covering it up after now 42 years?
Selfie prospects: 7/10 – despite being the oldest name in this list, and thus the most liable to wonder what on earth you’re talking about when you say 'selfie', Tomlinson comes across as a pretty jolly fellow (apart from in ‘The Royle Family’, anyway) so we’re thinking chances are favorable. Though you may well get a 'selfie my arse' for your troubles.
Ricky Tomlinson: Guilty My Arse, Assembly Rooms, Aug 29, 12.45pm
© Eva Vermandel
Who? English actor, writer and director from Cambridge, 57. As founder and artistic director of the UK-based international touring theatre company Complicite, McBurney’s background is principally in stage performance. But he’s increasingly branched out into screen acting, initially in TV, later in a string of big budget movies, many major hits among them.
Most famous for: ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ (1994-2000, 2004), ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (2004), ‘The Last King of Scotland’ (2006), ‘Robin Hood’ (2010), ‘The Theory of Everything’ (2014), ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (2015)
Why’s he in Edinburgh? To direct ‘The Encounter’ at the Edinburgh International Festival, a piece of experimental theatre based on the book ‘Amazon Beaming’ written by Petru Popescu, a Romanian who escaped the Ceaușescu regime to reinvent himself as a Los Angeles screenwriter. It’s the story of American photojournalist Loren McIntyre and his life-changing experience in 1969, when he found himself lost among the remote people of the Javari Valley on the border between Brazil and Peru.
Selfie prospects: 1/10 – Him: 'But I’m a serious actor!' You: 'But you were in "Vicar of Dibley"?'
The Encounter, EICC, Aug 7-23 (not 11-13, 18), 2.30pm/7.30pm
Binoche in 'Certified Copy'
Who? French actress, artist and dancer from Paris, 51. Binoche holds the rare honour of being hugely respected and successful in both arthouse cinema – where she first emerged as a favourite of French auteurs auteurs Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Doillon and André Téchiné – and the Hollywood mainstream. Among countless stage and screen accolades, she’s been nominated for Oscars twice, winning once (Best Supporting Actress in ‘The English Patient’).
Most famous for: ‘Rendez-vous’ (1985), ‘Three Colors: Blue’ (1993), ‘The English Patient’ (1996), ‘Chocolat’ (2000), ‘Godzilla’ (2014)
Why’s she in Edinburgh? To lead a stellar cast in a new international touring adaptation of Greek tragedy ‘Antigone’ at the Edinburgh International Festival, as directed by Ivo van Hove. Binoche has appeared on stage in major theatre and dance productions throughout her career, picking up a Tony Award nomination for her performance in a Broadway version of Harold Pinter’s ‘Betrayal’ in 2000. Perhaps this time she fancied a reality check after ‘Godzilla’.
Selfie prospects: 1/10 – Her: 'Je suis une actrice sérieuse!' You: 'Excuse me?'
Antigone, King's Theatre, Aug 7-22 (not 10, 17), 2.30pm/7.30pm
Who? Scottish-American actor, author and activist from Aberfeldy, 50. Cummings started his career as a well-respected and hard-working stage actor, first in Scotland, later in London’s West End and on Broadway. After breaking out onto the big screen as a Bond villain’s henchman, he went on to appear in several major Hollywood movies, and maintains a high profile starring in American TV shows as well as the occasional big budget play. He’s a renowned campaigner for both gay rights and Scottish Independence.
Most famous for: ‘GoldenEye’ (1995), ‘Emma’ (1996), ‘X2: X Men United’ (2003), ‘The Good Wife’ (2009-2015).
Why’s he in Edinburgh? To have a chat with author Ian Rankin at the Edinburgh International Book Festival about his passage from Aberfeldy to Broadway and all stops in-between, as well as his critically-acclaimed 2014 memoir about his tough upbringing ‘Not My Father's Son’.
Alan Cumming with Ian Rankin, Baillie Gifford Main Theatre, Charlotte Square, Sat Aug 29, 8.15pm