Brian Beacom

IS James Cosmo’s mind these days wandering a little in a far off galaxy?

For years, we’ve come to believe this 6ft 3in sandy-haired warrior is indelibly marked by integrity, authenticity and, thanks to his Braveheart appearance, blue face paint.

But in recent times we’ve had to deal with this Clydebank crane of a man wearing a feather jacket in a bank ad.

And don’t we all hate banks?

Just to add to the national bewilderment, Cosmo joined the cast of fame seekers in the misnomer that is Celebrity Big Brother.

It’s like discovering William Wallace had forsaken vengeance and taken up tiddlywinks.

“Well, I have to fess up,” says the actor who grew up in Clydebank and once worked in a shipwrecking yard.

“The money on offer from Celebrity Big Brother was very good.

“But it was also fascinating to see reality television first hand. And I wanted to test myself and learn a bit about myself in the process.”

Cosmo came up against telly cleaner Kim Woodburn, who behaved like she were a tin of Pledge short of a full cleaning kit. And Jedward, two creepy little specimens of human life.

“I’m glad I did it. I’m fascinated by the human condition and how we behave under pressure.

“But I wouldn’t do it again, being in isolation with some very odd people.”

Cosmo has no regrets about the Bank of Scotland ads, a homage to his Game of Thrones character Jeor Mormont, who spouts nonsense dressed up as pearls of wisdom.

“The money was great, I enjoyed making them and they’ve been quite successful.”

James Cosmo is said to be worth £6m, if the glossy TV mags are to be believed.

But he admits the choice to keep working was prompted by the desire to make sure his two sons, aged eight and 23 years old, are well provided for.

Not that Cosmo is ready to shuffle off. He’s 70 this year but still looks more powerful than the horses he rides in Game of Thrones. No, he’s making sure his relationship with his boys is very different from the one he had with his father, actor James Copeland.

“We had a very typical west of Scotland relationship,” he explains of the familiar familial tale. “I’m sure he loved me but of course he never told me.

“And it was a strange upbringing. I lived in two very different worlds. My mother, sister Laura and I lived in Glasgow and then when I was eight we all travelled to London in a gypsy wagon to live with my father, who had landed West End work. [The journey took two weeks.] Then I entered this world of the theatre, which was all new.”

It was bewildering and fascinating. Young James played cricket on Hampstead Heath with Sean Connery while his father (who also wrote songs, including These Are My Mountains) drank in the pub with Peter O’Toole.

“Then when I was 11 we moved back to Glasgow.”

His parents didn’t split up, as such. “My parents were sort of together, my mother worked at Singers sewing machine factory in Clydebank and my father in the West End.”

He adds, with massive understatement: “It was all very strange for me.”

Having been introduced into a world of cravats and afternoon gin and tonics it must have done his sandy head in to be returned to Fifties Glasgow, like an empty Mackesons beer bottle from a run-down boozer.

Was he an angry young man as a result? “A little bit,” he says, with an accordant grin then adds: “I’ve always been my own man, for good or bad.”

He left school at 15, working at a shipbreakers in Dalmuir. He hated every second of it. Young James’s dad introduced him to the director of Dr Finlay’s Casebook (in which his father was appearing) and said, ‘After this, you are on your own, son.’”

It was sink or swim. The teenager swam and changed his surname to Cosmo, the middle name of his mother, Helen.

Did he feel a natural affinity with his new world?

“No, and I never have,” he says, astonishingly, given the success he has enjoyed. “I always felt an outsider in the world of the theatre. I never went to drama school and since then I’ve always felt I was getting away with it. But I’ve managed to have a career.”

His career operated in fits and starts, appearing in the likes of Take The High Road in the Eighties.

But in 1994 life changed when his second wife Annie, a TV production secretary, picked up the phone at their Surrey home. She called out: “It’s Mel Gibson on the phone.”

Her husband didn’t believe her and was reluctant to take the call. But he did and the role of Campbell in Braveheart took Cosmo’s career took off into a new orbit, going on to work on Troy and Soldier, Game of Thrones and Trainspotting.

“For years I was defined by my size. If I wasn’t a thug I was someone on a horse hitting someone with a sword.

“But as I’ve gotten older it’s been great to show I can do a bit more, to play a range of roles.”

He enjoyed working on his latest role, in the “re-telling” of Whisky Galore as a clergyman. “

It’s a nice homage to the romanticised idea of the Scottish Highlands. It was delightful to do, although not in any way connected to reality, even if the story of the SS Politician going down were true.

“And it’s always great to go back home to work on a movie.”

In an excited voice he reveals he’s made a movie which is his “best ever,” The Pyramid Text, about an aged boxer and his estrangement from his son.

“Looking back on my 53-year career it’s the one thing I’m actually proud of. It’s the one thing I can say, ‘That’s my performance, and I’m so proud of it.”

Life, he says, is about simple pleasures.

“I feel incredibly blessed. What I’ve achieved is really quite astonishing. But as the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne once said, “I wish death to find me planting cabbages in my garden.’

“That’s me. A nice little cottage in Spain where I could grow vegetables.”

Whisky Galore (PG) is in cinemas from May 19