STEVEN Cree can smile now about his sliding train doors moment, a period in his life in which he was sliding in the direction of career oblivion.

That’s because right now, the actor from Kilmarnock has a list of career credits longer than election promises.

He has a pivotal role in this summer’s Churchill biopic and films on his cv include the likes of 300: Rise of an Empire and Maleficent.

Over the past ten years the actor Steven seems to have been a constant on television, with parts in a range of dramas from Lip Service to Shetland, from Outlander to Vera and Silent Witness.

But it could all have been so different. Steven almost blew the chance to make his mark in the business before it all really began for him.

In 2004, he hit his nadir while appearing in a play, Fierce, at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.

“One day I woke up with just half an hour to get to the theatre for an afternoon performance,” he recalls.

“But I had woken up in Newcastle. I had been at a wedding in Aberdeen the night before, got on the train the next morning – and being worse for wear woke up in Newcastle.

“Thirteen years on I can smile. But at the time it was a real wake up.

“And to make the story worse, another actor in the play took over my part as well and won a Herald award.”

He adds; “Sometimes, things happen for a reason. I learned from that. I began to focus.”

Now based in London, Steven clearly loves his acting life.

But it transpires he wasn’t born with a desperate need to perform.

“I did the school shows and I liked performing. Did I enjoy the applause? I’m sure that was part of it. But when I was twelve I watched the film of Jesus Christ Superstar and I knew who I wanted to be.”

Jesus? “Yes, I wanted to be Jesus - and an actor,” he says, grinning.

Steven became a student at Langside college in Glasgow for a year, to study Theatre Arts.

“But I had no idea about really being an actor.” He got into RSAMD after a bet.

“It was a huge culture shock. There I was studying Brecht and Moliere and Shakespeare and all the classics. But I had never heard of them. At this time, my only cultural references were the movies of Jean Claude Van Demme.

“And I got the mickey taken out of me by the other students because I loved musical theatre.”

After his train incident, Steven worked hard and landed a series of roles.

Now, he’s in Churchill, the film which features the 24 hours before the D-Day landings.

Starring Brian Cox as the Prime Minister, Steven plays Captain James Stagg, the meteorologist who predicted the crucial time for the D-Day landings, a pivotal character in history.

“I had no idea of the impact Stagg, who grew up in Dalkeith, had,” says the actor, “but when I read about him I was fascinated and really excited.

“Stagg, who was awarded an OBE, was in contact with Eisenhower at this time and advised when the weather would break and when to launch. This was a huge part of the landings.”

Steven looks to be entirely convincing in the film.

He looks remarkably like his Forties character. Too much like him?

“Yes, it was a shocker to see myself in the mirror, with the Forties moustache, but also a shock to see the hairline when the hair was gelled back,” he says, grinning.

“What made it more challenging was I was getting married two days later after filming and looked like a World War 2 groom.”

Steven, who is married to successful casting director Kahleen Crawford adds, “But at least I seemed clean and tidy.”

The film touches on Churchill’s mental state and his relationship with wife Clementine.

“It raises the idea this was a man who had a lot of doubts and wasn’t as blustering and bombastic as he appeared to be.

“I’m sure Churchill had many sides to his character. And he was plagued by some of his decisions. Not to say I agree with all of them.”

Steven has had to endure a range of roles in the build up to acting success.

“I once appeared as Daddy Bear at children’s parties,” he recalls.

“At one time , I worked in Carluccio’s Restaurant, which was a great place to work except you have to wear a wee daft hat.

“But while there I went up for an audition for Cabaret in the West End.

“I got a recall on the Saturday morning and waited to hear how it went. I knew if I didn’t get the part I was headed for a Monday morning shift in Carluccios, wearing the wee daft hat and all.

“I called my mother that morning and she burst out crying. And I now I felt I could go on and make a living in the business.”

Cree revealed to theatre and film companies he was prepared to graft. The work began to pour in. He landed a part in Brave, the Pixar film.

“It was a random thing. I’d gone in to do background the Pixar film. “It was a random thing. I’d gone in to do background voices and while I was in I was asked to play Young Mackintosh. I thought I was just giving an example, but they used it.”

Steven worked on Angelina Jolie film Maleficent. “I auditioned for an English part in the movie and got it,” he says, smiling.

“Then I was told I had to play a Scot, which was great. But I kept getting notes told I had to play a Scot, which was great. But I kept getting notes from the dialect coach on my accent. After a while of taking this I finally had to say to her, ‘By the way, I’m actually Scottish.”

The actor stars in Jacobites and time-travelling series Outlander, playing amiable Ian Murray.

“The accents are soft, and I probably sound like I’m putting on a Scots accent,” he says, grinning.

In September, Steven appears in The Titan, alongside Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson and Taylor Schilling, a sci-fi adventure.

But it’s when he speaks about a small film project the passion level rises in the actor’s voice.

Steven has written the film, The Little Princess.

“It was inspired by hanging out with my friend and her daughter. You see, children demand you stay in the moment, demand your attention.

“It made me realise as an adult I find it hard to be present with so much going on. But kids keep you right and I wanted to write about this idea.”

Does he plan to be a father someday?

“Yes, it’s part of the plan,” he says. “Meantime, I have a cat, Hush Puppy, who is incredibly popular on Twitter and gets a thousand likes each time I post a photo.”

He laughs; “All the effort I put into acting and the cat gets the attention.”

* Churchill is in cinemas this week.