Acclaimed actor and director Peter Mullan has made films and TV shows all over the world, but if he had his way he wouldn’t leave Scotland to find work.

Recent years have seen the Sunshine on Leith star and Neds director journey far and wide to the likes of New Zealand for Top of the Lake and to Hungary for Hercules alongside Dwayne Johnson, but he’d sooner be home for his tea.

“I’m a home bird,” says the Glasgow-based Mullan.

“I don’t like being away from the kids for any great length of time, but you’ve got to go where the work is and there’s just not enough here.

“It’s a balancing act and I do find it tough but I’m getting better at it. I travel better than I used to.”

Part of the reason for taking his latest role was that much of it was filmed here.

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In his new film, Hector, Mullan plays the title character, a homeless man who sleeps rough in motorway service stations and has been separated from his family for 15 years.

First time writer-director Jake Gavin sent him the script and Peter knew immediately that he wanted to be involved, even though he had a number of projects to choose from at that time.

“We were going to shoot it a couple of years ago and they couldn’t get the money raised. They got the money and then it all fell apart again and I thought that was it.

“And then I didn’t work again for seven months. I loved the fact it’s so compassionate and it’s a very humane film, very optimistic.

“I couldn’t make it as a writer or director because my sensibilities would probably make me drawn to the dark side of it.

“I liked that Jake was after a gentler, more lyrical film.”

Despite Hector coming up against the might of Star Wars in cinemas, Peter believes that this is a great time of year to be releasing the film.

“I’d never really thought about it as a Christmas movie, but there’s a genuine Christmas theme in Hector. It should be seen as an alternative Christmas film, because it looks at the more generous, non-materialistic side of it, which is to renew one’s human decency and contact with fellow human beings, and to look at where compassion really lies within society.”

In terms of research for playing Hector, Peter didn’t spend any time with homeless people before filming, but he did draw on his own experiences.

“I worked with the homeless down in London when I was 17 and I met some incredible people, a lot of broken souls.

“I’d experienced short periods of homelessness when I was a teenager, and I’d never claim to know what it is to be homeless, but I know what it is to sleep rough.

“A minute becomes an hour and an hour becomes a day, that constant fear of someone robbing you or hurting you or worse.

“But I knew who Hector was when I read it and I knew he was a gentle soul, and I could understand how someone who had not quite coped with grief could punish themselves in this way.”

Though he’d like to make more films in the UK, time away from home will be inevitable in the near future, as Peter has signed up for three seasons of American cable TV show Quarry, based on the novels of Max Allan Collins and starring Logan Marshall-Green as the hero, a hitman who is employed by the shadowy The Broker, played by Mullan.

Quarry's writer Max Allan Collins and star Logan Marshall-Green 

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“It’s quality work and the money’s decent”, he says, “so I can hopefully work there for three months and then take three months off.”

He’s also been perfecting a Deep South accent for the show, which he admits was “terrifying”.

Working for months on it and spending the whole time in character to perfect the voice, he describes how he spent a whole evening in a bar telling a stranger that he’d lived in Memphis since he was 12 years old. “The next day I went in and nailed it in the read-through.”

Mullan hasn’t directed a film since Neds five years ago, but is itching to do so again soon.

His film about Hurricane Katrina came close but, as is often the way with these things, money became an issue and the project fell apart.

After taking Christmas off to spend with his family, he plans to write again in the New Year.

“I don’t know what I’m going to write and I don’t care what it is, but I need to write something”, he says.

“I really though Katrina was going to happen, but sometimes with political films there’s a moment for them and if you miss it you’ve maybe missed that boat.”

Next up for him is Jungle Book: Origins, though it’s Peter Mullan as we’ve never seen him before.

It’s the directing debut of Andy Serkis, famed for his computer enhanced performances as Gollum and King Kong.

Peter voices Akela the wolf and loved every minute of it.

“It’s great fun, a great way to make a movie,” he says.

“We all thought motion capture would put us all out of work, but they can’t do eyes.

“We recorded last year and shot the whole thing in a few days but it doesn’t come out for almost another two years. That’s how long they need to work on an eyeball.”