How close was the son of Arbroath music hall icon Andy Stewart to becoming the first Scottish James Bond since Sean Connery?
Ewan Stewart, whose dad was synonymous with The White Heather Club, was one of the final candidates battling it out to play 007 in 2006’s Casino Royale.
Born in Glasgow in 1957, he went to boarding school in Edinburgh from the age of nine.
Then he moved to London aged 17 to study drama.
“I was quite keen to get away,” he said.
“It can be difficult when you have a father who embodies Scotland.
“I wanted to break away from that.
“The irony is, now I don’t care. I’m proud of my dad.”
Ewan’s first TV appearance was in an advert for Scottish Bluebell matches.
He started working in theatres and was cast in the TV remake of All Quiet On The Western Front in 1979 alongside Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine.
In the 1980s he was in Rain On The Roof, before taking mainly bit parts on TV and low-budget films while treading the boards in London’s West End.
Ewan made his name in 1989 after playing Dr Robbie Meadows in the 1989 Only Fools And Horses episode Sickness and Wealth.
In the episode, Del Boy is suffering from stomach cramps before Dr Meadows is quickly able to diagnose him during a two-minute part still remembered by fans.
I had a great love for my father and still do.”
Ewan went on to play the lead role of Greg McDowell in the Scottish legal drama The Advocates, which ran for two series on ITV between 1991 and 1992.
Tragedy struck in 1993 when Ewan’s father, Andy, died aged 59 and the all-round entertainer’s final journey in Arbroath brought the whole community to a halt.
Ewan was among over 500 mourners at St Andrew’s Church while hundreds more lined the streets to pay their last respects to the consummate performer.
Ewan said: “I had a great love for my father and still do.
“As you grow older you see things more from your parents’ point of view.
“He loved performing but he also loved his family.”
Ewan was now one of Scotland’s most respected actors.
He starred in Rob Roy in 1994 and independent flick Stella Does Tricks in 1996.
Ewan would go on to play first officer William Murdoch in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster Titanic, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
The Oscar-winning movie showed Murdoch taking a bribe, shooting a third-class passenger who tried to fight his way into a lifeboat, and then turning his gun on himself.
But in his hometown, Murdoch is regarded as a hero.
He is described by Titanic historians as having done his utmost to save passengers, guiding them to boats and throwing deck chairs overboard for those in the sea to cling to as the liner sank after hitting an iceberg on the night of April 14 1912.
The scene mired Cameron and the movie in controversy because there was no evidence that Murdoch had done any of the deeds attributed to him in the movie.
Titanic makers 20th Century Fox marked the 86th anniversary in 1998 by apologising to the Scottish town of Dalbeattie for turning its hero into a villain.
He starred as a violent drug dealer opposite Robert Carlyle in Looking After Jo Jo in 1998 and was acclaimed in the 2003 ITV series P.O.W.
Ewan took part in top-secret screen tests at Pinewood Studios for the coveted role of James Bond in 2005, alongside Henry Cavill who went on to play Superman.
Ewan was also up against Goran Visnjic who was best known as Dr Luka Kovač in ER and relatively unknown Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin.
He met director Martin Campbell and screen-tested for the role of Bond.
Casino Royale would represent a complete reboot following 2002’s Die Another Day, which is widely considered to be the worst offering in the entire franchise.
Ewan’s audition was comprehensive.
The four candidates had tuxedos and suits cut for the audition.
Each was also told to play out love scenes on the 007 stage with former Emmerdale actress Camilla Power, who was being hotly tipped to be a Bond girl.
A movie insider said: “All four are among the most impressive would-be Bonds we’ve ever encountered.
“They show style, sophistication and have a natural air of the shaken-but-not-stirred secret agent – and the ability to make women swoon.”
Not everyone took the same view!
The shortlist would come as a shock to Bond fans, who were expecting Clive Owen or Layer Cake star Daniel Craig to scoop the role in Casino Royale.
One 007 blogger said: “Ewan Stewart was surely an interesting casting choice.
“The only similarity he seems to hold with past Bond actors is that he was 47-years-old at the time, which is only about a year or so off from the age in which Roger Moore started his Bond career.
“The difference, though, is that Sir Roger looked the part, and looked younger than he actually was.
“Ewan Stewart was severely balding at this point in his career.
“Also, had he been cast, it would’ve been another year until production wrapped up.
“At least Sir Sean Connery started his Bond career out with hair.
“I’m not sure what the producers were thinking at this point.
“Maybe they wanted to kill Bond off?”
Production executives at Eon, which makes the Bond movies, decided to go back to the drawing board and eventually offered the role to Daniel Craig.
He became the first actor to portray James Bond who was actually born after the Bond series started back in 1962, and after the death of Ian Fleming.
Daniel Craig went on to save the world and Ewan joined the cast of River City.
After taking a part in Rebus, he appeared in the soap in 2008 as Daniel McKee, who served time in prison for culpable homicide before returning home to rebuild his life.
He has worked extensively in theatre since 1981 and highlights include Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance, Major Barbara, As I Lay Dying and A Month in the Country.
Ewan, who is married to actress Clare Byam-Shaw, lives in Chiswick, where the couple raised their two children, Tom and Eleanor, who are both now grown up.
He remains a regular visitor to Arbroath where mum Sheila still resides.
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