With the blond, knowing looks of a choir boy gone wrong and a resumé boasting some of the more offbeat films and television series of the last decade, British actor Steven Mackintosh is one of the more versatile and unpredictable actors on either side of the Atlantic. Although largely unknown in the United States, Mackintosh has worked steadily in his native England since his first role at the age of 13.
Born in Cambridge in 1967, Mackintosh got his start on the stage but segued into television in 1985, with parts in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 and The Browning Version. After touring with the National Theatre Company for two years, Mackintosh won his first screen role in 1987, as a minor character in the critically acclaimed story of playwright Joe Orton, Prick Up Your Ears. After secondary parts in two more features, 1989's Treasure Island and 1990's Memphis Belle, Mackintosh landed a leading role in Hanif Kureishi's London Kills Me (1991). Mackintosh, in his role as a hustler by the name of Muffdiver, was one of the odder and thornier aspects of an odd and thorny film. The actor's off-kilter versatility was further displayed via performances in subsequent films and television miniseries such as Roger Michell's 1993 miniseries The Buddha of Suburbia; Dennis Potter's final project, the comedy spoof Midnight Movie (1994); and an obscure 1995 film called The Grotesque, co-starring Alan Bates and Sting.
In 1996, Mackintosh came to the attention of American art house audiences, first with his turn as Sebastian in Trevor Nunn's lavish screen adaptation of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Co-starring Helena Bonham Carter, Richard E. Grant, and Nigel Hawthorne, the film received favorable reviews which nicely complemented those garnered by Mackintosh's other outing, Different for Girls. Mackintosh co-starred with Rupert Graves as a prim transsexual in the comedy, which was remarkable for both its complex subject matter and the honesty with which such matter was dealt. The release of the film in such close context with that of Twelfth Night also gave Mackintosh further opportunity to display his startling flexibility, something he did again the following year with the World War II drama The Land Girls. After his turn as an amorous farmer, Mackintosh characteristically went in a completely different direction, with his hilarious portrayal of a ne'er-do-well pot grower in the 1998 film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. The film, which was equal parts Quentin Tarantino and testosterone, was a smash hit in Britain, and made another offbeat addition to Mackintosh's already diverse resumé.