How actor James Cosmo went from building sites to the Battle Of Britain!

Actor James Cosmo, 75, has been delighting audiences since the 1960s, playing everything from a British field marshal to a Highland warrior. 

However, his military ties don’t stop at Hollywood, as he’s also an honorary colonel in the 7th Scots regiment. 

His commitment to Scotland, its history and culture aren’t limited to scene-stealing roles in the likes of Highlander, Game Of Thrones and His Dark Materials either.

This year sees the launch of his own brand of blended whisky, Storyman, available on Wednesday from 

The award-winning star lives in Surrey with his wife Anne and says he dreams of owning a bolthole near a fly-fishing stream in the Scottish Borders.

Warpath: James Cosmo as Campbell in the 1995 movie Braveheart. The Scottish actor is now launching his own brand of whisky called Storyman

What money advice did you get from your parents?

After the war there wasn’t much money around, so they advised me to be always careful around it. 

You had to live within your means. So, I’ve always been a bit wary of going into debt, major things like the mortgage aside. With cars, if I wanted one I’d pay in cash or not at all.

Has your attitude to money changed over the years?

I’d like to believe it hasn’t. My wife Anne and I have never been ones for big holidays or flashy stuff. 

Not because we’re Luddites or utilitarian or stingy, but because it’s never really occurred to us to do that. I think Anne and I have only been on two holidays together. For me, being home’s a holiday.

What was your first job?

I started in Arnott Young shipbreakers in the Firth of Clyde, getting brass off engines with oxy-acetylene burners. 

It was filthy work, with no health and safety, almost Dickensian. But there was a great bunch of characters, and it was a proper introduction to a working life. 

It was tiring, but it certainly did me no harm. I always enjoyed physical labour, so I worked and built Clydeside, not all on my own, but I did my bit. I still drive past and spot places where I was driving a digger or whatever.

How did you get into acting?

I thought I should make a living out of something I really enjoyed doing. Coming from where I did, acting seemed incredibly glamorous, so I hitchhiked to London when I was about 17. 

I had a back-up, of course, in that I’d work when I couldn’t get an acting job. I never signed on. 

I had the mindset that I’m an actor, and working in bars or as a labourer is homework. You’re observing the human condition, and all that experience, all the characters you meet, one day you’re going to tap into those people you watched while you weren’t acting, and that’ll serve you well.

Have you ever been paid silly money?

I’d been on £10 a week labouring, and then I landed a role in The Battle Of Britain.

This was the late-1960s and there I was earning £400 a week, I think, rubbing shoulders with Michael Caine and Trevor Howard.

What role had the most impact on you?

I did a short film for the BBC called Golden Wedding. I was in my early-50s and made up to look in my late-70s, as I was playing an elderly man with Alzheimer’s. 

I knew about this disease as my mother was suffering with Alzheimer’s at the time, and being cared for by my beloved sister.

Anyway, I was playing this poor man who was losing his faculties, and on the last day of filming my sister called to say Mum had died.

Spitfire ace: James Cosmo earned £400 a week playing an RAF fighter pilot In 1969’s The Battle of Britain

Spitfire ace: James Cosmo earned £400 a week playing an RAF fighter pilot In 1969’s The Battle of Britain

What has been your best money decision?

Buying a house, with a big deposit. It was a three-bedroom semi in Twickenham, South-West London, and we had many, many happy years there. 

Managing to jump on the housing ladder and be able to say we’ve got a home now was really something. In fact, I’ve still got that house and we rent it out.

And your worst money decision?

Buying yet another barbecue. I watch YouTube, and there’s some guy cooking something on a big green egg and I’ve gotta have it. And then another one’ll come along.

Where do you live?

I live in a village in Surrey. I like to say it’s near Weybridge, but it’s not. I’ve been thinking about looking for a wee cottage in the Borders, because I’m a fanatical fly-fisherman. 

There are some lovely little streams there, but that’s probably just a pipedream. It would be cheaper just to go up there and stay in a hotel.

What’s your personal luxury?

Being on a plane coming home, with the feeling that it’s gone well. Just getting home to the family is a luxury.

Do you invest or have pensions?

Anne and I have pensions. When it comes to investments, I’m no good at all. 

I’d have broken Elon Musk if I’d invested in him a while back.

No, I leave investments to the professionals, with their great big buildings, big cars and fat files. 

That really impresses me, honest. They can take all my money.

What is next for you?

Well, I did a film called Outlaw King, and the production company was going to launch its own whisky, and asked me to go up and promote it. 

Nothing came of it. Anyway, a while later I suggested to a friend that we launch our own blend of whisky.

There were no great designs, we just wanted to produce our own bottles as a wee thing. It was just a thought, but it just grew and grew.

Annandale Distillery got on board as I’d met their boss through the film Outlaw King. 

The outcome was Storyman whisky, which is a beautiful blend. If it goes great, that’s great. If it doesn’t, well it’s been an interesting journey.

You’re an honorary colonel of the 7th Scots regiment, how did that come about?

I’ve played so many military characters in my career. I started off playing a corporal in the Virgin Soldiers, and since then it’s gone up and up.

I was a lieutenant colonel in Soldier Soldier and I was Field Marshal Haig in Wonder Woman, and you can’t go higher than that.

So I’ve always had a loose association with the services and like to support them and go to their functions, and let the folk who are in the services know they’re appreciated.