Prole roles

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 March, 2006, 12:00am

Michael Caine

The quintessential working class- boy-done-good, Caine's image as a streetwise swinger - as epitomised by his performances in Alfie and Get Carter - has its roots in his upbringing. Caine was born Maurice Micklewhite to a fish porter father and a charlady, whose poverty resulted in him being born with rickets. He left school at 15, served two spells in the frontline during the Korean war, then worked in a butter factory. He then successfully applied to be an assistant stage manager in a theatre, thus beginning a stellar acting career.

Bob Hoskins

Like Caine, Hoskins grew up in a working-class, London-based family and left school when he was 15. He spent the next decade in jobs - window-cleaner, fruit- picker in a kibbutz, porter at Covent Garden - before he accompanied a friend to an audition for a play, and found his feet onstage.

Robert Carlyle

Known for his villainous roles in Trainspotting and The World is Not Enough, Carlyle is equally effective when playing the hapless prole - as in his star turn as Gary in The Full Monty. Raised by his father in Glasgow - his mother left them when he was four - Carlyle left school at 16 with no qualifications and worked as a decorator for the next five years. Reading Arthur Miller's The Crucible - a present for his 21st birthday - spurred him to pursue drama at the Glasgow Arts Centre and then the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Cast as the lead in Ken Loach's Riff-Raff (1990), Carlyle has been a regular of the director's grittily realist films ever since.

Shirley Henderson

Her big break came in the BBC TV series Hamish Macbeth, where Henderson played the girlfriend of Carlyle's titular character. From there, she began appearing mostly in independent British productions. Born into a rural family, Henderson started her career touring local working men's clubs singing from a repertoire of Abba and the Carpenters. After a stint studying drama locally, she graduated to the National Theatre in London. Henderson revels in plebeian roles, making her a trusted actor for many a Michael Winterbottom film (Wonderland, 24 Hour Party People).