Like many people, Gary Maitland juggles two jobs. For both, he must wake at 6.30am. But it's only when he's working as a movie star that he gets chauffeur-driven to work. South Lanarkshire council does not, as yet, extend this service to its binmen.
The Glaswegian's days of merely moonlighting on the big screen – he has already appeared in two Ken Loach films – look to be drawing to a close, though. This week, he will emerge into the limelight: his latest collaboration with Loach, The Angels' Share, is in competition at the Cannes film festival, and he will be there to promote it.
Maitland has been to France before, travelling through by coach to see Rangers play in the Netherlands. This will be the first time he has spent the night and he sounds excited – though deadpan enough to suggest that his dry screen persona isn't a fiction. Yes, he wouldn't mind shaking hands with Ewan McGregor, who is on the jury. "Is Brad Pitt going?" he asks. "If I get to meet him, it'd be quite cool."
Maitland, now 28, was first spotted by Loach a decade ago, at a Lanarkshire youth drama group. That led to a bit-part as a pizza delivery boy in 2002's Sweet Sixteen, (people still shout his line about lumpy porridge at him)and then another in Tickets, three years later. But his role in The Angels' Share, a larky drama about a gang of youngish offenders who attempt a whisky heist, catapults Maitland from support to star.
The choice of Maitland to play Albert, the gang's (superficially) doziest member, who can't figure out why they'd build Edinburgh castle on a hill, and is unfamiliar with the Mona Lisa, was a no-brainer, says Loach's longtime screenwriter Paul Laverty. "For Albert, we imagined someone who could appear daft, who was often accused of being thick, but who underneath it all thought laterally by instinct and was in fact very original. We imagined Albert living in his own parallel universe, but if you met him he would make you laugh. A tremendous challenge for anyone. Gary does it without breaking sweat."
Maitland says he can relate to his character: not just his social situation, but also his preference for Buckfast tonic wine over scotch, and the fact that he isn't too comfortable in kilt and sporran. "It was a wee bit chafing, aye," he says of his screen get-up. Personally, he prefers thrillers and horror to arthouse or romcom, picking Man on Fire, The Shawshank Redemption and Nightmare on Elm Street as his favourite films, and Denzel Washington as the actor he'd most like to emulate. Should The Angels' Share take off, he might get an agent. If not, he's happy in his current occupation. "I work with a good bunch and the money's OK." So the cutbacks haven't been too painful? "There's been men made redundant and we've lost machinery, but our depot hasn't been affected that much."
There is a touch of Karl Pilkington to Maitland: the candid attitude, the off-kilter opinions. As Loach's producer Rebecca O'Brien explains, much of his appeal lies in his uncontrived charisma. "He's the opposite of affected. He's also got this air of not knowing what's going on around him, partly because he wears thick glasses so you can't actually see his eyes. That gives him an air of befuddlement and amusement. But you also feel that there's a brain whirring away. There's a lot of crack in his job. He loves that – though I have a feeling he may end up being a bit more elevated after this. People may come knocking."
And herein lies a dilemma. Like a lot of Loach casting coups, Maitland is refreshing partly because he hasn't spent a childhood in tap-dancing class. But a lack of any formal preparation has its own hazards. "It's a monstrous world out there," says O'Brien. "And I have to guide [actors], persuade them not to get too fazed – but also keep the thing we spotted them for going."
As for Maitland, his expectations seem pretty realistic. What will he do if The Angels' Share wins the Palme d'Or? "Probably get smashed," he says. "I'm going to turn into a bottle of whisky."