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He's stealing my best lines!

THE thing that exasperates actress Rachel Kavanagh about her dad John is that whenever she starts telling a work-related story at home, the legendary actor with the beautifully mellifluous voice invariably chimes in with a similar tale of his own.

"I'll be talking about me, and he starts talking about himself," she says, "but it's because when I become absorbed in a part and am excited about it, it reminds Dad of something like it that he has done before."

Nobody could accuse Rachel, 24, of going blindly into the acting business, because even though her father has had an amazing career, appearing in numerous films such as Braveheart and The Butcher Boy, the demands of his career and the recession of the Eighties often took him away from home for long periods.

"I remember crying hysterically before he left, and then the elation when he came back again," says Rachel.

John recalls that he heard Rachel's first words over the telephone, when he was away touring with HMS Pinafore, and says he found being away very difficult.

"Rachel was a gorgeous child, and hers was the only birth I was there for," he says. "I was rehearsing Hugh Leonard's play, Pizzazz, at the Olympia, and when it was nearly time for her to be born, they let me off and I grabbed a hamburger on the way to the hospital. It wasn't a wise move, as just as the birth was happening, I realised I was going to get sick, and I almost guffed all over the baby."

Originally from Milltown in Dublin, John started working as a trainee manager in the Ambassador cinema after school, and hoped to join the American army, with a view to joining the US police force after three years. This plan was shelved when the Vietnam War broke out, so he went to night school to do his Leaving Cert, worked in an advertising agency as a voucher clerk, and joined the Brendan Smith acting academy. Showbusiness runs in the family, as John's sister is the singer Anne Bushnell, famous for her Garland and Piaf shows.

He became a member of the Abbey company for 10 years, and then met his wife, Anne McIvor, a former air hostess, who was in the chorus line of a play he was in, and now works with the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association. "It was 1968 and I saw her across the crowded room at a party, and I still remember it," he says. "I invited her to go to the Green cinema the next day, and was really surprised that she turned up."

"You pestered her," admonishes Rachel fondly. "She was there with someone else, and she was like, 'Go away, you strange man!'"

John and Anne have been together now for 40 years, and have three children, Jamie, Emma and Rachel, all of whom "have lovely personalities and are damn good conversationalists".

When aged three, Rachel was sent to the Ann Kavanagh School of Acting to help burn off her excess energy.

"I was diagnosed with hyperactivity initially, because we'd go to a pub on Sundays and I'd climb onto the table and would start taking off my clothes," she says. "It turned out that I was highly allergic, and anything to do with E numbers would make me an absolute nightmare."

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When she was 10, Rachel played the lead in the pilot film Exordium, in which John played her psychologist and Kate O'Toole her mother. While she loved acting, appearing in the likes of Bachelors' Walk and Blood Brothers, she decided not to pursue it initially after school, opting to study media instead. However, she didn't enjoy it, and dropped out in the first year, and went to LA for a few months to stay with her friend and fellow actress Slaine Kelly.

'We lived like rock stars al-though we didn't really work properly," she says, adding that for spare cash they would turn up at studios to be in the audience of shows like Judge Joe Brown and Paradise Hotel. "We drove everywhere in a car we bought for $500, were on the list for all of the hip clubs, and hung out with people like Mel Gibson's son, who I met again recently at the IFTAs."

When Rachel came home to study politics and business at Trinity, John was in the middle of the Sahara filming Oliver Stone's Alexander. After a trip to see him, she came back fired with renewed interest in acting, and got back in touch with her agent. She went on to play the role of Lauren McAleer on RTE's Fair City for three of the four years she was at college, and both she and John have recently appeared in The Tudors.

"It was hell at times but I got my degree, which I promised my parents I'd do, and I'm starting up my own spray-tanning chain shortly called Rock Star Tan, which uses an award-winning natural product from the US that's brilliant and lasts for days. The first location will be on Chatham Street, and I'm doing it because although acting is well paid when you're working, you could be sitting at home for months on end, so you need something to fall back on."

Rachel is patron of the children's charity Cinemagic, which inspires and motivates young people into the arts, and says that John has been a huge influence in her own life.

"Dad taught me to follow my dream, but to expect nothing, and never put myself on a pedestal," she says. "I couldn't ask for a better father in terms of support, both emotionally and financially, and I only hope I have half the career he has had."

John and Rachel will host a Q & A, and Rachel will run a masterclass in acting, as part of the Coca-Cola Cinemagic Film and Television Festival for Young People in Association with Spencer Dock, running from April 23-May 1. For full details, visit www.cinemagic.ie


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