Patrick Doyle's latest piece of work has boosted his street cred sky-high - at least as far as his teenage children are concerned. The composer, a 48-year-old former student of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, recently completed his contribution to the film already

presumed to be the Brit-hit of the year - the much-hyped romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Diary, which he describes as ''a laugh, great fun'', and which opened in cinemas at the weekend. ''I gained a lot of brownie points with my children because I worked with some pop people,'' he jokes.

For Bridget Jones's Diary, Doyle, born in Uddingston in Lanarkshire, organised string arrangements of songs for Gabrielle and Dina Carroll, and wrote the underscore, which is what we hear when the soundtrack is not blasting out Robbie Williams and Geri Halliwell. He says: ''The pop songs provide a lot of the fun, a lot of the energy and youthfulness, but there are some moments of poignant drama and a moment of real romance which only the underscore could provide. Pop songs tend to give you one emotion - I'm going to leave you, why do you treat me like this, I do love you, etc - but when a character has some conflict going on, some mixed emotions, that's when the underscore comes into play because it can actually portray two or three emotions at the one time. That's why, fortunately, we composers are still hired.''

Of course, it helps that Doyle has an enviable reputation, and is favoured by such respected film-makers as Kenneth Branagh. In just 12 years, he has established himself as one of Britain's most sought-after film composers and has written scores for no fewer than 23 movies. His work spans all genres - from contemporary gangster movies (Donnie Brasco, Carlito's Way) to literary adaptations (Sense and Sensibility, Frankenstein), from arthouse French films (Indochine) to animation (Quest for Camelot), and from the works of Shakespeare to, erm, the diary of Bridget Jones. He was even responsible for the music and songs in last year's all-singing, all-dancing musical version of Love's Labours Lost. These days he is regularly pitted against such big-name Hollywood composers as Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry when work is being doled out. The down-to-earth Scot is surprisingly laid-back about his

success. He just gets on with the job, even if it involves doing so from his sickbed. Three and a half years ago, Doyle was diagnosed with leukaemia.

''I was working on an animated film called Quest for Camelot when I fell ill. I knew there was something seriously wrong, because it was like a virus that wouldn't go away. So I got a blood test. The upsetting thing was that my doctor told me over the phone.''

Doyle was told he had acute myeloid leukaemia. ''As far as I know it's one of the most aggressive forms of leukaemia and so, in turn, they have to give you one of the most aggressive forms of chemotherapy.'' After being initially ''devastated'', he used visualisation, meditation, and prayer ''to every god in the universe'' to help him think positively, and he also took inspiration from other people - especially the tenor Jose Carreras - who had survived the disease.

He says: ''You have to deal with it in your own way, and the only thing I could do was create. The hospital found that very unusual. I couldn't read, I couldn't listen to tapes, I couldn't watch television, I couldn't focus. What I could do was write music. So I finished the score for Quest for Camelot - they extended the schedule by four weeks for me. There's no question that people can get through these things, and I have never felt better. I'm healthier than I have ever been.''

Following almost six months of intensive chemotherapy, Doyle was clear of the illness. After a gap of three more months, he returned to work at his plush rented office in Shepperton Studios, where he has been based since 1989, when he took the career leap from actor (his credits include John Byrne's stage production of The Slab Boys and TV's The Monocled Mutineer) to movie composer. By that time, Doyle was part of Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance theatre company, and had played the dual role of musical director and actor in three of its touring productions.

In 1989, when Branagh decided to venture into films with his lavish interpretation of Henry V, Doyle, who already had a small part in the film, pestered him for the opportunity to try his hand at writing the score. His sample pieces impressed Branagh enough to take a chance on him, and the risk paid off. Not only did Doyle win the Ivor Novello award for the music, but one of the pieces, Non Nobis, has become the most popular hymn for graduations and other ceremonies in the States. He says: ''People I don't know send me videos of their weddings with my music on them.''

Since then, Doyle has worked on five more Branagh films, including Much Ado About Nothing, the updated Hamlet, and the aforementioned musical version of Love's Labours Lost. He believes his experiences as an actor have helped him in his writing of film music, especially when directors, such as Branagh, want him to interpret a character through a theme, and when he is required to start work on the music with only a screenplay to go on.

''Feeling the rhythm of a scene is one of the most difficult things for a composer to ascertain but, if it's a well-crafted script, the rhythm of the writing usually suggests to the actor that there is only one way to say those lines.''

So what's next on the agenda? ''Well, I don't hang about waiting

for the phone to ring - I've got masses to do. There's a piece called Il Pace which I wrote for Placido Domingo to sing in Hamlet, and I'm working on another arrangement of it, to make it more accessible to other singers. Plus, I'm working on a series of songs

for the soprano Jane Eaglen - she sang on Sense

and Sensibility - and there's also been some discussion about maybe doing an album of songs I've written

for various films.''

An album? Now,

that would impress the kids.