EWEN Bremner is sitting in the parking lot of a truck stop in rural New Mexico when I call. “The wild west,” he says. “It’s the only place I can get a phone signal around here.”

A phone signal that stutters and drops out more than once over the next half hour. On those moments when Bremner's soft Edinburgh accent drops away I find myself trying to jerry-rig a metaphor out of our communication difficulties. Something along the lines of Bremner having a career that has been blinking in and out of visibility ever since he made his name on some film back in the 1990s … What was it called again? Oh yes, that’s right Trainspotting.

The fact is that since playing Spud in Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Bremner has had the most eccentric, the most meandering cinematic career of any of that film’s mainstays. While co-stars Ewan McGregor has gone on to be a fully-fledged film star and Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle have since carved out careers in American cinema and TV land – Kelly MacDonald and Kevin McKidd, too, for that matter – Bremner has navigated a career that takes in character roles in Hollywood blockbusters, TV movies and indie marginalia.

Last year he most definitely blinked on again thanks to a return to basics with the Trainspotting sequel T2 and a part in the year’s most successful blockbuster Wonder Woman.

This year? Well we’re ostensibly talking because he has a small role in new Luc Besson-sponsored Euro thriller Renegades this month – which, if nothing else (and to be honest nothing is about the size of it), does at least have a couple of trademark JK Simmons shouty bits in it to briefly rally the mood. (The French-German action war movie, directed by Steven Quale, also stars Sullivan Stapleton and Charlie Bewley). The opportunity to act alongside Whiplash star Simmons was, says Bremner, one of the main reasons he wanted to do the movie. That and the prospect of spending a few weekends in Berlin.

Travel is one of the perks of the job. And it’s cinema that has taken him to New Mexico. “I’m doing a really unusual, quite nutty Danish film about a small-town feud in Trumpland America, German sausages, homophobia and fear of the outsider.”

Well, of course. Why wouldn’t he? What’s been the fun of it, Ewen? “Well, I’ve been getting to wear lederhosen, and learning to dance the Schuhplattler, which is the German Bavarian slap dance.”

Wow. And I take it he is taking the lederhosen home after the shoot? “Give me your address and I’ll save it for you.”

The question is, how does he end up in stuff like this? In this case, the answer seems quite casual, actually. Bremner has been friends with the cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle ever since they worked together on the Harmony Korine film Julian Donkey Boy. “I knocked on his door and he said: ‘Hi, I’ve just been asked to do this film. Do you think you might like it?’”

And so Bremner got kitted out in lederhosen and off he went. It is as if he is constantly running away to the circus.

“You go from town to town in different corners of the globe and there’s something circus-like about it,” he agrees. “You settle in for a month, or two, or six, and then you’re gone.

“It’s a bit like that with film releases. There’s a lot of noise and spectacle and hype and pizzazz and then the film either speaks to people or it doesn’t. In the best-case scenario for me the film speaks to people and people think about it and talk about it and it lives on in some kind of way. But there’s plenty of instances that it doesn’t go that way.”

Indeed. You do have to say Bremner's IMDB listing is almost heroically eccentric. Over the years he has worked with directors including Mike Leigh, Ridley Scott, Bong Joon-ho, Werner Herzog and Woody Allen as well as turning up in film comedy Get Santa and BBC sketch show Harry Enfield And Chums.

“I’ve found over and over that it doesn’t matter how fantastic a script is when you read it or how unclear it is, a lot of it comes together in the film-making. I find it really hard to know how something is going to come out at the end of the day.”

“It’s a very hard thing to predict. If I was to make my choices purely on those predictions then I’d probably be better off playing the lottery, I think.”

So, what makes him choose a role then? “I’m always looking for what I can enjoy. That is kind of my number one top of my list. Is there something in this that I would enjoy?”

That’s a perfectly acceptable rationale for his choices. But it may also be the reason he has never quite managed to find a role that has allowed him to slip off the mantle of Trainspotting’s Spud. Poor, hapless, helpless, heroin-addicted, potato-headed Spud. No doubt even now he gets people coming up to him and reciting lines from the original film (“My pleasure is other people’s leisure,” more than likely.)

Bremner was acting in the Trainspotting stage play – playing Renton, the character Ewan McGregor takes in the film – when Danny Boyle was casting for the movie version. When he was offered the part of Spud he wasn't sure he should take it at the time. He has since said he was being snobbish.

Playing Spud in the movie turned out to be a life-changing role. Not always for the best, he admits. “It suddenly changed my relationship with my environment. I was being accosted on the street and I had never experienced that before. I lost my anonymity. I didn’t realise how much I valued it until it was gone.”

That didn’t stop him signing up for last year’s sequel of course. “Up until we were actually shooting I wasn’t completely 100 per cent sure that it was happening. There were a lot of obstacles to putting it together. I wasn’t technically released from Wonder Woman to do it.

“So, the first day was really magical. It was a very tingly feeling.”

The resulting film is about ageing and masculinity and what happens to men when the full bloom of youth has wilted of course. He is clearly proud of it.

“I don’t think people were expecting the content to be so emotional and deep as the film that Danny made with T2. I think people were both surprised by that, but also appreciated it and were thankful and grateful for it in a way. Grateful that it wasn’t messed up. People clutched the original film to their hearts and there was a sense of personal ownership about it and they didn’t want to see it tarnished.”

The question is, all these years on from 1996 and now that you’re halfway through your 40s, do you feel your age these days?

“Yeah, sometimes. Age is such a funny thing. It’s such an elastic concept. You see it very differently when you’re in your 40s than when you’re in your 20s. It’s like looking down a telescope the wrong way. Or the right way.

“I often feel at least my age. As Danny says: ‘If you’re a young person you don’t care about age, you don’t give it any thought. But when you get older, into your 40s and beyond, it’s age that doesn’t care about you. Time doesn’t care about you.’”

Indeed. Looking down that telescope, I ask, is the young man he was back then in focus or has his outline become fuzzy.

“Well, I feel there are things that I can’t escape about myself that I carry with me, things that influenced me as a youth, things that I was exposed to; the great and terrible stuff that we’re all exposed to. I guess there are things that you can’t escape and things you lose as well. It’s a very hard sum to do. It’s very elusive when you’re talking about stuff that you can’t touch.

“Except for hair loss and broken teeth, you can’t touch it.”

I ask him for an example of something that shaped him back then that he still carries today. His answer is slightly unexpected. “Watching the Muppets.”

Come again? “The Muppets was in every living room when I was a kid. It’s such a particular sense of humour and it had a particular integrity to it that ran through the whole show.”

He pauses, reads my mind. “And I’m not thinking: ‘Hmm, which Muppet character am I?’

“That has never crossed my mind. But that sense of humour, and I was exposed to things like Gregory’s Girl and the work of Bill Forsyth. He was articulating something about the Scottish experience in that time. He was articulating that sense of humour. That really shaped me in a way that I don’t have any control over. It’s there in how I approach a scene today and I can’t help that. I can’t cut that off. That’s something that made a dent in me and that dent is still there.”

In short, we can draw a line from John Gordon Sinclair or Fuzzy Bear to Spud and the vision of Ewen Bremner wearing lederhosen in the middle of New Mexico. And right now, I’m thinking Spud would make a great Muppet character.

There’s another reason that we see Bremner through the prism of Spud. Unlike Ewan McGregor, he doesn’t turn up in glossy magazines or TV shows talking about his motorbikes. Bremner is a character actor who has never parlayed his success into stardom. And as a result, his own life has never been public property. Born in Edinburgh to parents who were both teachers, he started in youth drama at the age of 13, inspired by seeing a Harold Pinter play on the telly. He did his time appearing in Taggart before making his name for his role in Mike Leigh's searing Naked. And then Trainspotting came along.

He has one child, a daughter, with the actress Marcia Rose (the couple are now separated). She is called Harmony after the director Harmony Korine. She has followed him into acting.

“My kid has gone out into the world and is a grown-up now.”

Was it easy letting go? “I saw quite a few friends going through it over the years and I was kind of aware that it was coming up and I could see there were struggles – psychological struggles – that friends of mine were going through, so I kind of felt prepared.

“It does throw up things. I guess I tried to surrender to it emotionally. You’ve got to give your kid space. How much space is too much and how much is not enough? It’s a balancing act.”

These days Ewen Bremner divides his time between Edinburgh and New York. Is he a different man in the different cities? “No,” he laughs, “I wish I could be.” He imagines what that might be like. “In Edinburgh I’m Oor Wullie? I don’t know.

The line is breaking up; Bremner is blinking out. Just time for one last question. Ewen, I ask, what makes you happy?

“I love my work and I feel happy when I’m working with people who are really good at what they are doing. It’s not just actors. It’s the whole crew. That’s one thing that makes me happy. Professionalism. The one thing that makes me grizzly on a set is a lack of professional attitude to what we’re all trying to achieve.”

Ewen Bremner is a professional. Even in lederhosen.

Renegades is available now On Demand