BACK in 2001 the Telegraph & Argus called Enzo Cilenti a “Bradford-born actor tipped for stardom”.

His mum, Francesca, told the T&A she was proud of his role in a new British film, Late Night Shopping – but pleased he’d gone to university “in case the acting didn’t work out”.

She needn’t have worried. Enzo is a hugely successful TV and film actor in the UK and America, with a body of work that includes Game of Thrones, Luther – he was the chilling serial killing heart surgeon in the latest series – Wolf Hall, NCIS, House, Rome, Les Miserables and films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, The Martian, Kick-Ass 2, The Theory of Everything and Bridget Jones’ Baby.

Next month the actor, producer and director is here for a Screen Talk – a highlight of Bradford City of Film’s 10th anniversary. “I’m a part-time Bradfordian. My family are still in Bradford, it’s where my heart is and I get back when I can for City games,” says Enzo, 44. “When you see Bradford, with its wonderful architecture, through a film-maker’s eyes, it’s stunning. I loved filming Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in Yorkshire. I saw Childermass as a Yorkshire Jedi!

"City of Film is incredible for Bradford, not just bringing filming in but its work within communities too.

“When I was 11 I was at the Bradford City fire. I remember, in the aftermath, an incredible sense of community, the city coming together. It’s my strongest childhood memory. It instilled a huge sense of pride in me, to come from Bradford.”

Adds Enzo: “I met David (City of Film director David Wilson) a couple of years ago and we’ve discussed productions. That’s a huge ambition of mine. I’ve got a script in development; my love letter to Bradford.”

Enzo has enjoyed a remarkable career since taking to the stage at Bradford Grammar School – and he says he owes it all to David Hockney. “My first ever role was a woman called Cora Crumpet. I was nine,” says Enzo. “I can’t remember what the impulse was, but a couple of teachers really pushed drama. The school was raising funds for a new rugby pitch and was ringing round alumni for handouts. Hockney who, like me, didn’t trouble the rugby pitch much at BGS, ended up sending a painting, to be sold so the school would open a theatre as well. I was in the inaugural production at the Hockney Theatre, so I have a lot to thank him for.

“I’m from a family of Italian immigrants. I fell into acting because it felt anarchic, in a school big on rugger, and I had encouraging teachers. Without them, and Hockney, I wouldn’t have become an actor. What City of Film does is make this industry, which is London-centric, more accessible today.”

Enzo grew up in a Bradford institution – his grandparents, Vincenzo and Donatella Cilenti, ran the Italia Cafe. The family business, in Great Horton, was beloved by everyone from students to lorry drivers for its mix of hearty fry-ups and Italian home cooking. Regulars included Bradford bands Terrorvision and New Model Army, writers John Hegley and Joolz Denby and acts playing university gigs, such as Ian Dury. It was a sad day in Bradford when the Italia closed, in 2003, after 35 years.

“I worked there as a teenager. I served spaghetti to Justin Sullivan and Joolz on a Saturday evening,” smiles Enzo. “I’ve still got an Italia menu. I took my wife (actress Sienna Guillory) for breakfast there not long before it closed. I'm glad she got to see it.

"I had a wonderful upbringing in Lidget Green, playing with kids whose family ran the Sweet Centre.”

After graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in French and Spanish, Enzo decided to try for an acting career. “I told myself if I got the first role I auditioned for I’d take it seriously.” He landed the role, Kenickie in Grease, and within months of a post-grad drama school course he was in TV crime drama Trial and Retribution.

More recently he played slave trader Yezzan zo Qaggaz in the mighty Game of Thrones. “We’d moved back from LA, I was on the plane thinking: ‘I have to get on Game of Thrones’. It seemed everyone I knew was in it! It changed TV, but at its heart it’s about telling the story in the best way it can.

"I’m in a play right now and the only people waiting for me at stage door are Game of Thrones fans! In terms of the charity I support, it’s been really useful.”

Last September Enzo and his dad, Pietro, who has Parkinson’s disease, rode on a tandem from Land’s End to John O’Groats for Parkinson’s UK. “Mum came too, she was driving with us. It was wonderful to spend that time with them,” says father-of-two Enzo. “I’ve cycled with my dad a lot over the years, but that trip was special.”

* Enzo Cilenti’s Screen Talk is at Theatre in the Mill, University of Bradford, on Thursday, April 4, at 6pm. Visit