The Tom of My Life; AS MAX BEESLEY STEPS INTO THE BREECHES OF TOM JONES (THE 18TH CENTURY ENGLISH CASANOVA, NOT THE 20TH CENTURY WELSH ONE), HILARY KINGSLEY ASKS WHAT IT'S LIKE TO STEP OUT OF THEM. PICTURE BY SVEN ARNSTEIN

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The shining new star picked to play the lustiest hero in English literature has revealed the naked truth about TV sex scenes. Mischievous Max Beesley, who brilliantly fills the breeches of Tom Jones in the BBC's pounds 6 million bonkbuster, says: "Actors who say there's nothing weird about taking your clothes off for television are probably afraid of alarming their next female lead!

"These scenes are terrifying and very embarrassing. The trouble is, your ego comes into it. As a man you worry about whether you should be standing to attention, and you think they're all looking at you."

Max's co-stars, including Band Of Gold star Samantha Morton, were happy enough to strip off their 18th Century costumes. But after he agreed to full frontal nude shots, Max's courage wavered. "The first time I had my old meat and two veg out for the camera, I was incredibly nervous. You're naked, there's nothing to hide behind and you know you've got to concentrate.

"The minute your mind drifts - you've lost it! It's just bizarre to be standing there like that in the middle of the morning in April in a hall off a motorway somewhere."

Max recalls his first scenes with Samantha. "I met her on the set at 10.30am. One minute we were having a cup of tea, the next I had my tongue down her throat."

They had, he points out, discussed tactics. "It's important to make an extra effort at understanding. So I said to her, `Tongues or no tongues, babe, what's the story?' "She said, `But it's the 18th Century' and I said `Yeah, but they're passionately in love'. So she said, `Oh, go on then!'"

For Max - tall, slim, 26 - this is his first big acting role. Until last year, the talented young pianist and percussionist from Manchester thought his life would be devoted to music. The son of drummer and impressionist Maxton G. Beesley and singer Chris Marlowe, he won a place at a music school followed by a scholarship to London's Guildhall to study classical music.

"I didn't know if I wanted to go full-time and play in an orchestra for the next 20 years, so I experimented, playing with groups such as The Jazz Warriors with Courtney Pine."

His life changed dramatically when he was snapped up by Paul Weller and invited to join his band on an 18-month tour.

From then on, young Max was never out of work. He composed a number of songs which were recorded and brought him tidy sums in royalty payments. Sony signed him to compose for them; life was sweet. Then, while touring with a band whose members were film buffs and loved watching videos of classic movies during spare afternoons, the acting bug bit.

"I went home to see my dad one weekend and we were watching my all-time favourite film, Raging Bull. I was looking at Robert de Niro, this brilliant method actor, and feeling that I was getting older and older. I just knew I had to make a chance for myself before it was too late. …