It would have been impossible to second-guess his career: no two characters he has played have been the same, and his ability to inhabit fully each one means his audience is constantly wrong-footed.His Byron, for example (shown on the BBC in 2003), confounded expectations, the flamboyant self-publicist played to reveal a darker, conflicted soul.Most recently in Channel 4’s Endgame, shown earlier this year, about the secret talks that contributed to the end of Apartheid, he took on the small but crucial role of Michael Young, an employee of the British mining company Consolidated Goldfields, who engineered the secret talks between the ANC and leading Afrikaners.

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As an actor, it is surprising that he is probably still best known for his role as Sick Boy, the bleached-blond Sean Connery-obsessed pimp and heroin addict in Trainspotting, and for his short-lived marriage to Angelina Jolie, for his cv is packed with extraordinary performances, on both stage and screen.

His career trajectory may seem to outsiders to have been a frustrating one, overshadowed by such friends and contemporaries as Jude Law and Ewan Mc Gregor.

But it is more likely that he chose the quieter, though no less ambitious, path.

His projects following Trainspotting involved complex characters in less commercial films (an adulterous businessman in Alan Rudolph’s Afterglow, a shell-shocked First World War soldier in Gillies Mackinnon’s adaptation of Pat Barker’s Regeneration, for example), usually critically acclaimed but not widely seen.

Miller moved to Los Angeles in 2006, where he has starred in two US television series; both were ratings and critical hits, and yet both were cancelled.

The first, Smith, an unconventional take on 'cops and robbers’ starring Ray Liotta, was pulled after only seven episodes ('we were at work and got a call saying finish the day’s filming and don’t come in tomorrow’).

Then he played the eponymous lead in Eli Stone, a brilliantly funny and occasionally surreal series about a high-flying lawyer whose unnerving hallucinations involving George Michael lead him to think he is some kind of prophet.

In December 2007 Ben Fogle and James Cracknell were in Norway on a 10-day intensive training course with other prospective competitors for their planned race to the South Pole 13 months later.

They had invited along the person they hoped would make up the third member of their team, as well as the television crew that would be documenting the race.

At the end of the training – which had involved hours of lectures, four days’ trekking in the snow, camping out each night at -20C, a 10km orienteering race – as a final challenge, everyone was expected to jump, fully kitted up, into an ice hole hacked into a frozen lake.

The person first to go hesitated only for a fraction of a second before launching himself into the water and swimming to the edge where, as he hauled himself out with his ski poles, gasping, he looked straight at the cameras and wryly commented, 'Jonny Lee Miller, Scorpio.’ It is a good example of Miller’s capacity to surprise, both as an actor and as a person.