Film Review: Local Hero Silver Anniversary Screening, 24 February, Glasgow Film Theatre

25 Feb

Local Hero

Growing up in Scotland, it’s always been noticeable that there’s never really been a constant flow of homegrown films. Once in a while the odd one will pop up that is said to signify that “the Scots are coming”, only to see a few copycat attempts appear and then everything dies down again.

local-hero-poster-small.jpgI was getting into films properly around the early 90s, just as I started University in Edinburgh and had enough spare grant money (those were the days!) to spend on Empire magazine, copious videos and a pass to the Cameo cinema.

My off-air recording of Whisky Galore had been watched a dozen or more times – that glorious ensemble cast, a witty script and some neat visuals from director Alexander Mackendrick rewarding repeat viewing – while Gregory’s Girl was always worth catching when repeated on the telly.

When Shallow Grave and Trainspotting hit town it was manna from heaven for film fans, especially one like myself who was writing for my Uni course magazine and could now pen an article on the resurgence of Scottish filmmaking.

But of all the Scottish films out there, my favourite has to be Local Hero. Like Whisky Galore before it, the already sparkling script is brought to life by some fine turns from a raft of well kent faces (to viewers of Scottish telly anyway), each one given a line or two to help move the story along.

Throw in some fantastic scenery, a red phone box and Mark Knopfler’s music, and this is a perfect way to spend a couple of hours.

Which is exactly what I did yesterday afternoon when I headed to the Glasgow Film Theatre to watch the 25th Anniversary screening of Local Hero in the company of members of the cast and crew and 400 other fans.


The audience were buzzing before the film started, helped no doubt by the introduction of the guests for the post-screening talk: Associate Producer Ian Smith, Production Designer Roger Murray Leach and actors Denis Lawson (Urquhart), Jennifer Black (Stella), Tam Dean Burn (Roddy), Jonathan Watson (Jonathan) and Dave Anderson (Fraser). Peter Capaldi and Jenny Seagrove both sent their apologies.

Ian Smith spoke on behalf of his colleagues as an introduction, and I’ll quote him at length:

It’s always a delight for any filmmaker to see an audience willingly come to the cinema to see their film. I remember years ago talking to an old time Hollywood producer who said to me: “When you’re making a film, it’s a movie. If they’re still talking about it in ten years time, it’s a film. If they’re still talking about it in fifty years time, it’s cinema. But you can’t start out making cinema, only a movie. This film lives on in spite of us and wherever I travel people talk to me about it with amazing affection and love.

If you’re reading this then chances are you know the film already and I won’t go into lengthy review mode. Suffice to say that seeing Local Hero on the big screen, with an audience who between them must have watched it hundreds of times before, was really something special.

A lady behind me in the audience warned her friends that she always cries when the music starts at the end, and it’s not hard to see why.


As the credits rolled, the aforementioned stars and crew were on hand for a post-screening discussion of the production and impact on both them and the viewers. All looked relaxed and happy to discuss their time making the film.

I took my trusty tape recorder along and managed to catch 99% of the conversation (the battery sadly died a few moments into Roger Murray Leach’s comments, near the start), with a few choice comments noted below:

  • Happer’s office and all the US interiors were filmed in the distillery warehouse in Fort William
  • The ceilidh was filmed in a church hall near Banff
  • The church seen in the film was a fake, but the interior was real – an old lady lived in a bungalow which had the church exterior built around it for the duration of the summer
  • Dave Anderson’s role was longer in the original cut: his character had a scene with Denis Lawson’s character removed, apparently part of a larger chunk of the film excised by the director
  • The lack of a Special Edition DVD is a choice by Bill Forsyth
  • Bill Forsyth’s original choice to play Happer was American actor Brian Keith, but a meeting with the actor didn’t go as planned
  • Burt Lancaster, who started his career as a circus performer, taught Denis Lawson backflips on the beach
  • On the last night of shooting, Lancaster was presented with a kilt, dropping his trousers there and then to put it on
  • Denis Lawson learnt to play the accordion for the ceilidh scene, only to have the tune changed just before filming. Lawson subsequently mimed the new tune on the day

Those are just a few of the anecdotes that we were treated to. I noticed that a video was being made by the organisers, and there’s a chance this will surface on their website in the next few days. I haven’t attempted a transcript of the panel, but if I get any requests in the comments I’ll certainly consider it.

In conclusion this was a fantastic event that is unlikely to happen again anytime soon. Thanks to everyone at the GFT who worked so hard to bring it together and to the actors and crew who made time to sit and talk with us. I tried not to be too annoying when I went to get my poster signed at the end, but everyone seemed happy to chat, sign and have photos taken.

Some real Highland hospitality was in evidence that day.

Review by Jonathan Melville

Now, especially for that lady in the audience, get your hankies out:

Poster image courtesy Wikipedia.


7 Responses to “Film Review: Local Hero Silver Anniversary Screening, 24 February, Glasgow Film Theatre”

  1. Mike Wallbridge 27 February, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    Thanks for your review of the screening of Local Hero, my long time favourite film. I’m sad to hear that no special edition DVD will be released this year. I was looking forward to that possibility. Was any reason given for Forsyth’s decision? I would LOVE to have a transcript of the panel if you have the time and inclination.

    I would also like to see the video of the evening if it gets released, though a transcipt would be nearly as good. I’ve checked Glasgow Film Festival’s web-site but there is nothing so far. Perhaps you could post information or e-mail me if you find it.

    Thanks again for the great review.



  2. Jon 27 February, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the kind words. No reason was given about why Mr Forsyth is reluctant to release a Special Edition, but perhaps there’s a clue in a recent interview he gave to The Times.

    Regarding Gregory’s Girl, the journalist stated: “Bill Forsyth, the writer and director of Gregory’s Girl, doesn’t own a copy, and doesn’t want to. “I’ve always said, as far as I’m concerned once you’ve made a movie, it’s the kid that’s left home,” he says plainly. “I used to say, if I saw one of my movies walking down the street, I wouldn’t cross the road to say hello.”

    Perhaps he feels he’s moved on now? It would be good to have a nice new edition with a few extras, though I think there is a new “vanilla” edition out this year.

    As for the transcript, things are a bit busy at the moment, but I’ll certainly consider it!



  3. Roy 6 March, 2008 at 9:44 pm #

    Hi Jon,

    I share your love of “Local Hero” and I am really envious of you being able to attending the screening. I had to work that Sunday, 300 yards from the GFT so I really appreciate your review and would appreciate reading a transcript.

    I have a “Making of Local Hero” book that contains many stills and anecdotes plus I remember STV screening a 30 minute “Making of” that I still have on V2000 format video cassette!


    PS I think in your review you meant to type Jenny Seagrove rather than Jenny Agutter.

  4. Jon 6 March, 2008 at 10:03 pm #

    Hi Roy,

    Cheers for that and sorry you couldn’t make it along. I suppose the snippets I picked up from the interviewees are all in the book, though I think there are a few more on the tape that haven’t made it on here yet.

    There could be a wealth of information out there if a proper DVD was ever put together. Everyone was so keen to talk about it and the only thing stopping them was time being short in the auditorium.

    I will see what I can do with that transcript. I’m not trying to drag it out, but I have a few things to do over the next few weekends and I keep half-thinking the video will pop-up online and save me doing it!

    And thanks for the Seagrove comment, you’re absolutely right – I’ve changed it now. And I call myself a fan… :-)


  5. Ian 30 March, 2008 at 6:48 pm #

    I live in Johannesburg South Africa
    Local Hero is such a fantastic movie
    Watching it is almost a pure escape for me
    If I could sculptor my life it would have been
    planted in a village like that with its lifestyle
    What a beautiful movie\

  6. Joe Ciolino 6 June, 2008 at 4:19 am #

    I was fortunate enough to meet Peter Riegert about six or seven years ago. He’s a favorite actor of mine but all I wanted to talk about was “Local Hero,” of course, it being among my favorite films. He was happy to oblige and told some great stories about the filming and of Lancaster.

    There was no doubt in speaking with him that he held the film in high esteem.

    I look forward to a possible video of the 25 anniversary and wish everyone here “Sloange” (?)

    Joe Ciolino

  7. Mike Wallbridge 8 June, 2008 at 4:48 pm #

    I see a new DVD of Local Hero has just been issued apparently digitally remastered and including an interview with Bill Forsyth. This looks like all we can expect though I do look forward to hopefully seeing a video of the 25th anniversary. I’m sad that Bill Forsyth would not join in the celebration of arguably his best film and produce a special DVD for this year that the thousands of Local Hero fans around the world would appreciate. But it is obviously not to be.

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