Glasgow’s Global Visitors: Al Pacino

al pacinoName: Al Pacino

Born: 25th April 1940 in New York City, New York, USA

Credits include: The GodfatherScarfaceHeat

Reason for visiting Glasgow:

Over the past couple of years heavyweight actor Al Pacino has been taking to stages in cities around the world for a series of “An Evening with Pacino” engagements – think “An Audience with…” where the audience is made up of members of the public.

The British Isles appeared on Pacino’s radar in May 2015, with evenings in Dublin, Leeds, London and Glasgow – the latter on 19th May at the Clyde Auditorium.

The Glasgow event saw Pacino discuss his distinguished career with journalist Billy Sloan, before fielding questions from the audience. Reviews of the evening spoke highly of the actor’s passion and engagement throughout proceedings. Value for money would have naturally been important to audience members as the ticket prices made the headlines long before the Hollywood star arrived in town. The Glasgow date stood out as someone with an estimated £25,000 to spare could even have paid for a package that included a private jet flight from Glasgow to London with Al Pacino, as well as tickets to shows in both cities and five star accommodation in the capital.

Movie Glaswegians: Greg Hemphill

greg hemphillWhen Greg Hemphill is not in character, there’s a bit of a transatlantic tinge to his accent – a product of having been raised in Montreal – but the actor and comedian is otherwise about as Glaswegian as they come. He was born in the city on 14th December 1969 and is now a well known face around town, as well as a major contributor to Glasgow’s culture.

Hemphill is perhaps best known for his television comedy appearances, particularly as the endearingly grumpy Victor McDade in the sitcom Still GameStill Game comes from Hemphill’s creative partnership with Ford Kiernan, which was also responsible for the sketch show Chewin’ the Fat. Other strings to his bow however include a portrayal of former First Minister Jack McConnell on BBC’s The Glasgow Girls, “Kelvin Brawl” – a full scale wrestling event at Kelvin Hall with Hemphill and fellow comedian Robert Florence at the top of the bill – and a successful tenure as Rector of the University of Glasgow.

In the world of film Greg Hemphill wrote and directed 2014 short Gasping, which starred comedian Frankie Boyle, and has provided his voice to features The Dunwich Horror and Sir Billi.

Glasgow on Film: An Update

New Look

If you’ve visited this blog before you’ll notice a bit of a change. After putting off for ages what I thought would be a long and complex task, a few clicks on the WordPress control panel gave Glasgow on Film a bit of a makeover. I think it looks a tiny bit more stylish now, but more importantly I think it will be easier on the reader’s eye (the previous all-orange background was maybe a bit much).

Summer’s Here (Kind of)

My posts have again become less frequent than I’d like them to be, but that’s something I aim to work on as there is plenty more of Glasgow’s film story to tell. In fact, it’s a story that keeps growing arms and legs so I really should keep up!

While I’ve got a significant catalogue of well established Glasgow-set films waiting to be written about (God Help the Girl and That Sinking Feeling among those I have viewed and prepared notes on), lots of things that set our great city apart from many of its peers have been popping up so far this summer…

pacinoI like to keep a tally on here of the big Hollywood names to visit Glasgow (another seemingly endless list with plenty more tales to be told) and this roll of honour added a big hitter in May when the legendary Al Pacino appeared at the Clyde Auditorium. This wasn’t a highly guarded film shoot or a private getaway, but an up close and personal opportunity for a Glaswegian audience to hear the star talk to them about his career.

Last month also saw the cinema release of Spooks: The Greater Good, the unexpected spin-off from one of my favourite television series. This wasn’t so big a story for Glasgow but – you know me – I like a good mention of our town on the big screen and this movie delivered that more than once in a dramatic scene.

Look out in future for full “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” and “Cameo Appearance” posts on these two snippets. I wanted to finish by looking in more detail at a couple of bigger recent stories relating to Glasgow and film…

The Legend of Barney Thomson

Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival last week, and this is a movie I am very much looking forward to seeing. With an impressive cast that includes Carlyle himself, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Martin Compston, Tom Courtenay and Stephen McCole, the dark comedy looks fun and riotous. As you will see in the trailer below it wears Glasgow distinctly on its sleeve too. A review post will follow at a later date, including my own experience as an extra for a day on the film. (We’ll soon find out if I made the final cut – no barber pun intended).

Florence Foster Jenkins

This was one that came out of the blue on Friday night. I’d actually gone to bed and was just scrolling through Twitter when Daily Record journalist Bev Lyons’ Tweet about a Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant movie filming in Glasgow caught my eye. After initially resisting curiosity I was soon fully dressed again and in the car to Hillhead’s Kersland Street, which had been transformed into 1940s New York.

Bev Lyons’ article confirmed that Stephen Frears’ latest biopic – about American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins – had relocated from its main Liverpool base for the day to shoot some scenes in the Dear Green Place. Whether Streep was present in Glasgow or not is unconfirmed, but press photography showed Hugh Grant in Hillhead and earlier at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – reportedly doubling for Carnegie Hall. It would appear that this day and night shoot was a flying visit as no further filming in Glasgow has been reported. I did take a couple of pictures on Kersland Street – not the sharpest as I had flash off for obvious reasons, but you get the general idea…


Movie Musing: Glasgow Needs a Hero

This is a one off post – the first, and possibly last, of its kind from me – but I had this idea randomly enter my head and wanted to get it written down.

As this blog is testament to, Glasgow features in an impressive library of films. Dramas, comedies, actioners, horrors, musicals. We’ve had period dramas and visions of the future. And this is just talking about the films actually set in the city – Glasgow’s status as a regular “stunt double” is the envy of many cities across the UK and beyond.

A void in Glasgow’s film CV I’d love to see filled however is the one in which the city has a starring role in a lucrative superhero movie. I know the genre is not everyone’s cup of tea, and understandably so, but the point is that they pack cinemas more than anything else and that kind of worldwide exposure can only improve a destination’s fortunes – both in terms of future film making and tourism.

Avengers_Age_Of_Ultron-poster1So after recently seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron (and despite being disappointed by it), my mind happened to drift to “how could Glasgow feature in a film like that”. The Avengers films in particular are to be praised for taking the action beyond the “usual” cities – yes, Manhattan features prominently but the first film has citizens of Stuttgart kneeling before Loki and the sequel sees Ultron cause chaos in Johannesburg, as well as including lower key scenes in Seoul and Oslo. This precedent for a big screen blockbuster looking beyond the Empire State Building, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower makes the prospect of superheroes on Clydeside a reasonable one.

I am not a writer of fiction, so please excuse the similarity to a number of other film scenes and the frequent use of tropes, but I’ve drafted the below simply to show how Glasgow and the surrounding area could lend itself to an appearance in a future summer hit. You might find the scene fanciful or trashy but I hope if nothing else this makes you smirk at the thought of Iron Man or Superman or whoever soaring over our city. And if you’re a film-maker or person of influence in the industry (Mark Millar for example!), then feel free to give the idea a professional makeover and put it on the big screen… just don’t change the location!!!

OUR hero – whoever that may be – is in pursuit of our villain. It’s an overwater chase so let’s assume their scrap started in the USA and now the bad guy is fleeing across the Atlantic to deliver the next twist in the epic fight.

After thousands of miles of ocean traversed in record time, both parties get their first glimpse of land – the beautiful west coast of Scotland. The two fly over northern Jura, Lochgilphead, Benmore and Loch Long, too distracted by the matter at hand to take in the stunning scenery, before the villain spots his target over a hill.

Tucked away on the shores of Gare Loch is HMNB Clyde – better known to us Scots as Faslane, and about to be better known to the global cinema audience as the home of Britain’s nuclear arsenal. Early warning sirens sound out across the base but there is panic and confusion as those in command struggle to assess this unprecedented threat.

The villain dives straight under the water and disappears from sight. The hero hovers above the Loch trying to work out his next move, while Royal Navy Police boats speed across the surface. The bad guy’s next move is then revealed as one of the huge submarines bizarrely begins to rise from the water. We are given a glimpse inside of crew members holding on to fixtures to keep their balance. With the vessel fully exposed and water gushing down from it we see the villain underneath – lifting the submarine into the air.

There’s a moment for the hero to frown and for Royal Navy personnel to look on with dropped jaws, but in a flash the bad guy shoots off again – effortlessly carrying his deadly new toy with him.

He’s off following the course of the River Clyde, initially keeping at low level until reaching the Erskine Bridge where he gains altitude and gives the audience a glimpse of what’s ahead – the urban sprawl of Glasgow.

The hero chases the villain down the river as onlookers react. Where the Clyde meets the Cart there’s a near miss as an airliner ascending from Glasgow Airport crosses the flying submarine’s path; for the purposes of the film Rangers are playing host to Celtic at Ibrox Stadium – all eyes are on one player as he prepares to take a penalty, but suddenly they follow the spellbound gaze of the player and the fans fall silent as he notices the unbelievable sight passing overhead; in the viewing deck of the Glasgow Tower – the city’s tallest freestanding structure – tourists make eye contact with the villain as he glides past; the Kingston Bridge is the next landmark and vehicles screech to a halt, resulting in a few “fender benders” as the huge submarine flies over the traffic. Reaching the railway bridge the villain takes a sharp left with his deadly cargo, following the lines and casting a brief shadow over the concourse of Central Station as commuters wonder what they have just seen above the glass canopy.

17382016688_11f1a54a5a_oWhen the villain was chased from American shores he knew there was a golden opportunity for a plan B and it is on Glasgow’s historic George Square. He ascends further, now holding the submarine completely vertical as its inhabitants scrabble around inside. The vessel is aimed and ready to be dropped on the square, where thousands of people who had been gathered there scream and run off in all directions. If the nuclear bomb is dropped, the city will be wiped out and there will be millions of casualties far beyond. No-one knows the risk more than the woman that the thousands had gathered to see on George Square. The hero looks down to see the alternating banners bordering the square – some say “PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW”, the others read “GLASGOW WELCOMES PRESIDENT CLINTON (okay, so it would be a fictional President in the movie); hastily dropped saltires and star spangled banners are strewn across the ground. The secret service agents try to pull the President away from her lectern, but she is rooted to the spot amidst the chaos.

Needless to say our hero comes through and after a fight the likes of which Glasgow has never seen the city is saved, as is the crew of the submarine.

Cameo Appearance: Whisky Galore!

whisky galoreThe black and white classic that is Whisky Galore! needs little introduction. One of the most famous productions from the legendary Ealing Studios, the film shows how the inhabitants of the remote Scottish island of Todday respond when a cargo ship carrying 50,000 cases of whisky (a rationed luxury during the story’s World War Two setting) is abandoned offshore.

Among the colourful Todday residents featured is teacher George Campbell, played by Glaswegian Gordon Jackson, and his strict mother (Jean Cadell) whose values are old fashioned even by 1943 standards.

whisky galore 2In one scene Mrs Campbell, already horrified that her son is engaged to local girl Catriona Macroon, threatens to leave if he brings his fiancee to tea…

“I’ll go and live with your Aunt Agnes in Glasgow”, she announces, to which George responds “Oh, but you hate Glasgow”. “Never mind if I do” is her blunt response.

Later in the film George has acquired a bit of courage and lays down the law to his mother, stating “I’ve told you my terms and if you don’t like them you can go to Glasgow”.

Starring Role: Under the Skin

under the skin 1Released in early 2014, Under the Skin is perhaps the most remarkable feature film to have used Glasgow both as a filming location and a setting. Remarkable not least in that – despite being a science fiction movie and starring one of the biggest names in Hollywood – it presents the city at its most pedestrian.

under the skin 2Contemporary Glasgow is captured without grim gangland violence or sunny comedic romance – we hear snippets of everyday conversations and see real Glaswegians heading to work, shopping, enjoying nightlife and going to the football. Change is handed over the counter in Greggs; ladies try on makeup in John Lewis; a Big Issue is bought outside Oran Mor, where “A Play, a Pie and a Pint” is advertised.

under the skin 3This snapshot of Glasgow life is so genuine due to director Jonathan Glazer’s hidden camera approach to the production – filmed discreetly from a distance and with Scarlett Johansson disguised in a dark wig, the star was able to walk among crowds in busy locations like Buchanan Galleries and the Trongate without passersby batting an eyelid.

The reason for the sorties by Johansson’s unnamed alien character is to seek out single men to seduce and ultimately kill for some presumed mission that is never explained. The film is incredibly atmospheric – I was naturally drawn to this feature due to the filming in Glasgow, but wintry scenes shot on Scotland’s east coast, in the Highlands and in nearby locations like Wishaw and Port Glasgow are equally striking. An eerie soundtrack and limited conversation throughout the movie complete the atmosphere.

There’s a particular scene in Under the Skin which is one of the most intense – and I would go as far as saying distressing – moments I have seen in film, and despite some pretty disturbing imagery of the alien nature elsewhere this particular scene revolves around something that could ultimately be an everyday occurrence. I won’t give anything further away but I am sure anyone who has seen the movie will know the bit I mean. If you haven’t seen Under the Skin… see it.

Glasgow’s Global Visitors: Juliette Lewis

Name: Juliette Lewis juliette lewis

Born: 21st June 1973 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Credits include: Natural Born KillersWhat’s Eating Gilbert Grape, From Dusk Till Dawn

Reason for visiting Glasgow:

Juliette Lewis visited Glasgow on a number of occasions when fronting rock band Juliette and the Licks. The actress has successfully combined a prominent screen career with a notable presence on the music scene, both as a solo singer and musician and with her band. Juliette and the Licks disbanded in 2009, however by that time Lewis and her band mates had achieved a veritable tour of Glasgow music venues having performed at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut (2005), The Garage (2006), the Academy (2007) and the ABC (2009).

Movie Glaswegians: Bobby Rainsbury

bobby rainsburyBobby Rainsbury is another of the more recent graduates from Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) to have quickly secured roles in significant onscreen productions.

Born in Glasgow and in her early 20s, Rainsbury attended the institution from 2009 until 2012 and it was during the latter year that she accepted a part in the movie Filth, acting opposite James McAvoy as an underage girl – Stephanie –  who has been sleeping with Iain De Caestecker’s criminal Ocky.

More recently she has been appearing as a regular character – schoolgirl Kirsty Lindsay – in the BBC soap River City, with actor Stephen McCole as her onscreen father. In 2012 she also had a part in one-off television crime drama Doors Open, which featured Stephen Fry and Douglas Henshall,

Solid performances in her handful of onscreen roles to date suggest that this is another RSAMD graduate with a busy and successful acting career ahead.

Starring Role: Death Watch

death watch 6I can’t believe that it’s only in the past few weeks I’ve seen Death Watch for the first time. I’ve had various opportunities to catch the film previously, but I’ve somehow always managed to miss them – much to my frustration. But missing screenings isn’t really a decent excuse, as Glasgow’s own Park Circus released the film on DVD back in 2012.

death watch 5I first heard about it in the late 1990s, when Glasgow’s film-making scene was gathering pace: when the Glasgow Film Office was established and when The House of Mirth brought the likes of Gillian Anderson and Dan Aykroyd to town the newspapers naturally spoke of the city’s cinematic past and 1980’s Death Watch was often mentioned. In such articles it stood out in particular due to its main star being a big American name – and in the late 1990s Harvey Keitel’s stock was high with the likes of Pulp Fiction and From Dusk Till Dawn under his belt. Of course, a lot has happened since then and the papers now tend to make a beeline for a certain zombie movie when summarising Glasgow’s relationship with the big screen.

Keitel is television company employee Roddy, who has a camera implanted in his eye and is tasked with befriending and documenting – without her knowledge – the day to day life of terminally ill Katherine, played by Romy Schneider.

death watch 4His output is for the television show Death Watch, an extreme of reality television. Despite the relatively unaltered setting of late 1970s Glasgow, the show is a nod to a slightly dystopian future. Other subtle touches that take the story beyond 1980 include the out of place looking videophone in an otherwise old fashioned doctor’s office, and the mention by Roddy’s ex wife of a “Saturday market card” – implying that citizens are allotted certain days on which they can buy their groceries.

death watch 3Another thing notable about the unusual world of Death Watch is the semi-anonymity of the setting. As with a film previously featured here – Unleashed – there is a near absence of Scottish accents. American, English, French, German and Irish voices pop up with Paul Young’s police officer the only distinctly Scottish character to appear. The company behind the television show, NTV, seems to be a global affair, with American boss Vincent Ferriman (Harry Dean Stanton) referring to audience share in Germany. Yet NTV’s exterior is Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and its interior City Chambers – surprisingly old world locations to represent a global television network creating cutting edge programming.

death watch 2Glasgow and Scotland are by no means drowned out in Death Watch however – in fact at one point we hear children singing “Coulter’s Candy”. Glasgow buses, a branch of Clydesdale Bank and road signs for places like Dumbarton are visible, and in a moment of contrast we see Ferriman’s American car drive past The Wee Mann’s pub – an establishment to have carried a number of names over the years, most recently The Clutha.

death watchOther Glasgow locations to appear include the Necropolis (which, accompanied by a dramatic overture, provides a fitting opening to the film and its subject matter), Glasgow Cathedral, the Royal Infirmary, West George Street, Charing Cross, Bothwell Street, the University of Glasgow and even the Makro cash and carry. A particularly striking setting is Stobcross Quay as a kind of psychedelic riverside version of The Barras. But it’s not so much the weird and wonderful market that’s striking, but the Clyde backdrop of a big ship, multiple cranes and the imposing Meadowside Granary. 

If Death Watch has passed you by too then I would recommend checking it out – I found the last third of the film a little slow in pace, but it is an interesting and original movie worthy of its cult status.

Glasgow’s Global Visitors: Gwyneth Paltrow

gwyneth paltrowName: Gwyneth Paltrow

Born: 27th September 1972 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Credits include: Se7enShakespeare In LoveIron Man

Reason for visiting Glasgow:

Gwyneth Paltrow visited Glasgow, and specifically St Simon’s Church in Partick, in July 2005. The reason for her visit was the wedding of actor Simon Pegg to East Kilbride born Maureen McCann. Paltrow arrived with husband Chris Martin and daughter Apple, to whom Pegg is godfather. Little other information is reported about the movements of the celebrity guests during the wedding day – a surprising and no doubt welcome departure from the usual intense media attention that such events can attract.