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”.