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…

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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”.

Cameo Appearance: Time After Time

time after timeOne wonders what old school sci-fi writer H.G. Wells would have made of this tale – in which he himself is unveiling a completed time machine to a group of friends, only for one of them to be revealed as Jack the Ripper. The Ripper then steals the machine and leaves 1893 London for 1979 San Francisco, to where Wells follows him to stop him wreaking havoc on what he expects to be ‘utopia’.

Time After Time is a curious film – juxtaposed with David Warner’s Ripper going on a fairly grisly killing spree in the City by the Bay is Wells’ (Malcolm McDowell) humorous getting to grips with the futuristic world and his romance with an American bank employee, played by Mary Steenburgen in a role not a million miles from her later part in Back to the Future Part III.

A little mention for Glasgow comes early in the movie when Wells is explaining his invention to his incredulous visitors. He tells them that a rotation to the west takes them back in time and a rotation to the east takes them forward, when one guest exclaims in response “Balderdash! Go north, you get to Glasgow.”

Cameo Appearance: Highlander III: The Sorcerer

highlander 3For anyone who has never seen a Highlander film, here’s a brief summary of what’s going on… Christopher Lambert plays Connor MacLeod (of the Clan MacLeod), an immortal born in the Scottish Highlands during the 1500s who by the first instalment of the movie franchise was living in contemporary New York. Throughout the main film trilogy and its associated television and movie spin offs MacLeod finds himself in confrontation with a variety of villainous immortals at different points through time.

In Highlander III: The Sorcerer, MacLeod is up against an old adversary from 16th Century Japan – Kane, portrayed by Mario Van Peebles with the type of bad guy voice you just don’t hear in films any more.

It’s quite a globe spanning film, jumping from olden times Japan to contemporary New York via MacLeod’s new adopted home of Morocco (also in the present) and with some flashbacks to 18th Century France. At one point in the movie MacLeod takes a phone call at his New York apartment and we hear the voice on the other end say “Mr MacLeod, this is Janet at Supertravel. I’m calling to confirm your reservation on the Newark-Glasgow flight. Your ticket is pre-paid and waiting at the counter.”

A visit to the Highlands, where MacLeod steels himself for battle against Kane, follows. His return to “Newark Airport” (where set dressers thought to hang two star spangled banners, but not to alter the big “BIENVENUE A MONTREAL” sign immediately beneath them) coincides with his adopted young son’s arrival from Marrakesh and Kane’s scheme to kidnap the child from the airport. We are shown a flight arrivals board with both Marrakesh and Glasgow displayed on it.

Cameo Appearance: Rob Roy

1995’s Rob Roy cast Liam Neeson as the 18th century Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor. Set in the Highlands, the film’s storyline sees MacGregor borrow money from the somewhat unpleasant Marquis of Montrose in order to invest in cattle to help his community. However the Marquis’ even nastier nephew Archibald Cunningham steals the money and frames Rob Roy’s closest friend for the theft, setting in motion a series of bloody encounters as the Marquis sets out to recover the debt and McGregor seeks justice and the vengeance of his persecuted family and community.

A glance at the history books indicates that the movie is not entirely faithful to the documented history of McGregor – rather than presenting a cradle to grave biography of the man it focuses on a specific episode in his life and in doing so employs a significant amount of artistic licence in its retelling of that time.

Historical accuracy aside however, Rob Roy is a fine film. Historical epics cannot always keep my attention, but the cast, scenery and grand scale of this production managed to satisfy me. Neeson is on good form and ably accompanied by Jessica Lange as McGregor’s wife Mary, while Eric Stoltz, Brian Cox and Brian McCardie are among the names in a strong supporting cast. Special mention must go to John Hurt as the Marquis and Tim Roth as Cunningham though. Hurt, as always, delivers a commanding performance as one of the bad guys; and Roth’s character is so obnoxious, so diabolical, that it is little wonder he received a nomination for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

None of Rob Roy is set in Glasgow, nor was it filmed there, however there is a brief mention of the city. Pulling Cunningham up for some of his more wayward behaviour, the Marquis of Montrose raises the matter of “This tailor in Glasgow to whom you owe 87 pounds”.

Cameo Appearance: The Thomas Crown Affair

This 1999 remake of the 1968 original sees Pierce Brosnan play the role of titular character Thomas Crown – a billionaire who steals artwork simply for the thrill of the heist. When a Monet painting is stolen from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, its insurer sends investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) to assist the authorities – she suspects Crown and in her pursuit of him a romance develops between the two.

In one scene, the pair are discussing the background intelligence they have on each other over dinner in an upmarket restaurant. Banning says “What impressed me most was getting from Glasgow to Oxford on a boxing scholarship”. Crown replies “Not bad for a wee lad from Glasgae” – using that perceived local way of pronouncing the city that I’ve heard in the media before but am yet to hear from any Glaswegian.

He follows with a statement in a strong Scottish accent that “rich kids cannae box” but then reverts to his usual Brosnan tones and explains that changing his voice to fit in with his new circles was a bigger feat.

It appears that Brosnan himself – whose early acting career involved treading the boards at the Citizens Theatre – decided to give Thomas Crown this Glaswegian background, something he would have influenced as a producer on the film. A 1999 article in The Herald, from the movie’s European premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, indicates that this was indeed the case.

Cameo Appearance: Spread

On its release in 2009, Spread was something of a departure from the norm – at least in terms of setting – for director David Mackenzie, co-founder of Glasgow-based Sigma Films. While Mackenzie is more commonly associated with UK-set productions, with Glasgow and Scotland in particular featuring heavily, this movie was set entirely in the USA with the majority of action taking place in the glamorous Hollywood Hills.

Ashton Kutcher stars as Nikki – a young gigolo taking advantage of the rich women of Los Angeles – opposite Anne Heche, as one of the said women Samantha.

It is when Samantha is on a business trip to New York that we see a very subtle nod to Glasgow thrown in. Entering an office building she stops to call Nikki (who, incidentally, is lazing in her swimming pool after throwing a party at her house) and behind her the wall lists the worldwide locations of the business – Glasgow is positioned prominently on the top row between Geneva and Hamburg.