Born in Glasgow on 9th July 1965 and raised in the city’s Pollok area, David O’Hara is well known for his distinctive voice and the wide range of interesting characters that he has applied it to.
After leaving school O’Hara first joined a youth opportunities programme at Glasgow Arts Centre, which saw him tour schools in theatre productions, before moving temporarily to London to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama. During his time at the Central School of Speech and Drama, he returned to Glasgow to take on his first screen role – in Bill Forsyth’s 1984 film Comfort And Joy.
The career that has followed has spanned television on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Tudors, Prime Suspect V and Taggart, and likewise UK and American cinema. O’Hara’s movie credits include Cowboys & Aliens, Wanted and The Departed. He is no stranger to villainous roles, such as those of Albert Runcorn in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and the shadowy government figure Michael Canaris in Glasgow-set Doomsday, however in perhaps his best known role he is one of the good guys – the insane Irish character Stephen in Braveheart.
There is a handful of actors who are neither Glaswegian or Scottish, but who have nonetheless found themselves working on films in Glasgow on more than one occasion. Emily Mortimer (Dear Frankie, Young Adam) is one, Bob Hoskins (Doomsday, Unleashed) another. Then there is Jamie Bell – the Teesside-born actor who first shot to fame at a young age in Billy Elliot. As previously documented here, Bell spent time in Glasgow during the production of The Eagle and more recently was in the city to shoot the forthcoming Filth. Like The Eagle, 2007’s Hallam Foe features Jamie Bell, was directed by David Mackenzie and used the fantastic Film City Glasgow in Govan as a production base and to shoot some scenes.
Bell plays the titular character in this charming and quirky film and is joined by a strong cast that includes Sophia Myles, Ciaran Hinds (who made his acting debut on stage in Glasgow), Jamie Sives, Claire Forlani and – no stranger to this blog – Ewen Bremner. Hallam is a somewhat troubled young man with a penchant for spying on people and serious stepmother issues following the death of his mother a couple of years previously. He leaves his father (Hinds) and the stepmother (Forlani) behind in their countryside home and heads to Edinburgh, where he spots and follows hotel HR executive Kate – who happens to be a dead ringer for his late mother – and ends up being employed by her. As the film progresses we see the eccentric Hallam come of age in various ways.
While all outdoor scenes and key indoor scenes were filmed in Edinburgh and Peeblesshire, studio filming for parts of the movie took place at Film City Glasgow, and in the DVD commentary David Mackenzie mentions that a staircase seen as the entrance to Kate’s Edinburgh flat is in fact in Glasgow.
This 2005 action movie, filmed and set in Glasgow, is a truly international affair: from the French writer and director – Luc Besson and Louis Leterrier respectively – to the film’s leads, Chinese martial arts hero Jet Li, Hollywood royalty Morgan Freeman, British favourite Bob Hoskins (who would later return to Glasgow to film Doomsday) and Tipperary born Kerry Condon.
London based media outlets can be guilty of taking a rather condescending “surprised” tone when required to report on Hollywood reaching any British location outside the M25, something that Glasgow on Film finds frustrating – however even this blogger must admit that the combination of the above eclectic cast, a pretty out there storyline and backdrops that include the Spar shop in Broomhill make for a curious production.
Li’s Danny is the central character – he serves as a slave/henchman to Hoskins’ gangster Bart, who has raised him and treats him with little respect. The unleashing alluded to in the title refers to occasions in the film where Bart removes Danny’s metal collar and he turns from docile servant to a lethal fighting machine who takes care of any of his master’s enemies. Following a car crash Danny escapes from Bart’s clutches and through a chance encounter ends up staying with kindly blind piano tuner Sam (Freeman) and his daughter Victoria (Condon). They are of course like chalk and cheese compared to Bart and his cronies, teaching him a lot about humanity, however when Bart finally comes back hunting for Danny the latter must resort once more to violence to defend his new friends.
Oddly not one Scottish voice appears in Unleashed – with the exception of Freeman and Condon (adopting an American accent), most characters have a cockney twang while Glasgow born Phyllida Law appears with a “posh” accent that sounds more English than Scottish. Glasgow is only named once in the film (in a scene set in the aforementioned Spar shop Sam tells Danny “Maddy runs the best supermarket in all of Glasgow”) – as is the case with many productions made worldwide the producers may have been looking for a generic setting in which to tell their story, however this suggestion is countered by the fact that so many iconic Glaswegian landmarks – including the Glasgow School of Art and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – appear.
Speaking of the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow on Film actually stood outside this building on a freezing cold day to watch a scene from Unleashed being filmed (it involved Jet Li handing an ice cream cone to Kerry Condon), and on a separate occasion spotted from a bus on Victoria Road a van and trailer carrying a Jaguar which contained none other than Li and Hoskins as they filmed a scene.
Doomsday is a 2008 feature from Neil Marshall, the English writer and director whose CV includes other gory Scotland-set movies Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Centurion.
The film opens with a bleak fate for Glasgow – over black and white footage of a busy Buchanan Street, Malcolm McDowell provides narrative information about the deadly Reaper virus which breaks out in Scotland leading to millions of deaths and ultimately the quarantining of Scotland from the rest of the UK.
Jump forward 27 years and the disease has resurfaced in London, threatening to wipe out the population of the capital and beyond. With intelligence suggesting that a cure was close to being found in a Glasgow hospital during the original outbreak, Major Sinclair (Rhona Mitra) must lead an elite fighting unit to find the cure in the post apocalyptic city which has been deserted by the authorities and is now controlled by murderous gangs.
While Glasgow has a reputation for doubling as other cities on screen, Doomsday saw another city – Cape Town, South Africa, to be precise – acting as Glasgow for certain action scenes. Some of the movie was however filmed in Glasgow, including scenes shot in the Haghill area to capture red sandstone tenement blocks whose doubles could never be found in Cape Town.
Alongside the aforementioned McDowell and Mitra, Doomsday‘s cast includes Bob Hoskins, Adrian Lester and David O’Hara.