Glasgow’s Global Visitors: Charlie Sheen

charlie sheenName: Charlie Sheen

Born: 3rd September 1965 in New York City, New York, USA

Credits include: Wall Street, Hot Shots!, Scary Movie 3

Reason for visiting Glasgow:

Charlie Sheen spent time in Glasgow during 1997 while filming the previously featured Postmortem. The film had him shooting scenes in a wide variety of city locations, including George Square, Central Station and the Necropolis. However his “wild man” image that has reached its peak via social media in recent years was on display in 1997 too and there is a host of controversial tales involving the actor’s spell in Glasgow documented, including one that suggests he visited an Easterhouse housing estate to procure some drugs. A Google search of “Charlie Sheen Glasgow” throws up archive newspaper headlines like “I WAS CHARLIE SHEEN’S HOOKER” and “CHARLIE SHEEN IN COCAINE BENDER”, painting a picture of one of Glasgow’s messier encounters with Hollywood.

Stunt Double: Salt On Our Skin

salt on our skinsalt on our skin 2salt on our skin 3salt on our skin 4I personally hadn’t heard of this film, never mind its Glasgow connections, until a Google search for something else Glasgow on Film related happened to bring up a link to a Flickr profile with a great set of pictures from production of one of the film’s scenes on Cochrane Street.

Having watched the movie now I’m actually quite surprised that the making of Salt On Our Skin doesn’t feature as strongly in Glasgow’s collective memory as, say, Postmortem or The House Of Mirth. The film is pretty forgettable but the scale of production that appears to have taken place in Glasgow – significant set dressing in one of the city’s main transport hubs, a protest scene in the city centre – must have turned heads at the time.

A 1992 release, Salt On Our Skin stars Greta Scacchi as George and Vincent D’Onofrio as Gavin. George is the daughter to wealthy parents – a French mother and Scottish artist father – who grows up in Paris but pays annual visits to the Aberdeenshire countryside on family holidays. During one such trip in her late teens she falls in love with local farmer Gavin. When George turns down Gavin’s marriage proposal the latter moves on and marries another girl back home in Scotland, where he has moved on from the fields to become a fisherman. But the pair’s lust for each other remains and so follows the longest and most widely travelled extra-marital affair in history – we see the two meet around the world for passionate encounters over the passage of years.

The film is bearable enough to watch – perhaps due to the continued change of scenery – but it does tend to follow a repetitive loop of close ups of faces during sex with the same bit of soundtrack playing, a clash of cultures argument and then a make up kiss. Slightly ridiculous too is that changes in hairstyles alone are meant to represent George’s transition from teenager to middle aged woman (compared to her mother who seems to age dramatically between her first and last appearances).

The film has a variety of settings that would put a James Bond film to shame – Aberdeenshire, Paris, London, the British Virgin Islands, Florida and Montreal. Glasgow appears briefly in numerous guises throughout, namely…

– when Central Station doubles for Paris’ Gare du Nord, complete with French signage and newspaper kiosk.

– when the fictional (from what I can gather) “Cavell College” in the USA is portrayed by the University of Glasgow.

– when Cochrane Street and City Chambers provide the backdrop for a London-set protest against fishing cuts. As with the Gare du Nord scene, considerable effort in set dressing is evident: lots of suitably attired extras, red routemaster buses, London Transport signage etc.

– when the exterior of Kelvingrove Art Gallery is used as the exterior of the St. Lawrence Lecture Hall in Montreal.

Stunt Double: The Purifiers

the purifiersthe purifiers 2I’ve decided to classify this post as “stunt double” as although there are settings in The Purifiers that are distinctly Glaswegian, Glasgow is never actually named in the movie and is referred to throughout simply as “the city”. Furthermore “the city” does appear to be a mash up of Glasgow and other British filming locations – Milton Keynes being one of those.

This 2004 film stars Kevin McKidd, Gordon Alexander, Dominic Monaghan and Amber Sainsbury and is described as “the story of martial arts clubs who have created their own city infrastructure after tiring of government initiatives”.

I feel pretty lazy lifting straight from the DVD cover to give a description but to be honest find this a tough one to write about – largely due to being pretty uninspired by it. Regular readers of Glasgow on Film will know that I am not  a film critic by trade – I am someone who simply likes films, and at that certain types of films more than others. I post here about links between Glasgow and movies, and not to nominate any critical comments – positive or negative – that I do make as being expert evaluations. For example, I didn’t have much to say about The House Of Mirth as it is not “my kind of film”, however I was a little bit savage about Postmortem and Tezz – that’s because I feel even as a layman that I’ve seen enough cop movies to distinguish between good and rubbish.

So I’m sorry to say, particularly as this is more of a homegrown production than Postmortem and Tezz, that The Purifiers bored me. Alexander as the leader of the good guys, McKidd as the leader of the bad guys and a repetitive loop of running around darkened shopping precincts and fighting, laced with conversation that unfortunately didn’t hold my attention very well. The plot actually put me in mind of some 1990s video games, but the beauty of the games was that they engaged the player – it’s different when all you can do is sit and watch. That’s about as much as I can say about it.

For Glasgow’s part in the film, there are some good opening views around the Clydeside featuring the Glasgow Science Centre and the Clyde Auditorium, while the Glasgow Subway features prominently too.

Starring Role: Postmortem

postmortempostmortem 2This 1998 movie evokes bittersweet feelings in Glasgow on Film. Back in summer 1997 when it was being filmed, it was the first Glasgow-shot movie that GoF really sat up and took interest in – a curiosity that has grown into the passion for the subject that exists today. Any sentimentality though is tempered by the fact that Postmortem is, well, pretty terrible.

In summer 1997 the internet was limited in terms of both availability and content so there did not appear to be the rumours or rumblings of anything coming Glasgow’s way, and by the time GoF had been alerted to the production nothing had been noticed in the newspapers either. A relative had been in the city centre and noticed a lot of crowds and commotion on Gordon Street – when she asked one of the event security people what was going on he replied that Charlie Sheen was making a film. To the naive 15 year old that was GoF this was a big thing – in the couple of years preceding there had been a lot of hype with the shooting of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting in Glasgow, and reports of Mel Gibson immersing himself in the city to prepare for Braveheart, but this appeared to represent the first time that a Hollywood name had come to Glasgow to make a film set in Glasgow (GoF had not been aware of Death Watch, with Harvey Keitel, at that point). The naivety also meant that GoF gave no consideration to the film being a low budget, straight to video release – it always seemed as if movies just came out with the same fanfare as the last one, so surely this would get its glittering premiere and be screened in multiplexes across the globe, showcasing Glasgow as it did so? No, it was straight to video and it could be suggested that Sheen’s billing as “Charles Sheen” was an attempt by his management to deflect attention from his part in the production.

So what is Postmortem about? Sheen plays James McGregor, an American cop turned author who has relocated to Scotland for peace after wrapping up a child serial killer case in the USA. When a young woman’s naked corpse turns up in his garden he is immediately arrested as the suspect, however once his name is cleared the Glasgow police turn to McGregor for help as it now appears that they have a serial killer on their hands as more women are found in a similar condition around the city. The body count grows, but as McGregor and the native detectives figure out the pattern – the killer, the son of a funeral director, has been meeting the women at funerals of their relatives and teases McGregor by faxing the obituaries of the deceased relatives to him ahead of the bodies turning up – the team manage to save a couple of lives before a confrontation at the Necropolis where the murderer kills himself.

You can tell that there is something wrong with this film before you even take the DVD out of the case – the description on the back states that McGregor “flees to a small, peaceful Scottish town…” – a ridiculous description of Glasgow that neither its champions or its critics would use, and not even justified by its portrayal within the film with one character using the phrase “…our great city of Glasgow”. Criticising the descriptor may be nit picking, but there are so many negatives about the film itself. In terms of acting, English actor Michael Halsey and Sarajevo-born Ivana Milicevic play the lead detective roles – Halsey’s accent is pretty poor but salvaged somewhat by a semi-convincing gruffness, however Milicevic’s effort is dire – one could say it sounds Irish but that would almost be a compliment. Halsey fluffs his lines at one point and the director sees fit to leave this in. Then there is the awkward moment of a victim’s father, a well spoken Scottish man telling McGregor “…you would do anything, any goddamned thing…”. There are plot holes galore: McGregor seems to live practically in the Highlands yet it’s a city centre squad that are dispatched to his house to deal with the first murder; an officer “extra” seen aiding McGregor in one scene is restraining him from apprehending a suspect less than a minute later; and a red herring scene in which one of the killer’s targets is met by an actual friend of hers is astoundingly bad.

Last points in the postmortmem of Postmortem are about the general production values. There’s a bit where Halsey’s Detective Inspector Balantine is stabbed and killed – as he drops, rather than the usual theatrical blood, what can only be described as a kind of broth spills from his mouth. And the whole movie looks like it has been filmed on someone’s mobile phone.

Scottish actors Stephen McCole and Gary Lewis make up the rest of the top billed cast.