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From the archive: Local Hero

It may not seem like it but it has been 30 years since film classic Local Hero was released in cinemas. To celebrate we’re taking a look back at the critically acclaimed film.

Director Bill Forsyth speaks to the cast
Director Bill Forsyth speaks to the cast

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth, Local Hero is still hailed as one of the must-see masterpieces of British film and regularly features in top 100 movie lists.

The follow-up to Gregory’s Girl was filmed in Pennan, Moidart, Loch Taff, Banff, Morar and Loch Eilt, and tells the tale of 'Mac' MacIntyre, a high flying businessman who is sent to Scotland by an American oil company to buy a beach. However, after coming across some tough opposition from locals, falling in love and seeing the Northern Lights, he changes his mind about the oil business.

The classic film featured a stellar cast including Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Peter Capaldi, Fulton Mackay and Jenny Seagrove and a soundtrack by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.

However, one of its most enduring symbols is the telephone box which ‘Mac’ calls at the end of the film. Originally a prop but now a landmark draw in Pennan, the phone box receives thousands of calls a year from fans eager to recreate the movie’s last moments.

Asked about the secret to the film’s longevity, Forsyth said: “It’s probably the deficiencies in it. I don’t think it was a manipulative film. If I’d known how to, at the time, I could have made it more manipulative.

“I’m not trying to be coy, but I’ve never had a great understanding of commercial cinema. A film-maker with more nous would have been more manipulative.

“I hesitate to use the word ‘innocence’ about it, because the characters have attitude, have stories, have views, I don’t think it was too innocent a film. But if there was a layer of purpose or intent missing, a layer of manipulation – here’s where we want the audience to feel this, or that, I’ve always truly hated that – then, perhaps, that’s been its secret, if you like.”

However, things could have been very different as Forsyth was initially against having a soundtrack for the film.

He added: “Looking back, you’d hardly credit it, but I didn’t want music. I was a bit of an egghead about film: I was of this puritan streak that if you had to put music in it then you had, somehow, failed.

“I am proud to admit I was very, very wrong. Mark’s music helped make the film and I am very, very grateful to him.”

Despite not making as much in the box office as Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero has stood the test of time and is still winning over new audiences.

Its anniversary coincides with two of the most important events in the movie calendar: the Oscars and the Glasgow Film Festival.

Forsyth, from Glasgow, said: “It is a surprise, a delight, that people still like it.”

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