IT has taken a long time between takes, but it is happening twice over

-- a double take in filming adaptations of the literary works of one

William McIlvanney -- and, coincidentally, it will all be happening at


During the month of October there will be a distinct danger of rival

camera crews bumping into each other, because of this sudden sense of

urgency about getting McIlvanney in the can. BBC Scotland and Scottish

Television are both deeply involved in different ways.

For BBC2 there is a 75-minute adaptation, with music and lyrics

written by McIlvanney, of Dreaming, one of the short stories in his

book, Walking Wounded. And Scottish Television is pumping a six-figure

sum into the production of The Big Man, starring Liam Neeson as the

actual big man, a bare-knuckle fighter, and Billy Connolly, who in real

life is called the Big Yin, as his manager (if you follow me). And in

there swinging, too, will be Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, who was Christine

Keeler in the film Scandal.

The Big Man is being made by Palace Films, which made Scandal. For its

investment, which has enabled the production to hit the road, Scottish

will get the UK non-satellite television rights. British Satellite

Broadcasting, up but not away yet, will be beaming it down by the

heavenly route.

To fully appreciate the build-up to getting McIlvanney on screen, you

have to go back nearly 10 years to when A Gift from Nessus, his only

other work to have been adapted, was seen in the BBC Play For Today

series. Before that, when Laidlaw, his novel about a hard-nosed Glasgow

cop (HNGC) came out in the Seventies, Sean Connery approached him with

the idea of appearing in a film as Laidlaw. But Connery, always in big

demand, was waylaid with other demands on his time.

Then, at the start of the Eighties, independent producer Iain Smith

(who was to work for David Puttnam on Chariots of Fire, Local Hero and

The Mission, and who now oversees Scottish Television's film

diversification) and director Mike Alexander (now directing Dreaming)

were all set to make Laidlaw with Connery in the part. McIlvanney wrote

the screenplay. Connery was keen, but. . .

There were delays with the big money, emanating from New York. The

big-money brokers were concerned that the story of a HNGC might not have

global box-office appeal. This was, of course, long before Glasgow was

considered a culture capital.

Mike Alexander works independently with cameraman Mark Littlewood out

of the Glasgow-based company, Pelicula. He said: ''We had to wait

forever. That was really what killed the thing. Eventually Connery, who

still wanted to do it, couldn't say yea or nae.''

The only screen thing that happened for William McIlvanney during this

waiting game was A Gift From Nessus, adapted by Bill Craig. After its

success, either at No.1 or No.2 in the audience appreciation ratings for

the series, he was wooed by London to write something specifically for

television, but was more interested in getting on with his commitment to

writing books. He did write for the Glasgow Herald about television, not

quite the same thing.

Alexander, one of the great unstoppable forces in the ranks of the

indies, had been given the book, Walking Wounded, with the idea of

making a series of short films. But at the BBC, producer Andy Park

(Tutti Frutti, Down Where the Buffalo Go) picked up on the one story,

Dreaming, with the idea of making it into a major TV film.

Says Alexander: ''Dreaming is about a teenage boy who dreams his way

through a day. It's not a way of escaping reality. It's his way of

dealing with it. Whenever he comes up against something that's hard to

deal with he fantasises. There are a fantasised series of characters he

meets. He twists them all round into either the caricatures as he sees

them, or whatever . . . It's very funny, with a strong, serious,

satirical commentary on society today.''

The latest on Laidlaw, by the way, is that a Toronto-based company has

bought the rights to it. ''But whether it gets made it or not is another

matter,'' says McIlvanney, by now philosophically laid-back about