MEL Gibson and Michael Forsyth, both resplendent in full Highland

dress, tied for first place in the audience reaction stakes at the gala

premiere of Braveheart in Stirling last night.

More than 1000 fans cheered wildly as the Hollywood actor entered the

town's MacRobert Arts Centre for the star-studded event. The Scottish

Secretary was unceremoniously booed and jeered as he did likewise

minutes before.

''I think,'' said Mr Forsyth, ''the welcome was in good humour.'' On

the night his was the bravest heart of all.

The truth is that if John Major had announced a snap election

yesterday then the Tories would have lost the Battle of Stirling. The

town would have turned tartan and voted SNP. Thanks to a blockbuster

movie Scotland was a nation once again. If only in Stirling and only for

a day.

Halfway through the screening the projection equipment broke down and

left the screen blank for 10 minutes. As the embarrassed audience sat in

silence, Gibson broke the ice by shouting out: ''Does anyone know any

good jokes?''

Braveheart was more than just a night at the pictures. It was a huge

showbiz event -- with more celebrities than you could shake a claymore

at. Stirling Castle, specially floodlit and adapted for the glittering

occasion, was the ultimate party venue.

But more than that Braveheart was an excuse to celebrate William

Wallace, the man who cuffed the English on the battlefield.

The celebrity count was sky high. From the movie's cast there were Ian

Bannen, James Cosmo, Angus Macfadyen, Catherine McCormack, and of course

Mel Gibson himself. From television and film there was Catherine Zeta

Jones, John Leslie, John Gordon Sinclair, Blythe Duff, Muriel Gray, and

Patsy Kensit. From sport there was Gavin Hastings (who received the

second loudest cheer of the night), Kenny Logan, Jackie Stewart and Ally

McCoist. And from politics, as well as Mr Forsyth, there was Shadow

Scottish Secretary George Robertson and Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP,

who arrived during a shower of rain and covered up with a huge black and

yellow SNP brolly.

Gibson appeared genuinely overwhelmed by the adulation of the crowd,

many of whom had stood for hours in the pouring rain. He favoured the

Buchanan tartan and went for the top of the range outfit which came

complete with over-the-shoulder plaid.

As the crowd screamed he was asked what if felt like to be Scotland's

hero. ''Great,'' he said. ''For a day.'' And the kilt? It was


Mr Forsyth, on the other hand, appeared underwhelmed by the crowd's

response. Perhaps the charm offensive was not going quite according to

plan. Commenting on a private dinner he had with Gibson and film

executives the previous evening, he said: ''Mr Gibson gave us some

useful advice on how we can get more films made in Scotland and

encourage our own talent.

''He thought that tax breaks were not so important and said we should

try to create a one-stop shop offering all the facilities for


The most eloquent remark about the night came from Scots actor James


''This is the best and most important film Scotland has ever made,

both politically and emotionally. I took great pride just driving down

to Stirling today and seeing the Wallace Monument looming over the

town,'' he said.

More than 750 people attended last night's premiere for Braveheart,

which cost #80m and was directed by Gibson.

After the screening of the three-hour film guests made their way to

Stirling Castle for a spectacular party. En route they passed the

floodlit Stirling Bridge where Wallace fought one of his bravest

battles. In the distance the Wallace Monument had been especially lit in

honour of both the hero and the occasion.