UNLIKE various commentators, the citizens of Glasgow's Park Circus and the former First Minister, Alasdair Gray’s son Andrew has no concerns about the fact that the award-winning adaptation of his father’s novel Poor Things starring Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe is not set in Glasgow.

The film, a black comic fantasy which goes on general release on Friday, is based on Gray’s 1992 novel. In the novel Bella Baxter, the role played by Stone in the film, lives in Glasgow’s Park Circus.

The Herald: Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in Poor ThingsEmma Stone and Mark Ruffalo in Poor Things (Image: free)

But the director Yorgos Lanthimos has opted to shift the setting to London, Paris and Lisbon.

Speaking to The Herald this week, Mr Gray said he was very happy with the film and had no issue with the decision to move the story away from Glasgow.

“I feel that you can have a great book and a great film and I think the two of these complement each other. I believe the film is going to direct people to the book and if you are going in that direction you are going to be drawn towards Glasgow,” he said.

Poor Things won two Golden Globe awards in California earlier this week – it was named Best Picture in the Musical or Comedy category and Stone won best actress in the same category – and it is tipped for Oscar success next month.

Gray, speaking on behalf of the Estate of Alasdair Gray, admitted he was thrilled by the way the film has been received.

“I am very happy with the film. I could not have possibly guessed at its popularity. I’ve been quite stunned by how people have actually taken to it.

“This film certainly seems to have a lot of momentum and critical acclaim behind it. I’m so glad that everybody is appreciating it and this is definitely putting the limelight onto Alasdair’s work and canon of work, so I am very appreciative of what has happened.”

Alasdair Gray was one of Scotland’s most notable creative figures in the second half of the 20th century. A painter of note as well as a playwright, his first novel Lanark, published in 1981, was widely seen as rejuvenating Scottish literature and inspiring a new generation of writers including Irvine Welsh, Janice Galloway and Alan Warner. His follow-up novel – 1982, Janine Gray – was mischievously described by Gray as a “sadomasochistic fetishistic fantasy.”

READ MORE: Poor Things film review: Alasdair Gray adaptation is wildly wonderful

Published in 1992, Poor Things was described by the London Review of Books as “a magnificently, brisk, funny, dirty, brainy book”. Attributes that could also be said of Lanthimos’s film version.

The movie, like the novel, is a reworking of the story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and explores ideas of shame and female agency, but Gray’s book also touches on questions of national identity. Its author was always a passionate proponent of independence for Scotland.

As a result, a number of critics have questioned the decision to move the film’s setting from Victorian Glasgow to what has been described a steampunk version of London. The fact that there are no Scottish actors in the film has also been raised, although Willem Dafoe plays Bella’s creator as a Glasgow scientist.

The film’s Greek director has said it would be “totally disingenuous” of him to produce a film about Scotland. But some have criticised the decision and residents in Park Circus who spoke to the Daily Record newspaper last week were disappointed that the film had opted not to film there.

The Herald: Emma Stone as BellaEmma Stone as Bella (Image: free)

Earlier this week on Instagram the former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a noted bibliophile, wondered if the decision to change location would work.

“There is some controversy around the setting and casting of the film, and I admit to being genuinely curious to see if/how they manage to separate the story from Glasgow without losing something of its essence,” she wrote.

But speaking over Zoom from Hartford, Connecticut, where he lives, Mr Gray dismissed criticisms of the film’s decision to relocate the story as “navel gazing”.

“I feel it is a very small element of the film,” he told The Herald. “People don’t seem to understand the risk that Yorgos Lanthimos took in making this film. It was not a guaranteed success by any means.

“And I think it’s always been difficult to turn Alasdair’s work into film because they are really book-based,” he added, citing their elaborate illustrations and his father’s cheeky use of erratum slips.

Poor Things' sets are fantastical, he pointed out, and bear little relationship to the real London, Lisbon or Paris. “The majority of the sets in the film remind me of Budapest personally,” he says. “But I don’t think it inhibits the film’s storyline in any way.”

READ MORE: Poor Things: Glasgow is posted missing from Alasdair Gray's novel

And he hopes the film’s success will draw more and more people to his father’s work.

“I am just happy that Alasdair’s works are now receiving this attention and I’m happy that the novel is going to be drawing in a lot of new readers. And Alasdair would certainly be tremendously happy that more people were reading and participating in his writing.

“And once you have participation in that, then you’re going to have interest in Alasdair’s art as well. And his plays and hopefully his political views.”

The film’s director Yorgos Lanthimos first read Poor Things in 2009 and travelled to Glasgow in 2011 to meet Alasdair Gray to seek his approval in turning the novel into a film, Gray’s son recalled.

“Alasdair took him on a tour of the city, and they ended up at the Necropolis down by Glasgow Cathedral.”

“I’ve met Yorgos and he’s a real gentleman. He’s quite short on words, so I’m sure Alasdair was doing all the talking for the majority of this time. But, yes, the meeting went well. I think Alasdair had decided at that point that he wanted somebody that he could like and could trust in to take the project and turn it into a film.”

Poor Things has already been a huge critical success and its makers are hoping it will also be a hit at the box office. Gray, who has been based in America for the last 30 years and works in a nursing home, anticipates that it might lead to more international interest in his father’s work.

The Herald: Alasdair Gray’s son AndrewAlasdair Gray’s son Andrew (Image: free)

“I’ve been hoping for a long time he would have a chance to demonstrate his work outside of Scotland and outside of the UK, especially in America. I think he’s been neglected in a lot of areas of the world.”

And could it lead to more film adaptations?

“There are enquiries into turning Lanark into a film. One of Alasdair’s favourite books was 1982, Janine. But that would be a more of a risque prospect I would think.”

Poor Things is in cinemas from Friday