David Tennant to play Scot who championed LSD

David Tennant filming outside the High Court on Edinburgh's Royal Mile for the film The Escape Artist. Picture: Greg Macvean

David Tennant filming outside the High Court on Edinburgh's Royal Mile for the film The Escape Artist. Picture: Greg Macvean

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FORMER Doctor Who star David Tennant is to play the controversial Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing in a new film.

The actor has signed up to play the Glasgow-born psychotherapist who became a counter-cultural guru in the 1960s after championing the use of LSD.

David Tennant as D.I. Alec Hardy alongside co-star Olivia Coleman in ITV's Broadchurch. Picture: Contributed

David Tennant as D.I. Alec Hardy alongside co-star Olivia Coleman in ITV's Broadchurch. Picture: Contributed

The film, called Metanoia, will chart the story of Laing and his unique psychiatric community at Kingsley Hall, East London, during the 1960s and will also star Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss.

Laing was born, raised and trained in Glasgow, attending Glasgow University and working at hospitals in the city before moving in the 1950s to London.

There he became a maverick figure who challenged many of the conventions of psychotherapy, most notably the use of drugs.

Actor Sir Sean Connery is reputed to have taken LSD with Laing and later warned friends off the drug after experiencing a ‘bad trip’.

Laing simply tried harder than other psychiatrists to sympathetically understand the cracked minds of the people who came to see him

Director Robert Mullan

The film is to be written and directed by Robert Mullan, who is also the author of three books about Laing.

Broadchurch star Tennant, 44, from Paisley, Renfrewshire, said: “I have long been fascinated by the life and work of RD Laing.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and discover this important man and I am honoured and thrilled to be involved in telling this story.

“Robert Mullan’s passion for the subject is inspiring and the presence of the brilliant Elisabeth Moss makes this something I cannot wait to start work on.”

In the 1960’s and 70’s R.D. Laing’s books regularly topped the student best-seller lists in the US, he shared the same stage as bands like the Grateful Dead and was never far away from controversy.

The psychiatric establishment regularly tried to close his community at Kingsley Hall, seeing his occasional therapeutic use of LSD and his belief in metanoia, self-healing, as irresponsible and unscientific.

Shooting for the film will take place early next year at studios in Cologne and on location in London.

Writer-director Mullan said: “In the late 1960s, and throughout the 1970s, R.D. Laing was seen as the ‘high priest of anti-psychiatry’ and the so-called ‘Acid Marxist’ - lauded by his supporters for his daring and experimental work with disturbed people.

“In truth, Laing simply tried harder than other psychiatrists to sympathetically understand the cracked minds of the people who came to see him. He gave them time and tried to see the world from their point of view. His books sold all over the world and his reputation was global.”

Laing, whose methods were feted by The Beatles and The Doors singer Jim Morrison, died aged 61 in 1989 after suffering a heart attack while playing tennis in St Tropez.

Trainspotting star Robert Carlyle had previously been linked with playing him in a biopic.

In 2012 writer Edna O Brien described in her memoir a conversation with Connery on the eve of her meeting with Laing, at which she herself planned to take LSD.

She wrote: “I had learned from Sean Connery ... that his own LSD trip with Laing both being old friends from Scotland had its own freight of terrors.

“Yet I did not cancel the appointment. It was as if in some way I believed I could go through with it and yet escape the terrible ordeal.”

The actor’s first wife Diane Cilento wrote in her autobiography that Laing persuaded him to sample LSD to help him deal with stress after starring in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.

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