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12 things you didn’t know about Local Hero

MacIntyre (Peter Riegert), Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster) and Danny Oldsen (Peter Capaldi). Picture: Contributed

MacIntyre (Peter Riegert), Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster) and Danny Oldsen (Peter Capaldi). Picture: Contributed

  • by PATRICK McPARTLIN
 

BILL Forsyth’s 1983 film Local Hero tells the story of an American oil company representative who is sent to Scotland to buy the town for his firm in order for an oil refinery to be built.

Mac MacIntyre, played by Peter Riegert, travels to the west coast village of Ferness and becomes more and more conflicted as he adapts to village life and tries to close the deal that will ruin the town he has come to love.

The seemingly indifferent locals are keen to sell up and leave behind a hard life, but a happy coincidence sees the oil refinery built off-shore, an observatory and an oceanographic research facility constructed, and the village saved.

Comparisons with Alexander MacKendrick’s 1949 take on Compton Mackenzie’s novel Whisky Galore were inevitable. Forsyth admitted that the earlier film had been the source of some inspiration, and while there are some similarities - the savvy villagers of Ferness win-out against the global oil barons of Texas, as opposed to Westminster’s taxes - there are differences as well.

Critics chastised MacKendrick’s film for its depiction of naive and one-dimensional islanders, who eventually defeat the excise men. But in Forsyth’s film, the locals are far more savvy for the times in which they live, and the natural beauty of the place defeats Happer and MacIntyre as much as the locals do.

Here, we’ve picked out 12 things you may not have known about the Scottish cinema classic...

1. The soundtrack sold more than the film itself

Despite it being his first film score, Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler enjoyed considerable success with his soundtrack for Bill Forsyth’s film; so much so that he began incorporating the Going Home theme into the encore of Dire Straits concerts. Although the exact figure is unknown, the soundtrack did end up selling more than the film, which made $5.9 million in America.

2. It’s Al Gore’s favourite movie

The former Vice-President of the United States, presidential candidate and now environmental activist Al Gore revealed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on September 11 2000, that Local Hero was his favourite film.

3. During the scene in Mac’s car, he’s listening to ‘K-NOX’ radio

When we see MacIntyre in his Porsche towards the beginning of the film, he’s listening to a radio station that identifies itself as KNOX - sharing a name with the firm he works for, Knox Oil and Gas.

4. A red phone box was installed in Pennan so as not to disappoint visitors

Hundreds of Local Hero fans visited Pennan in the hope of catching a glimpse of the iconic red phone box - only to find there wasn’t one. The village reportedly ended up installing one purely to please the film’s followers.

5. The beach in the film is on the west coast

Camusdarach Beach, in Morar on the west coast, is where Ben Knox lives in his small shack and is the focal point of much of the film.

6. ...and the village used as Ferness is on the east coast

The fictional Ferness is in reality, the Morayshire village of Pennan, on the east coast of Scotland. The film crew built a cardboard church near Camusdarach Beach in order to make the two locations look like one.

7. Warner Bros. had wanted Henry Winkler to play Mac

Warner Bros. had lobbied for the Happy Days star to portray MacIntyre - but Forsyth refused, opting instead for Peter Riegert. Michael Douglas also revealed some years after the film came out that he had begged Bill Forsyth for a role in the film, but had also been turned down.

8. There’s an asteroid named ‘7345 Happer’, after Burt Lancaster’s character

7345 Happer is a Mars-crossing asteroid that was discovered on July 28 1992 by Robert H. McNaught, at Siding Spring. It was named for Felix Happer, the character portrayed by Lancaster, who wanted to find a comet to be named after him.

9. Current Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi’s first significant acting role

A 24-year-old Capaldi played the role of Knox Oil and Gas’s man in Scotland, Danny Oldsen, in what was his first major film role. He’d played the role of Joe in Charles Gormley’s 1982 film Living Apart Together - alongside fellow Local Hero actor John Gordon Sinclair.

10. There’s a baby that appears in several scenes ... and no one knows whose it is

In a similar way to the penguin wandering around the school in Gregory’s Girl, a baby appears in several scenes of the film, although it’s never made clear whose it is.

11. Gerry Rafferty makes an appearance on the soundtrack

Paisley singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty was enlisted by Knopfler to sing the vocals on The Way It Always Starts.

12. A number of now-prominent Scottish actors appear in the film

The likes of Only an Excuse mastermind Jonathan Watson, comedian Rikki Fulton, Taggart star Alex Norton and Tam Dean Burn (Roddy) all appear in Local Hero. Denis Lawson, who had had roles in the 1970s Star Wars films, and bit-parts on television, portrays Gordon Urquhart, while John Gordon Sinclair - Ricky - is reunited with Forsyth following on from his appearance as the title character in Gregory’s Girl.

 

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