A MOVIE about the life of a Scottish prisoner of war is to get a screening in his home city of Edinburgh ahead of its UK premiere.
The widow of Eric Lomax – whose memoirs about working on the Death Railway in the Far East during the Second World War have been brought to the big screen starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman – will be guest of honour at the Omni Vue cinema on Sunday.
The film tells how Mr Lomax, a signals officer who was captured at the fall of Singapore in 1942, became one of the thousands of servicemen used as slave labour to build the Thailand-Burma railway and follows his ordeal in a Japanese labour camp.
In his book The Railway Man, Mr Lomax recounted how he suffered ongoing abuse at the hands of his captors, including savage beatings and water-boardings when guards found a radio he had helped build.
The film examines the impact of post-traumatic stress on his life and what happens when he sets out to confront his main tormentor decades after the war – and the pair have an emotional reconciliation. Mr Lomax is played by both Firth and War Horse star Jeremy Irvine in the film.
Nicole Kidman plays the part of Mr Lomax’s wife as she turns detective to try to find out what traumatised her husband during the war and attempts to help him exorcise his demons.
Mr Lomax, from Edinburgh, died at the age of 93 in October 2012 – months after filming got under way in Scotland.
The production, which charts more than 50 years of Mr Lomax’s life, was filmed in Scotland, as well as Australia and Thailand.
The film’s producer Andy Paterson, who will take part in a Q&A with widow Patti after the Edinburgh showing, said Mr Lomax was twice visited at home by Firth during the Oscar-winner’s research for the role and he even made it on to the set at one point.
Mr Paterson said: “After one particularly hectic morning and while the unit was moving to the next location, I stole Colin and Nicole away and drove them down to Eric and Patti’s house.
“After more than a decade of visiting that house and endlessly promising that we would get the film made, it was extraordinary to see our stars sitting, transfixed, in the living room, listening to Patti and Eric’s stories.
“Eric was 93 by then, and I had been told that he wouldn’t be up to visiting the set. Yet as Colin stood on the hillside overlooking the great railway viaduct, I couldn’t bear it. We sent a car round and soon Eric was being carried up the hill in his wheelchair to join us.”
After seeing herself portrayed on film earlier this month, Mrs Lomax said: “Logically, you know that it’s you she’s portraying but emotionally it’s almost like a detachment. It’s very odd.”
Among the Scottish locations used throughout the ten-week shoot were Perth’s Victorian railway station, the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, the church at St Monans, in Fife, Calton Hill, in Edinburgh, the British Legion Club, in Cockenzie, East Lothian, and North Berwick.
The shoot in Scotland was the culmination of 12 years of discussion over potential locations since Lomax’s memoirs were published in 1996.
Miglet Crichton, the Scottish location manager on the film, said: “The Railway Man was a very special production and a lovely job.
“Most people knew of Eric Lomax and his book Railway Man and were keen to be involved which helped make my job easy. I got exceptional assistance from everyone I approached.
“We found and used some fantastic Scottish locations which the designer Steven Jones-Evans and the director of photography Garry Phillips made look truly spectacular. The rushes we saw looked amazing.”
Rosie Ellison, film manager for Marketing Edinburgh’s film office, said: “Our involvement in the project dates back to when the book was first optioned and we helped with the original location research. We are thrilled that Eric Lomax’s absorbing story is at last being told on screen.
“Given its easy access to the other key locations the cast and crew used Edinburgh as a base for the majority of the filming. It is terrific opportunity for the city to be intrinsically involved in the film, not only as a location itself, but playing a key role in the logistics for the production.”
A spokesman for national tourism agency VisitScotland said: “We are delighted that Scotland has served as a stunning backdrop to a number of high-profile films of late, including Skyfall, Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises.
“The big-screen adaptation of Eric Lomax’s inspirational story is already being tipped as a possible Oscar contender and we’re sure that its use of Scottish locations will again show why this country is so popular with film-makers and audiences alike.”
The Railway Man, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, is released in the UK on 1 January.