THE FIRST Minister was late, Craig Ferguson seemed to lose patience, and Kelly Macdonald was her usual charming self – despite the torrential rain. The UK premiere of the Disney-Pixar blockbuster Brave, which closed the Edinburgh International Film Festival last night, brought out the best – and just a little of the worst – of the country in which it is set.
On a dreich afternoon, crowds lined the streets outside the city’s Festival Theatre, keen to catch a glimpse of a bona fide movie star and revel in the glamour of a movie premiere.
“I’m so excited to see Kelly,” said seven-year-old Chase Reeves, who had come to join the crowd with her family and was clutching a Princess Merida doll, the heroine of the animated movie, voiced by Macdonald. “I like her because she’s brave,” she continued. “I think all little girls should be brave.”
Macdonald herself, who looked demure and nervous in front of a huge bank of photographers vying for her attention, told the press she was a tad overwhelmed by it all. “I had no idea what a big deal it was until recently,” she confessed as her husband, Travis bassist Dougie Payne, looked on protectively in the background. “They keep you pretty separate when you’re making a film like this.”
The Glasgow-born actor said she was delighted to be back in Scotland, a fact belied by the thunder that had accompanied her arrival on the red carpet. “It’s lovely to be back on home-ish turf,” she said. “Despite the rain.”
Last night was billed as the European premiere, but in truth Brave – which tells the story of a Scottish princess who is a crack shot at archery and is accompanied by lavish animated images of the rolling Scottish countryside and is voiced almost exclusively by Scottish actors – has already had its European debut, at the Taormina film festival in Sicily, and the film will not be released in the UK until August. In the US it was released last month, and took an impressive $66.7 million in its opening weekend, making it the number one box office draw in America and beating out rival animated movie Madagascar 3. Accompanied by positive reviews across the board, there is no doubt that this latest Disney-Pixar movie is going to be a worldwide hit.
VisitScotland meanwhile, hopes the film’s positive depiction of Scotland will boost visitor numbers and revenue by around £140m, and has invested £7m in a worldwide marketing campaign to capitalise on the film. They even sponsored the Hollywood premiere at LA’s Dolby Theatre, and will be airing their first TV commercial in North America in ten years with the enticing slogan “Scotland. Where legends come to life.”
Back at yesterday’s premiere, one legend that seemed unwilling to come to life was Ferguson, the voice of Lord Macintosh, who is now a major star in the US thanks to his talkshow The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He disappeared from the press line before most people even knew he was there. “He did a couple (of interviews) and lost patience,” one woman with a headset said quietly. Oh well.
The ever jovial Kevin McKidd, who plays two roles in the film, Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin, seemed more than happy to fill in, talking the press through how nice it was to be back in Scotland and how inspired he was by the absent (and arguably biggest star of the film) Billy Connolly. “I grew up laughing at him,” he said. “To be in a film with him has just been fantastic,”
McKidd has found mainstream fame in the US thanks to a starring role in the hit TV series Grey’s Anatomy. “I’m not used to doing the big Hollywood glamour thing,” he said. “It’s a bit strange to be on this side of the red rope. But I’m so proud of the project. Working with Disney-Pixar is a real badge of honour.”
The film’s flamboyant American director Mark Andrews meanwhile, seemed delighted just to be there. “It’s fantastic to see it open in Scotland at last,” he said. “It’s been six years since we first came to Scotland on a research trip so to see it finally come together is amazing.”
Both he and producer Katherine Sarafian, spent time in Scotland in order to get a feel for the country they wanted to bring to the big screen. “Every half a mile the weather would change, We wanted to reflect that in the atmosphere on film,” she said.
But while Robbie Coltrane, the film’s other big star, who plays the role of Lord Dingwall, made a late-ish appearance not long before curtain up, when the buzzer went to ask the audience to take their seats, there was still no sign of Alex Salmond, the First Minister and up until now champion-in-chief of the Brave machine and who certainly made it to the LA premiere on time. It is believed he was splitting his day between the premiere and the wedding of his chief spin doctor Kevin Pringle.
But with plenty of other Scottish celebs on the red carpet from actors Ewan Bremner and Daniela Nardini to, well, former weatherman Lloyd Quinan, there were plenty of gawping opportunities for the crowds.
Lindsay Paris, who had brought her two young daughters Riven and Maden both dressed as Princess Merida along to see the stars, said it had been an amazing experience, but couldn’t decide whether it had been a Hollywood premiere or a Scottish premiere. “Actually,” she said, as the rain came on again, “ I think it was both.”