Local Hero set to become ‘less Trumpian’ when it is turned into new stage musical

It is revered as one of the all-time classic Scottish movie comedies – but now key elements of Local Hero are being changed for its adaptation into a new stage musical to ensure it becomes less “Trumpian.”
Local Hero. Picture: Enigma/Goldcrest/Kobal/REX/ShutterstockLocal Hero. Picture: Enigma/Goldcrest/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Local Hero. Picture: Enigma/Goldcrest/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

It is revered as one of the all-time classic Scottish movie comedies – but now key elements of Local Hero are being changed for its adaptation into a new stage musical to ensure it becomes less “Trumpian.”

Dire Straits legend Mark Knopfler, who created the iconic soundtrack for Bill Forsyth’s much-loved movie, has revealed that part of the original storyline has been “discarded” due to its “parallel” with Donald Trump’s controversial bid to create a luxury golf resort in Aberdeenshire.

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In the film, Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster played Felix Happer, a Texan oil tycoon trying to acquire an entire Highland village, only to be thwarted by a beach hermit, played by Fulton Mackay, and eventually agreeing to relocate his refinery offshore.

The show, which will get its world premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh next month, has reunited Knopfler with Forsyth, the writer and director of the original 1983 film, who has worked on the script for the musical with playwright David Greig, artistic director at the theatre.

The musical, which has been several years in the planning, will open at the Royal Lyceum on 23 March and run until 4 May after an extra two weeks were added to the run. It will be revived next year at the Old Vic, the London venue which is co-producing the show with the Edinburgh theatre.

The economic downturn in the North-east due to the slump in the oil industry in recent years has been blamed for the decision to alter the storyline for the musical. It is believed to focus on a “love triangle” involving Happer’s executive Mac, hotel owner Gordon and his wife Stella. Intriguingly, it is set in 1983, the year the film – which featured Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson and Jennifer Black in the three roles – was released.

The film was regularly cited during Trump’s infamous battles with locals at the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire who refused to sell their land to him. Michael Forbes, a farmer who tood up to the tycoon, became an unlikely star of a documentary investigating Trump’s resort plans.

Knopfler said: “In no way do you want to preach to people who need three jobs to survive about what’s desirable.

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“A very obvious thing that we discarded was the Trumpian parallel, the golf course and all of that.

“Nevertheless it happened and you have to accept with a degree of local press and local people in favour because people were jobless.”

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The cast and crew from the musical – which features Damian Humbley as Mac, Katrina Bryan as Stella and Matthew Pidgeon as Gordon – recently visited Pennan, the Aberdeenshire village deployed for the film.

Greig, who also made the visit to Pennan, added: “One of the things that interested me about it was that people in the pub were saying when the oil price crashed a few years ago, loads and loads of people in that area lost their job because they worked offshore and wandering around this pretty town on a glorious winter sun day, you think ‘this is paradise’ but as you walked up the high street you could see that this was a place that had real economic strain.

“Now, if someone came along and said ‘we’re going to put a refinery or whatever it is, or a hotel or whatever’, I did feel really keenly that, as a visitor, I might think ‘how could you spoil this great view’ but that’s a place where people are trying to get by. Bill’s always got this tone, this balance that we’ve been trying to capture. You can’t ignore the politics but you can’t make it that that’s what it’s about. You have to hold both, but find this human central point.”

Forsyth, whose other films include Gregory’s Girl and Comfort and Joy, has previously hinted at changes in the storyline for the Local Hero musical.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Forsyth said: “One of the instincts we had was to throw it on to the characters more, since they were going to be singing the story. The basis of it is is that there is a human triangle.

“The film doesn’t lay it out that much. It’s there but it is only in hints and atmospheres. The characters go through their changes without really sharing anything. There is no real dialogue between them.”

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When the Local Hero musical was announced just over a year ago, Greig said: “I really want everybody who loves the film to come to it, and recognise what they love about the film in it. But a lot of people won’t have seen it.

“I want them to come and find this new story and immediately connect to it. It needs to work on its own terms.

“We all want to create something new that belongs on the stage.”