Robert Carlyle comedy opens Edinburgh film fest

ROBERT Carlyle led the stars down the red carpet as a black comedy thriller he made in Glasgow, both behind and in front of the camera, opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Robert Carlyle and Ashley Jensen arriving for the screening of The Legend of Barney Thomson on the opening night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Picture: PA
Robert Carlyle and Ashley Jensen arriving for the screening of The Legend of Barney Thomson on the opening night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Picture: PA

The Trainspotting star, who has the lead role in The Legend of Barney Thomson as a disillusioned barber who suddenly finds himself embroiled in a series of bloody killings, was joined by a host of Scottish film talent at the Festival Theatre.

Carlyle, who was unveiling his first ever film as a director, was followed by co-stars Ashley Jensen, Kevin Guthrie, Martin Compston, James Cosmo and Brian Pettifer up the red carpet before hundreds of watching fans.

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The Glasgow-born actor has unveiled a string of films at the festival during his career, including The Full Monty, Priest, Face and Once Upon Time in the Midlands.

Robert Carlyle and Ashley Jensen arriving for the screening of The Legend of Barney Thomson on the opening night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Picture: PA

But Carlyle, who has been a patron of the film festival since 2008, said being chosen to unveil his directorial debut at the event had surpassed all his previous EIFF premieres.

He said: “It’s a great honour for me to be here. A lot of my films have premiered in Edinburgh over the years, but this is a totally different kettle of fish as it’s my own film.

“To be given the opportunity to not only premiere the film, but for it to be chosen for the opening night is fantastic.

“It was very important for me to make the film in Glasgow. I’ve always felt that if was going to direct a film I would want to try to do it in my home town.

A still from The Legend of Barney Thomson. Picture: Contributed

“I knew exactly where to go. I deliberately chose places like Shawfield dogtrack, the Red Road flats, the Barrowland Ballroom and the Saracen Head pub, as these places are all dying, they might not be here that much longer. These are places that all played a part in my life growing up.”

Carlyle used the event to throw his weight behind the campaign for Scotland to get its own film studio. Critics say the country is behind left behind the likes of Wales and Northern Ireland, where Doctor Who and Game of Thrones are made.

Carlyle added: “There’s no doubt that we need it, whether it is in Glasgow, Cumbernauld or Edinburgh. It doesn’t matter to me where it is, as long as we have a studio. It would put us right up there with other cities in the UK.”

Jensen, who plays a ferocious detective who is constantly warring with a colleague, played by veteran cinema hardman Ray Winstone, said she could not believe she was asked to appear in the film.

She said: “When I got the script I genuinely thought my agent had sent it to the wrong person. I was told I had to be harder than Ray Winstone. Bobby said he specifically wanted me for it, he obviously thought ‘who is the hardest woman in Scotland?’

“But one of the interesting things about the film is that a lot of people in the film are really playing against type.”

Compston said: “It was a real privilege to be on set with such an incredible cast.

“Bobby is one of my really heroes and I’ve looked up to him for many years, so for him to ask me to be in the film was quite intimidating. But he was nothing but encouraging.”

This year’s festival is the first under new artist director Mark Adams, whose predecessor Chris Fujiwara left the post suddenly in September after just three years at the helm of the event, which will mark its 70th edition in 2016.

Mr Adams said of Carlyle’s film: “It is a gleefully dark comedy with a brilliant cast, and the perfect way to kick off this year’s festival.”

The 2015 programmes features one of the strongest line-ups of Scottish films for years, with new Hebridean drama Iona - which was shot on location on the Hebridean island - lined up as the closing gala and new Highlands-set romantic comedy Scottish mussel, which sees Compston play an illegal pearl fisher who falls for a conservationist.

Cycling legend Graeme Obree is expected to attend the unveiling of a new fly-on-the-wall documentary, while the EIFF has also secured world premieres of Swung, an adaptation of Ewan Morrison’s novel set amid the Glasgow swinging scene, Peter Mullan’s new film Hector, which will see him play a homeless pensioner with a tragic past, and Cosmo’s portrayal of a veteran boxer in Pyramid Texts.

Speaking before the event, Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said the EIFF had managed to reposition itself as Scotland’s leading international celebration of film.

She added: “Whether you like to sit in the audience and let the stories wash over you or get involved in the complex business that is making a film - this year’s programme promises to deliver on all counts.

“The festival line-up is genuinely exciting. It has the most Scottish content in recent years, showcasing Scottish writers, directors, actors, technical talent and Scottish stories.”

Other big-name figures due to visit the festival include Carlyle’s Trainspotting co-star Ewan McGregor, who will be unveiling his portrayal of Jesus and talking about his acting career, as will A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell. who will be launching his latest film with co-star Jane Seymour. Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, English actress Emily Mortimer and Swedish star Alexander Skarsgard will be among the other special guests.

Programme highlights include the UK premieres of a controversial Amy Winehouse documentary, Disney-Pixar’s latest critically-acclaimed feature film and a zombie drama fronted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.