Sunshine on Leith musical to be made into movie

IT will be dubbed McMamma Mia. Sunshine on Leith, the hit musical based on the songs of The Proclaimers, is to be made into a new movie.

A major song and dance routine involving as many as 1,000 extras is now set to be filmed on Calton Hill this autumn, while the producers hope to premiere the finished film next year at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

While casting has yet to take place, it is understood the producers are keen to secure Billy Connolly and Annie Lennox for the key roles of Rab and Annie, while David Tennant – a huge fan of The Proclaimers, as he discussed while appearing on Desert Island Discs – has already expressed an interest in being in the film.

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The musical, which debuted on stage in 2007 at Dundee Rep and follows the fortunes of two Scots squaddies who come home to Leith after fighting in Afghanistan, is being made by Black Camel Pictures, set up by the husband and wife team, Arabella Page Croft and Kieran Parker, who made the successful Outpost trilogy of movies featuring Nazi zombies.

The switch from blood-soaked gauntlets to jazz hands and the wilds of the Eastern Front during the Second World War to Leith docks attracted the attention of Andrew Macdonald, the producer of Trainspotting, whose company, DNA Films is also investing in the new movie.

Page Croft said: “Having just got really good at blood, weapons, armoured vehicles and prosthetics, it will be a new challenge to deal with the choreography, but it will be really good fun to deal with dancers instead of zombies.”

The Proclaimers, Fife-born Craig and Charlie Reid, described the news of the forthcoming film –based on the successful Stephen Greenhorn stage production – as “fantastic”. Charlie Reid said: “It is a testament to the way the idea was developed by Stephen Greenhorn and Dundee Rep and their success. All credit to them for making it such an inspiring piece of work that people want to commit to the silver screen.”

Sunshine on Leith: The Movie is now in the early stages of pre-production with the producers planning major dance routines with large casts in the Leith area. Unlike Mamma Mia, which transported Abba’s music to a sun-drenched Greek island, or We Will Rock You, which set the music of Queen in a dystopian future, Sunshine on Leith is grounded in reality and set in the Edinburgh port where three love stories are mixed with the war in Afghanistan, sudden illness and the fortunes of Hibernian football club.

Written by Greenhorn, who created BBC Scotland soap opera River City, it tells the story of two army friends who return home to Leith from Afghanistan. One of them finds the love of his life, while the other loses the girl he left behind.

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The parents of one of the squaddies are Rab, who has lost his job on the docks, and Annie, who works as a cleaner on the Royal Yacht Britannia, and who are planning their 30th wedding anniversary.

Black Camel Pictures is one of Scotland’s most successful film production companies. The recipients of a £100,000 award by Creative Scotland to develop a slate of feature films, the company will premiere their fourth film, Outpost III: The Rise Of The Spetsnaz at the Odeon in London’s Leicester Square in August.

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Parker, who directed Outpost III, said: “We always try to think where a film would sit on your video or DVD shelf and this one (Sunshine on Leith) will sit slap bang between Once (an Irish musical) and Mamma Mia and beside Grease, Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story.”

Page Croft added: “We want it to be one of those high quality British films that people come out to see because it makes them feel good about being Scottish or British. If we can achieve that we will be delighted. It is a feel good Scottish movie, dealing with a tough subject but dealing with it in a humorous, warm, loving way and hopefully people will embrace that.”

The stage musical featured Proclaimers’ hits such as I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), I’m On My Way, Letter From America and What Do You Do? (When Democracy Fails You) and has toured Scotland and England three times since its debut. The run in 2010 starred Lord of the Rings actor Billy Boyd as Davy.

When the Reid brothers were first approached about making a musical based on their songs they were convinced it would fail. “We thought they would get half way through making the stage show and then abandon it or, if it did make it to the stage, the halls would be half empty, so we’ve been delighted by the continued success,” said Craig Reid.

While The Proclaimers are due to be on tour during the filming of the new version they are hopeful of making a cameo appearance: “If something was offered and we were available then we would be delighted,” Craig said. “Maybe a painter or decorator or a traffic warden.”

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