Actor John Gordon Sinclair: ‘Why have we not got more things from Bill Forsyth to watch?’

Gregory's Girl and Local Hero star John Gordon Sinclair says it is “criminal” that their acclaimed director is no longer working - and is dismayed has not made more films or TV shows throughout his career.

The actor, who shot to fame after being cast as hapless hero Gregory in the hit comedy, has spoken of his dismay that a planned series Bill Forsyth worked on with BBC Scotland came to nothing.

However Sinclair, who appeared in Forsyth’s first feature film, That Sinking Feeling, has also spoken of his regret at agreeing to appear as Gregory in a sequel.

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Interviewed for a new book charting the making of Local Hero by Forsyth 40 years ago, Sinclair recalled how he struggled to handle being given a minor role and believed he was offered the part of Ricky the biker and drummer as a "payback" for Gregory's Girl, which he said he got "hardly any money at all for.”

John Gordon Sinclair starred in Gregory's Girl and Local Hero.
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Sinclair revealed he found Highlands-set comedy drama Local Hero - which like Gregory’s Girl, is widely regarded as one of the best Scottish films of all-time - “almost too painful” to watch because it has such an emotional impact on him.

In Jonathan Melville’s new book, published next month, Sinclair recalls drunken exploits with the then unknown actor Peter Capaldi and how they believed the film might have been their "last bout of freedom" due to the outbreak of the Falklands War.

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The book tells how Forsyth recruited various members of Glasgow Youth Theatre, including Sinclair, to star in That Sinking Feeling and Gregory’s Girl, the latter winning him the best screenplay prize at the BAFTAs.

Forsyth would go on to make two more hit comedies in Scotland, Local Hero and Comfort and Joy, but never managed to find the same level of success and Gregory’s Two Girls, which was released in 1999 was his last filming project.

John Gordon Sinclair played Ricky the drummer and biker in Local Hero. Picture: Moviestore/Shutterstock

Sinclair said: “Initially I didn’t want to do it, but when Bill told me his ideas it sounded great. It also meant I’d be working with him again for three months back in Scotland, so it started to seem like a good idea.

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“It was great to work with Bill again and being in that environment, but it didn’t really work. It was trying to be all things to all people and it kind of lost its way a bit.

“When we came to make Gregory’s Two Girls, it was as if we’d stirred up a hornet’s nest. It was only then we realised what people thought of Gregory’s Girl, because I had no concept of it, people telling us what it could and couldn’t be. It hit Bill as well. I don’t think he realised how deeply it had entered the psyche.”

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The book recalls how Forsyth and regular collaborator, producer Iain Smith, had been approached by BBC Scotland about a possible new TV series about “a down-at-heel journalist arriving in a remote Scottish community to write a story about the internet capital of the Highlands.”

John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory in Gregory's Girl.

Sinclair, who read the script during the development phase, said: “I read it thinking: ‘This is just as fantastic.’

“He was looking at it as his swansong, he’d put everything into it, (he’d have) filmed it like it was a movie, but it was for television.

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“It had all those classic touches, the observational stuff that he does in real life – he takes real life and adds a little twist to it and suddenly it’s funny.

“Can you imagine a whole TV series written and directed by Bill Forsyth? To have that talent sitting there not being used is a crime, especially with Netflix and Amazon screaming for content.”

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Clare Grogan starred as Susan and John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory in Gregory's Girl.

Looking back on filming Local Hero, Sinclair said the production “definitely had a vibe about it.”

He added: “I don’t know whether that’s just the

magic of filming and being on location, or whether it actually did have a magic, but even when I watch it now I can see why people

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fell in love with it, because there’s enough distance from it now.

“I remember Bill giving me the script and thinking, I don’t get it, because I didn’t understand much at that time in my life.

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“Looking back, I think: ‘That was really a special time, but I don’t think we knew at the time.’

“All the memories I have are good memories, but I almost can’t bear to watch it because the wistful element it has really affects me. It takes me right back to that place.

“It’s almost too painful to watch because you sort of long for that age of supposed innocence. You didn’t think so at the time, but when you look back you see it kind of was.

“But I have nothing but good feelings about it, tinged with regret that Bill Forsyth isn’t in production every day of the week, because there’ll come a time when we’ll think: ‘Why have we not got more things from him to watch?’"

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The book describes how Forsyth saw Sinclair as a “something of a lucky charm” after appearing in his first two films. He plays the motorcyclist that is regularly seen racing through the village and also plays drums in the ceilidh band.

Sinclair said: “I wasn’t supposed to be in Local Hero, there wasn’t a part. But I think it was kind of a payback thing for Gregory’s Girl, which I got hardly any money at all for.

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“Bill said if I wanted to head up and hang out he’d pay me a wage for 11 weeks, so Peter Capaldi and I hung around and went drinking.

"It was the time of the Falklands War and we were getting news relayed to us on set, with all sorts of disinformation.

"We thought it was our last bout of freedom. We used to hire boats and practice beach landings while drunk as skunks. We thought we should get some practice in."

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