Lesley Paterson: The Scottish triathlon star whose movie-making marathon was rewarded with BAFTAs glory
It took Lesley Paterson and co-writer Ian Stokell around 16 years to get their screenplay of All Quiet on the Western Front turned into a feature film.
On Sunday night their anti-war epic, which focuses on the experiences of a young German soldier on the Western Front during the First World War, won seven awards, including best adapted screenplay.
The success of the German language film is the latest chapter in the remarkable story of Paterson, who joined forces with former journalist Stokell to acquire the rights to the 1929 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque, which she had studied at school in Stirling.
Paterson, 42, has pursued her twin passions by using money won during her triathlon racing career to retain the rights to make the film, which will also be in the running for nine Academy Awards next month.
The screenwriter’s sporting success, which has seen her win five world triathlon titles, can be traced back to the age of seven, when she was the only female player on the books of Stirling County Rugby Club.
After getting her interested in fell running, when her father Alistair helped set up Stirling Triathlon Club, she was one of its first members and became a Scottish championship winner, only to retire from the sport when she failed to qualify for the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Paterson recalled: “It got to the point where I hated it. I just got really disillusioned. Being a pro-athlete was all I had ever wanted to do. All that passion and desire was gone and I had no idea what to do with my life. I had to get away.”
Paterson, who had studied English and drama at Loughborough University, began a new life in California when her husband Simon Marshall got the chance to work there. After completing a masters in theatre, she spent three years trying to pursue an acting career.
By the time she was in her mid-20s, Paterson had shifted her focus to writing and producing films – shortly before she reignited her triathlon career during a visit home to Scotland to see her parents, when she won the Scottish championship.
She said: “Dealing with adversity teaches you so much and makes you much more resilient for the future. Sport is an exercise in resiliency and so is film.
"I knew I had confidence and realised I had to find my own way to the top and not be manufactured by a system. I think that’s why I got success. Alongside being a professional athlete, I was always writing, producing, having those creative juices bubbling away at the same time.”
Paterson won five world championships while trying to get the adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front made with Stokell and her husband, an uncredited writer on the film.
Recalling her love of the book, she said: “The theme of the betrayal of the youthful generation meant a lot to me. And my personality has always been that fight against the upper brass. I’m for the everyman, I’m a lefty.”
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