Glasgow on Film: An Update

New Look

If you’ve visited this blog before you’ll notice a bit of a change. After putting off for ages what I thought would be a long and complex task, a few clicks on the WordPress control panel gave Glasgow on Film a bit of a makeover. I think it looks a tiny bit more stylish now, but more importantly I think it will be easier on the reader’s eye (the previous all-orange background was maybe a bit much).

Summer’s Here (Kind of)

My posts have again become less frequent than I’d like them to be, but that’s something I aim to work on as there is plenty more of Glasgow’s film story to tell. In fact, it’s a story that keeps growing arms and legs so I really should keep up!

While I’ve got a significant catalogue of well established Glasgow-set films waiting to be written about (God Help the Girl and That Sinking Feeling among those I have viewed and prepared notes on), lots of things that set our great city apart from many of its peers have been popping up so far this summer…

pacinoI like to keep a tally on here of the big Hollywood names to visit Glasgow (another seemingly endless list with plenty more tales to be told) and this roll of honour added a big hitter in May when the legendary Al Pacino appeared at the Clyde Auditorium. This wasn’t a highly guarded film shoot or a private getaway, but an up close and personal opportunity for a Glaswegian audience to hear the star talk to them about his career.

Last month also saw the cinema release of Spooks: The Greater Good, the unexpected spin-off from one of my favourite television series. This wasn’t so big a story for Glasgow but – you know me – I like a good mention of our town on the big screen and this movie delivered that more than once in a dramatic scene.

Look out in future for full “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” and “Cameo Appearance” posts on these two snippets. I wanted to finish by looking in more detail at a couple of bigger recent stories relating to Glasgow and film…

The Legend of Barney Thomson

Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival last week, and this is a movie I am very much looking forward to seeing. With an impressive cast that includes Carlyle himself, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Martin Compston, Tom Courtenay and Stephen McCole, the dark comedy looks fun and riotous. As you will see in the trailer below it wears Glasgow distinctly on its sleeve too. A review post will follow at a later date, including my own experience as an extra for a day on the film. (We’ll soon find out if I made the final cut – no barber pun intended).

Florence Foster Jenkins

This was one that came out of the blue on Friday night. I’d actually gone to bed and was just scrolling through Twitter when Daily Record journalist Bev Lyons’ Tweet about a Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant movie filming in Glasgow caught my eye. After initially resisting curiosity I was soon fully dressed again and in the car to Hillhead’s Kersland Street, which had been transformed into 1940s New York.

Bev Lyons’ article confirmed that Stephen Frears’ latest biopic – about American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins – had relocated from its main Liverpool base for the day to shoot some scenes in the Dear Green Place. Whether Streep was present in Glasgow or not is unconfirmed, but press photography showed Hugh Grant in Hillhead and earlier at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – reportedly doubling for Carnegie Hall. It would appear that this day and night shoot was a flying visit as no further filming in Glasgow has been reported. I did take a couple of pictures on Kersland Street – not the sharpest as I had flash off for obvious reasons, but you get the general idea…


Movie Glaswegians: Tommy Flanagan

Tommy FlanaganBorn in Easterhouse on 3rd July 1965, Tommy Flanagan today resides in Malibu, California, and plays one of the main characters in major American television series Sons of Anarchy.

Unlike the roles taken on by many of his compatriots in American shows, Flanagan’s character is a Scot – complete with Glasgow as the place of birth in his biography. The character’s name is Filip ‘Chibs’ Telford – the nickname a reference to the scarring on his face and the Scottish slang “chibbed”, meaning stabbed.

It would appear that the turn of events that resulted in Flanagan’s real-life scarring is what ultimately lead to his acting career – one that has seen him amass a number of roles in major film productions. In the early 1990s Tommy Flanagan was leaving a Glasgow nightclub where he DJ’d when he was attacked and viciously stabbed in the face by a man trying to steal his records.

During his rehabilitation following the attack, Flanagan’s friend – actor Robert Carlyle – suggested that he get into acting. He took his advice and joined the Raindog Theatre Company, which had been co-founded by Carlyle.

His membership of Raindog was to act as a springboard to the screen, landing parts in television series including Taggart before making his first film appearance as the rebel Morrison in Braveheart. Since then he has gone on to enjoy a successful career in both television and film. As well as the aforementioned part in Sons of Anarchy Tommy Flanagan has appeared in the likes of 24 and Peaky Blinders, while film credits have included GladiatorSmokin’ Aces and The Saint. He also appeared in Glasgow set features Ratcatcher and Strictly Sinatra.

Starring Role: Silent Scream

silent screamsilent scream 2silent scream 3Silent Scream is a 1990 film directed by Glaswegian actor and director David Hayman, who makes a brief cameo appearance in the movie. It is based on the true story of Larry Winters – a Glasgow man jailed for life at Barlinnie prison after shooting dead a barman in a London pub. While examples of violence perpetrated by Winters are limited in the film itself (with the shooting being the obvious exception to this), he is regarded as one of the Glasgow prison’s most violent inmates and is hated by the prison staff. That is in the main prison however – a significant part of the film concerns his transfer to the Barlinnie secure unit, where there is a very different environment and the staff seem practically like friends to Winters and other prisoners. Perhaps the most striking example of the different atmosphere is when some of the prison officers accompany Larry on a day release to visit his family – he leaves the house with his father and a conversation between the affable secure unit staff goes: “Larry’s away for a walk”, “Hope he comes back”, “Don’t worry, he will” – with that last line delivered in a cheerful manner as opposed to a threatening one implying that he’ll have the hounds released on him to ensure he does. At this stage in his incarceration though Winters’ stability declines in a different way through his dependency on drugs.

There are a number of observations to be made about Silent Scream, with the first couple concerning its production – it is not just a straightforward crime tale, with hallucinations and animations contributing alongside more pedestrian flashbacks to Larry Winters’ childhood and young adulthood. A particularly interesting mechanic in the film is the use of the prison’s security monitors – which we are occasionally shown flickering with static before they open up a window into the latest flashback. Speaking of flashbacks, the film is set primarily during the 1970s – during the later spell of Winters’ imprisonment – but we do get a glimpse into his life in the preceding decades, from a childhood relocation to Carbisdale to time spent in Wales as part of the Brecon Beacons Parachute Regiment, and the fateful spell in London. 23 years after its release the movie does seem somewhat dated compared to some of its contemporaries, and that is not simply because of the period setting – Silent Scream actually feels like it was made not in 1990 but in the 1970s at some points.

The role of Larry Winters is taken on by Edinburgh born Iain Glen, who is excellent as the emaciated, mentally tormented killer. The cast also includes John Murtagh, Robert Carlyle, Julie Graham, Douglas Henshall, Caroline Paterson and Tom Watson – who plays the murdered barman Patrick and puts in a few eerie appearances in Larry’s fantasies. And a special mention must go to the late Anne Kristen, who delivers a strong performance as the Winters matriarch whose love and pride for her son remain steadfast.

As for Glasgow’s part in Silent Scream – Barlinnie prison naturally features, as do the Royal Infirmary and the Necropolis among other locations. Some interior scenes were shot at Blackcat Studios in Glasgow and, as contributor Neil Johnson-Symington highlights in his “Cinema City” essay in Nicola Balkind’s World Film Locations Glasgow book, the London “Vogue” cinema that appears in the film is in fact the former Riddrie cinema in Glasgow. While dealing with a dark subject matter and set at a time when Glasgow was in decline, Silent Scream manages not to portray the city as one of complete hopelessness – Barlinnie’s secure unit, while flawed in places, shows an early attempt at innovation and open-mindedness by authorities while the wider Winters family are portrayed as good and hard working people.

Stunt Double: Trainspotting

trainspottingtrainspotting 2trainspotting 3trainspotting 4Trainspotting could be regarded as one of the most significant British films of the modern era, and in Scottish terms is probably the most significant film full stop. Glasgow on Film has already studied the successful careers of Glaswegians Robert Carlyle and Kelly Macdonald, while the item on Perfect Sense just scratched the surface of Perth-born Ewan McGregor’s cinematic journey and the Shallow Grave article alluded to director Danny Boyle’s rise to legendary status. All of these inspirational stories and more are linked to the movie Trainspotting.

Released in 1996, Trainspotting is based on the novel of the same name by Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh. It follows the lives of a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh, with McGregor’s Renton being the central character. He is joined by friends Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and the previously mentioned Begbie – played tremendously by Robert Carlyle. Kelly Macdonald completes the top billed cast as Renton’s schoolgirl lover Diane, while James Cosmo, Shirley Henderson and Peter Mullan are among the strong support. The film has been described as a dark comedy – a fair enough appraisal as there are plenty of laughs, many of them accompanied by a cringe or a disbelieving shake of the head (a particular scene involving Spud and some bed sheets sticks in the mind). The main strand running through the story is Renton’s attempt to leave his drug abusing life behind which, ultimately, he succeeds in as the film concludes with him relocated to London in upbeat form.

The film had and continues to have a hugely recognisable identity, which is what makes it such an important part of British cinema. Among other items of merchandise released, posters adorned bedroom walls around the UK and a memorable soundtrack brought (in some cases renewed) attention to artists as varied as Iggy Pop, Underworld and Blondie. It gained critical acclaim around the world and won awards, also being nominated for Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards. From a Scottish point of view Trainspotting shook up the “shortbread tin” image of Scotland and launched a number of young acting talents into the limelight.

As with Shallow Grave, it was in fact Glasgow that lent itself to the majority of filming despite the feature being set in Edinburgh. Among the Glasgow locations used were Crosslands pub on Queen Margaret Drive, Cafe D’Jaconelli on Maryhill Road, Jordanhill School and the since demolished Volcano nightclub in Partick. Perhaps as a thank you to the city, the Odeon cinema on Renfield Street was chosen as the venue for Trainspotting‘s world premiere. Among the cast and other celebrities in attendance was Jonny Lee Miller’s girlfriend of the time, a then little known actress who would later return to Glasgow in 2011 very well known – Angelina Jolie.

Movie Glaswegians: Robert Carlyle

Robert Carlyle was born in the Maryhill area of Glasgow on 14th April 1961, and today lives in the city with his make up artist wife and their three children.

Carlyle is a familiar face on cinema and television screens around the world, with a wide variety of roles under his belt. The first movie role that really brought Carlyle to prominence was his turn in 1996’s Trainspotting (set in Edinburgh but partly shot in Glasgow) as the psychopathic Begbie. He has also played other unnerving and short tempered characters in productions including The 51st State and television’s Cracker, not to mention his portrayal of Bond villain Renard in The World Is Not Enough and the eponymous dictator in television movie Hitler: The Rise Of Evil. Yet as testament to his acting skills Robert Carlyle is not typecast and appears as comfortable playing more compassionate characters in films such as Carla’s Song and 28 Weeks Later.

As mentioned above Trainspotting was partly filmed in Glasgow and half of Carla’s Song is set in the city – another Glasgow-related movie in which Carlyle appears is Stone Of Destiny. All three titles will be studied by Glasgow on Film soon.

Among Robert Carlyle’s many other movie credits are The Full Monty, Eragon and Once Upon A Time In The Midlands.