It’s a long way from the streets of Glasgow to the wide open spaces of Arizona. and that's where Tom Conti. possibly the most successful actor to have emerged from Scotland in the last two decades. is filming his next feature.
The latest in a string of diverse pictures is The Quit-A- (III(1!/1(’I)(’(l(l. based on the novel by Louis L‘Amour. ‘I Ie's one ofthe best-selling authors in America.‘ Conti explaines. 'but no-one in Britain knows him because he only writes Western novels.‘
No-one seems to have been able to typecast (‘onti yet. unless he‘s firme enough fixed in the public’s mind as the ‘charismatic nice guy' to become a British Alan Alda. and he accepted a role in the film because he saw it as ‘a chance to have some fun. The chances of a British actor being asked to do a Western are very slitn .' The last British actor to manage it wasJohn (‘leese
Heaven/y Pursuits. the tale of possible divine intervention in a Glasgow school. has gathered fine reviews. but (‘onti is reluctant to discuss them (‘I just make the films. other people can be happy or unhappy about them‘). though he is happy to talk about the filming —- his first extended stay in (ilasgow in around 20 years. I Ie enjoyed working there with director ('harles Gormley and co-star I Ielen Mirren. and approves of the changes the city has gone through since he lived there.
‘Glasgow is still (ilasgow and the people are still the warm and generous people they always were. Whereas it was the dying remains of a large industrial city 20 years ago. its been sort of transformed into a fairly bustling new city trying to find a new direction. I think it's taking itselfquite seriously into the European Community. It's much more cosmopolitan than it ever was. and there‘s a sniffin the air ofsome sort of determination now about certain areas ofthe city. I think Glasgow had sunk to a fairly depressed condition. and there was
2 é" 3- S s s 3
Tom Conti almost a tacit understanding from the people who lived there that they had to do something about it. so they found the energy to try and redeem the situation.'
('onti will be working on The Quit/x and The Dead up until .lune of next year. and. when he returns to London. will begin rehearsals for a play called .oln Italian Straw Hat. based on a farce by 19th-century French author. Fugene Lafiche. No other films seem to be in the pipeline at this moment. and it turns out that (‘onti‘s view ofthe British Film Industry differs from the flag—waving propaganda of the likes of Welland and Attenborough.
"l’here really isn't a British Film Industry. 'l'here's('hannel 4. which is responsible for most of the production in anland. There are other independent companies. but they don‘t make very many films. so it hardly be called an industry. It would be a bit like talking about the shipbuilding industry on The Clyde. But it does happen. that films are made. I think the main problem with the British Film Industry is that they tend to make films that are worthy. but often rather dull. and inconsistent within the film itself. Take A Room with a View. which is enjoyable. but within the film you find some actors playing realism and some actors playing gross caricatures. There's an unevenness about the direction. On these kinds of things I think people will have to decide what sort of fils they're
making and research them properly.‘
( NI A B ) Heaven/y l’ursuits is showing across Scotland. See l’i/tn Listing.
Loudon Wainwright III cheerfully admits that the question he is most often asked is. ‘What is Alan Alda REALLY Iike‘.”. a reference to the three appearances the American singer made on MAS. H. in 1975. However. although he later spent six months playing the lead in the B roadway stageshow Pump Boys and Dinettes and last year completed his first film performance. in a
comedy called TheS/ugger's Wife (available now from your video shack). his day job is still as a performer ofwry. laconic songs delivered with the stage persona of your favourite drunken uncle. and it‘s as such that he makes a welcome return to Scotland this month.
(The answer to the question. incidentally. is ‘Very nice. although I don‘t think he (Alda) has ever had a martini in his life. to tell you the truth.‘)
He's in town to promote his new LP. More Love Songs. And the man who's been described by reviewers struggling to pigeonhole his unique style as the Woody Allen of Folk and the Jack Nicholson of singer—songwriters. still specialises in an agreeably mordant view of life‘s vicissitudes. He's equally waggish discussing his screen debut: ‘It's about a baseball player in the Atlanta Braves. It cost $20 million to make and Hal Ashby directed it from a Neil Simon screenplay. I had some lines. and they paid me. . .$20
f million. I got for it. in fact. I do this ; singing stuff for fun. I don‘t need this i crap.babe.
‘I get punched in it and I did my
own stunt. I loved it. All my ‘ masochistictendencies emerged.
This guy hit me continually for three days and I fell down.‘
Loudon's thespian bent shows through on stage. For all the excellence ofnew songs like ‘Hard Day on the Planet'. ‘No‘ and the lovely ‘Expatriate’. his live performances showcase a
charismatic stage quality that his I records. despite their technical
merit. lack. This is one performer
who has to be seen to be believed.
Loudon Wainwright is in Glasgow and Edinburgh on 5 (l2 6 ()et. See Music Listings
The elephant on the Fruitmarket (iallery wall is deadly serious. So is its creator. the sculptor Bill Woodrow. As he explained at his home in South London. he's not interested in making jokes or exploring humour. ‘1 always set out
to make a serious thing. Sometimes wit is a by-product ofthat.’
Like a huge old-fashioned wind-up toy. the elephant could be accused of infecting a sense offun. But once
. captured by its visual attractions. it is
hard to avoid the flicker of ideas across the image. The cars are
snipped from maps ofSouth
America and Africa. A machine gun is cradled in its trunk. The head is at
1 once the hunter and the trophy.
Which is it'.’ ‘I‘m not interested in one unique interpretation .' says Woodrow. ‘Some ofthe bigger works (like the elephant) work in a narrative sense almost like a network. You can start at any one point and read things as you go. Then move around and start again. Where was the starting point for the elephant?
‘My image was of it clearing away debris from the water hole. The natural system winning through.’ And the gun'.’ "The gun is a symbol of people‘s achievernnets. Ifthat‘s their symbol. it's pretty pathetic.‘
Woodrow does not mince his words about the species which figures in his work only through suggestion. "l‘he guns came in right at the beginning. It was my response to the media coverage of incidents — whether at a suburban Post Office or Northern Ireland. Iran. Afghanistan. War images come through on tv every day.‘
The Fruitmarket exhibition is Woodrow's first in this country for three years. "The work was too big for the gallery (Lisson) in London and I was very busy showing abroad.‘
Woodrow‘s concentrated energy in recent years has earned him a nomination for the Turner Prize (to be announced on 25 Nov by Melvyn Bragg and carrying a purse of £ 10000). ()f it Woodrow has to say. ‘I hope it turns into something worthwhile. It‘s a way ofpromoting enthusiasm in fineart to a wider audience. it's a way of honouring a particular artist and it's a way of giving the media another angle of getting involved in fine art.‘ (Alice Bainl.
I’ruitmarket ( ia/lery. Edinburgh until2l ()(‘I.
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