boy‘s imagination. Thankfully, perhaps remarkably, Gordon Strachan avoids cloying Hollywood precocity in a promising performance that‘s entirely appropriate to the film‘s European feel, it‘s calmly humane detachment redolent of an Ermano Olmi or a Louis Malle.
Never crass enough to coat the stark emotional truth of the material with a superficial gloss of sentiment. Venus Peter is also served by one of Ray McAnally‘s most quietly moving performances. His award-winning Labour PM in A Very British Coup or his unsympathetic alcoholic father from My Left Foot might display the effortless fireworks of which he was capable. but. according to Ian Sellar. his character here came closest to evoking the paternal, steadfast core of the real himself. ‘Ray had a sense of himself as the grandfather by being around Gordon and having someone react truthfully to him. Actors aren‘t used to that kind of response. but it was very generous of him not to pretend. When his family saw the film. they felt that it was very much their father up there on screen.‘
Venus Peter (12) plays the Glasgow Cannon Sauchiehall Street, Cannon Falkirk, and the Edinburgh Cameo from Fri 8 December. See film listings for full details. Christopher Rush ’3 ‘A Twelvemonth And A Day' is published by Aberdeen University Press at £12. 95 in hardback and £4. 95 in soft covers.
Director David Leland and his crew finished a nine-week shoot on The Big Man in Ayrshire and Glasgow last weekend. Perhaps surprisingly. it will be the first feature film to be made from one of William McIllvanney‘s novels. As it happened though. the filming coincided with the shooting of an adaptation of one his short stories. Dreaming. by the BBC. with a screenplay courtesy of McIlvanney himself. Perhaps with this recent experience in mind. the author admits that he put off reading Don McPherson‘s version of the The Big Man until the last minute.
‘It‘s a peculiar business reading something like that. and there was nothing I could do ifl hated it anyway. From reading the script. though, and from talking to the people involved. I think that the spirit ofthe book will be realised in the film, and I think that is really as much as you can ask.‘
.2‘ " i-r. ‘ . (if;
" Va, ‘ :I./. 3 r ’ﬁ
Grandfather (Ray McAnally) watches Peter (Gordon Strachan) watching Venus in Venus Peter
Mclllvanney‘s acceptance of the differing demands of film and literature extends to the more explicit politicization of the script. in which Danny Scoular. in a pre-credit sequence which does not exist in the original. is arrested during the Miner‘s Strike. That link is. McIlIvanney says. ‘perfectly valid. The Big Man is about the Thatcher era. and the film-makers were able to see that in the sub-structure of the bookf
The Big Man is set in the imaginary Ayrshire town ofThornbank. and in Glasgow. and stars Liam Neeson in the title role of Danny Scoular. an unemployed miner but minor local hero who is given the chance to earn some money in a bare-knuckle fight staged by two Glasgow bookmakers. Matt Mason (Ian Bannen) and Cam Colvin (Maurice Roeves). Encouraged by Frankie White (a clean-shaven Billy Connolly). a small-time crook on the make. Danny takes up the challenge against the opposition of his wife. Beth (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer).
The fight and its aftermath becomes more than simply a physical contest. however. and forces Danny into an examination ofeverything that his life has stood for. or failed to stand for. and reaches beyond himselfinto the community which he represents. For both David Leland and Liam Neeson. it is the focal point ofthe entire film. the hub around which everything else must revolve.
‘The fight took place outside in the book.‘ Leland said. ‘but we took it into a kind of pit which becomes
Danny‘s inferno. We shot the fight scenes in week three. and I remember the incredible intensity that had built up by the time we did the final takes. The following week was the most difficult one of the whole shoot. it was such an anti-climax.‘
‘lt was a very emotionally demanding sequence.‘ Neeson agreed. ‘but physically l was well-prepared for it. I put in a lot of work prior to shooting. and I didn‘t get a single bruise or cut the whole week. even though Rab Afflick and l were really landing the body punches. Both David and myself were desperate to ensure that the fight looked real. and not the usual Hollywood nonsense.‘
‘I refused to use stuntmen for the fight sequences.‘ Leland confirmed. ‘When we arrived in Glasgow. we set out looking for people who could play Danny‘s opponent. (.‘utty Dawson. and we were lucky enough to find two. We chose Rab for the part in the end. and I am very proud of the fact that we don‘t have a stunt fight on screen — what we have is two actors acting a fight. which is a very different thing.‘
Leland‘sother major consideration in making the film has been to ensure that it achieves a genuinely cinematic scope. The Big Man is not intended to be a small film. a fact emphasised by the signing of Ennio Morricone to compose the music.
‘When I first read the script.‘ Leland said. ‘I had a very definite image of how it would look in my I
mind. and filming has largely been an attempt to get as close as possible to that original image. When I showed the script to my cameraman. Ian Wilson. he actually turned it down because he didn't think it could be all that interesting in a visual sense. and I had to do a lot of persuading to make him change his mind. Once we were here. though. he saw the possibilites as well.‘
'(ietting Morrieone is a great coup.’ Neeson agreed. ‘l le writes for the big screen. and this film is a big screen film. it's not a small British social drama-doc. It will fill that big rectangle alright.‘
The llollywood-based Neeson. a much—in-demand actor these days. has been committed to the film since producer Steven Woolley ‘gave me the book two years ago. when we were making High Spirits. I loved it instantly. it had everything you could want from an actor‘s point of view. It was a role you could really get your teeth into. that you could prepare for. and you could dictate terms on.‘
l.iam made constant reference to the book for guidance in working out the role throughout the long gestation period. and carried a copy with him throughout filming.
.\'eeson heads a strong cast in what promises to be a major film. if the one which [)avid Leland and his colleagues finally put on screen is anything near as good as the one which they all clearly believe they are making. 'l'here is still a long way to go in the editing suite before that is achieved. but the omens are good. The Big Man nil/open ttt'xlyeur.
The List 8— 21 December 19895