ate September, early October in Ullapool and, apart from the odd backpacked tourist or busload of sightseeing OAPs, things are winding down after a busy summer season. Further north, the ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the side of Loch Assynt bring to mind the Hollywood excesses of Highlander as much as the splendour of Scotland’s historic past. Fact and fiction are combining once more in this part of the country, as filming begins for Bill Forsyth’s latest movie, an ambitious $30 million blockbuster that goes under the name of Being Human.
In a bay just south of the Sutherland village of Scourie, the cast and crew are preparing for the ninth day ofthe shoot amidst almost total press silence. The cameras are set in the heart of a breathtaking landscape: rough. rolling hills — one with a man-made
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Robin Williams practices growing a heard in The Fisher King
Bill Forsyth is back filming in Scotland, working on the $30 million epic Being Human with Robin Williams. Alan Morrison went on location.
cave cut into its side, another with a cairn on top — surround a stony beach that leads out to odd dots of islands. Suddenly a wild, bearded figure dressed in primitive leather and animal furs comes running up the hillside with two tousle-haired kids in tow, closely pursued by a handful of similarly clad warriors. A moment later. a voice on a walkie-talkie says ‘Cut’, and everyone goes back to their original positions. A smile breaks across the bearded face: even a megastar like Robin Williams is not averse to playing at being a caveman for a couple of weeks.
Forsyth then decides he wants to shoot some scenes just with Williams and the children, and so the Raiders — a group of twelve young Scots and two Irishmen — find time to relax. Inspired by the setting, the costumes and the Queen soundtrack to Highlander that is the obligatory on-set musical diversion, they amuse themselves striking heroic poses on cliffedges and quoting lines from the film.
‘The shenshation you’re ekshperienshing ish called The Quickening.’
‘Yesh, Highlander, you’re immortal.’
‘My God,’ exclaims Williams. ‘I’m working with fourteen Sean Connery impersonators!’
Being Human reunites Scots director Bill Forsyth with producer David Puttnam. This is the duo who created not only one of the most successful Scottish films of the 805 with Local Hero, but also the gem of Puttnam’s ill-fated twelve months as head of Columbia Pictures, Housekeeping. It’s a real boost for the morale of the Scottish film industry to see them back at work on home turf, particularly as they bring with them a vast American budget and a notable Hollywood star.
The fact that two of the five sections of the film are to be shot in Scotland is proof that the film’s backers have faith in its director, and that he in turn has faith in local talent, both technical and thespian. Being Human is an original script, written by Forsyth, and set in five different time periods throughout history. In each, Robin Williams plays a similar character, a man caught up in some
[THE HILLS HAVE AYES
Ardvreck Castle. a low miles to the south ot the location
form of domestic disarray. The prehistoric section currently filming will be followed by a medieval story (to be shot in Fort William with 300 historical fighting society extras) before the production heads off for Italy, Morocco and New York.
At the moment, Williams is Hector, 3 Scot from 4000BC trying to protect his wife and children from a group of coastal raiders led by a pagan priest played by Robert Carlyle. Carlyle, the star of Ken Loach’s RiffRaff, is also Artistic Director of Glaswegian theatre company Raindog, and his twin talents as
‘Anything we ever thought about stars being aloot was completely
disintegrated by Robin Williams within about two hours. He’s one otthe most sensitive men I’ve ever met.’ Robert Carlyle
actor and director encouraged Forsyth to give him free rein casting and working with the Raiders. Where many a director would have skimped with extras, Forsyth was keen to use genuine actors, and it is clear that this is a tight unit who bounce ideas off each other whether at work or at play.
‘There are a lot of heavily improvised scenes in this, which is something we specialise in at Raindog,’ explains Carlyle. ‘and so it was good to allow me to cast, in certain cases, very experienced Scottish theatre actors for these parts because it adds another dimension to the film. Bill kept talking about laughter, not painting them as savages, so I thought I’ll get together four or five people who make me laugh and hopefully that will be infectious and spread through the rest of the group. And that’s exactly what’s happened.’
The Raiders play their part in creating the atmosphere for what is obviously a very happy and relaxed unit. An air of easy control suffuses the set from Forsyth right down the line. Williams too takes his turn in keeping up the spirits of cast and crew, gliding from Keith Richards impersonations as part of a surreal stand-up for the Raiders to playing pat-a-cake with the young actor cast as his son.
‘Anything we ever thought about stars being aloof was completely disintegrated by Robin Williams within about two hours,’
E'The List 9— 22 October 1992