From humble beginnings as sweetie dealer in Gregory’s Girl to prop man on Shallow Grave, Patrick Harkins has done the rounds in the Scottish film industry. Now he is making his own movie.
Story: Eddie Gibb Photograph: David Edmond
IT ISN’T OFTEN that the right place and right time coincide in Cumbernauld. but for a thirteen-year-old Patrick Harkins that was indeed the place to be. In I979, Scottish director Bill Forsth was looking for young actors for his teen comedy Gregory's Girl: Harkins decided he was the boy for the job and auditioned. He got the part as the school confectionery dealer. but ended up being rather more fascinated by what went on behind the camera. Although Harkins hadn‘t quite worked it out yet, what he wanted to be was a film director.
Now, aged 29, he is. After working for more than ten years as props man on films by Mike Leigh, Michael Caton-Jones. Derek Jarman, and on Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, Harkins has been hired to direct his first movie, an adaptation of James Hawes‘s thriller. A White Mere With Fins. A self- consciously post-Tarantino story about a bunch of bedsit slackers who plan a bank job in London, the book contains the makings of a cult movie.
‘lt’s very much end of the Tory reign. things coming to a head, end of the millennium, post-modernist — very much a now book,’ says Harkins.
The industry whisper is that John Hodge. who earned himself an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of Trainspotting, has been lined up as screenwriter. Due to shoot this summer, the movie is likely to be marketed as a Brit-thriller successor to Shallow Grave. In short, it’s a pretty hip gig, which if successful could project Harkins into the select group of young filmmakers deemed groovy enough to work in America.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. What is already done and dusted is Harkins’s half-hour film for BBC Scotland’s Mind The Gap season. which is intended to give writers and directors the chance to expand beyond the confines of a Tartan Short.
Love Me Tender, written by another rising talent John Milarky. is a charmingly nostalgic piece about a rock ’n’ roll-obsessed couple. set in I960, the year the demobbed Elvis touched down briefly at Prestwick on his way home from Germany. Rose White (Julie Graham) swoons, while her husband Billy (Stuart McQuarrie) curls his lip.
‘It is very nostalgic, the music and the dress,’ says Harkins. ‘The whole Elvis mania stuff is very deep-rooted and I think in the west of Scotland we‘ve always looked to America. 1 based the look of the characters on my own family. My mother loved Elvis — l
14 TIIELIS'I' 21 Feb-6 Mar 1997
Patrick Harkins: in the driver's seat for A White Merc With Fins
remember her coming in crying from work when Elvis died.‘
The idea of people living out a popular culture fantasy may be the connection between Love Me Tender and White Mere. in which the bank robbers are all too aware of that they are acting like characters in a Hollywood heist movie. Harkins has also proved he can do action with The Last Ten Minutes, a John
Hodge short about a casualty patient which was shot to make ER look sluggish.
Or perhaps the real reason is that as a seasoned props man, he would know exactly where to lay his hands on an open-topped white Mercedes. With fins, naturally.
Mind The Gap starts on Sat 22 Feb, BBC1; Love Me Tender is on Sat 1 Mar.