The gang show
Acclaimed for her stage work, HELEN McCRORY is a newcomer to the big screen. But if The James Gang is anything to go by, she'll be a huge star soon enough. Words: Alan Morrison
IF IT WAS a real life story. the tabloids would go wild over the ‘human interest’ angle: ‘Young mother uses kids as decoys in shoplifting spree.” The James Gang. written by Scottish playwright Stuart Hepburn. dips a toe now and then into a Roddy Doyle-style working-class world. but its comic crime scenario lies on top of a more desperate social agenda.
Helen McCrory plays Bernadette. a woman struggling to bring up a troupe of cheeky Scots kids while her waster of a husband fritters away his time and money in London. When their Pilton home is firebombed. it‘s time to join daddy down south. but complications arise — including the shoplifting escapades — and pretty soon the family are Public Enemy Number One. Bernie’s not acting out of maliciousness or greed. however: her only mission in life is to keep her family clothed and fed. whatever the cost.
‘lt’s a story about a woman forced to act outside society.’ reckons McCrory. ‘You see her going to her husband. and it’s a closed door there; and you see her going to the DHSS. and it’s a closed door there. Instead of the film turning into a very bleak. desperate tragedy — which is the tradition of British cinema — it reverses and becomes this rather fantastic. surreal. multicoloured world of abstract locations and quite comic situations.
‘It‘s not a film about a woman who’s overpowered or crippled by society. who sits and drinks her sorrows away and ignores her children. Hopefully it‘s
20 THE LIST 28 May — 11 Jun 1998
‘I can sing you every song in the Scottish folk repertoire, every Welsh song ever done.’
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Mother's pride: Helen McCrory with Lauren McMurray and Lauren McCracken
a life-affirming and optimistic film. I think Stuart would be rather horrified if there was a rash of robberies and supermarket hold-ups across the country — “Hepburn made us do it.“ says The .S'un.’
McCrory is a hot property in London theatre circles. having trodden the capital‘s boards doing Shakespeare and Shaw. For a while. her only fame in front of a camera was thanks to Neil Jordan. who cast her as ‘Second New Orleans Whore‘ in Interview With The Vampire. Then came Karl Francis' BBC Wales drama Street/ilk). which screened to acclaim at the I995 Edinburgh Film Festival. McCrory’s performance as an unmarried mother driven to infanticide was devastating. filled with more emotion than a dozen Ken Loach films.
She admits .S‘treetlife gave her exposure that theatre couldn‘t dream of. and since then she’s appeared with Phil Daniels in BBC Scotland's Stand. Anrl Deliver — for which she spent several months living in Glasgow — and British thriller l)a(l Savage. which opens in Scottish cinemas this fortnight.
Aithough in conversation McCrory speaks with a perfect English accent. her roles in Streeter and The James (Ia/1g called upon her to master Welsh and Scottish dialects — which is rather apt. given her background.
‘My dad‘s from Glasgow. my mum‘s from Cardiff.‘ she explains. ‘but I was born in London. then brought up in Norway. Cameroon. Tanzania. Madagascar and Paris. But I can sing you every song in the Scottish folk repertoire. every Welsh song ever done. It‘s always a problem for immigrant children because they desperately want to belong to these countries because their parents are from these countries. Although you consider yourself Scottish. when you open your mouth everyone goes. “So. you‘re English‘.’". And you say. “No. I'm Scottish". But are you? Because. if you‘ve never lived here . . . '
With talent like hers. Scotland should stake its claim straight away.
The James Gang opens on Fri 29 May. See review, page 25.
The column that didn’t go to Cannes - bah!
CONGRATULATIONS TO PETER MULLAN, who won the Best Actor award at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his role as a reformed alcoholic in Ken Loach’s My Name Is Joe. Long thought of in these quarters as the best actor in Scotland, Mullan reportedly received the unanimous backing of the festival jury, chaired by Martin Scorsese. The 37-year-old - whose astonishing short film Fridge confirmed his behind-the-camera talents — also saw his feature film directorial debut, Orphans, screen in the Cannes marketplace.
Wearing the dress Gordon kilt and a white tuxedo, Mullan accepted the award at a star-studden ceremony at which Scottish filmmaker (and former 'Famespotting' subject) Lynne Ramsay came runner up in the short film category with Gasman. Ramsay won the prize two years ago with her film school graduation work, Small Deaths.
NATIONAL CINEMA DAY returns on Sunday 7 June, offering film-goers across the country the opportunity to see any film screening at a participating cinema for half price. Included are some special previews of as-yet-unreleased movies, so check the Film Listings for details. And remember that last year 1.4 million people turned up at their local cinemas, so get along early.
THE STELLA ARTOIS Screen will be back in Edinburgh this August, teaming up with the Edinburgh International Film Festival for that unique outdoor movie experience. From Friday 21-Sunday 23 August, a
; selection of Hammer Horror and ? glam rock films will be screened.
The latter prompts Rough Cuts to wonder if Velvet Goldmine, starring Ewan McGregor and Eddie Izzard in Todd Haynes' story of a missing glam rock star, might be ready for its British premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
Cannes do: Best Actor Peter Mullan in Trainspotting