Cumbernauld revisted: Bill Forsyth on the set of Gregory’s Mo Girls

Bill Forsyth

Bill Forsyth has almost single-handedly reshaped modern Scottish cinema over the past twenty years with his charming, witty, idiosyncratic films. The first, That Sinking Feeling, was shot in his hometown, Glasgow, with a cast assembled from his local youth theatre. Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero and Comfort And Joy followed. The next three were shot in America, and although Housekeeping and Breaking In were well- received, Being Human bombed at the US box office and promptly vanished along with Forsyth’s film output. Five years on Forsyth revisits to Cumbernauld, the setting of arguably his best-loved film, with Gregory’s Two Girls.

Forsyth’s sequel sees Gregory teaching English at his old school. Approaching middle age, he’s still a child at heart with an unresolved emotional life: does he commit to a relationship with fellow teacher Bel (Maria Doyle Kennedy), or does he have a fling with his student Frances (newcomer Carly McKinnon)? Once again, Greg’s played by John Gordon-Sinclair. ’T here was really no point in pursuing the idea unless Gordie was up for it,’ says Forsyth. 'I didn’t think “who is Gregory, what kind of growth has he gone through 7" Maybe

that’s because I knew Gordie was going to play him - that was money in the bank. All the elements were there.’

In the years between Being Human and Gregory’s Two Girls, Forsyth has developed other scripts. His next film is likely to be a supernatural tale for young people, inspired by time spent with his two teenage sons. ’T he idea of making a movie which is just going to entertain people has suddenly appealed to me,’ he says. ’No doubt by the time I do it, it will be burdened with lots of other things.’

Forsyth has also suffered harsh criticisms since Being Human. ’lt’s to do with a certain amount of disinformation and unfortunately the press are a little guilty of it,’ he suggests. 'T hey have this parochial thing that if you’re in Hollywood you’ve got to be like Steven Spielberg or you’re a flop. But I’m very proud of Being Human. Strangely enough I ran it at a festival in New Mexico in May this year. There was a really, really good response from an ordinary American audience. That’s the really good thing about movies; they've got lives.’ (Miles Fielder)

I Gregory’s Two Girls opens Fri 15 Oct. See preview (below) and review.


Teacher’s pet: Carly McKinnon. John Gordon-Sinclair and Maria Doyle Kennedy in

until we were on set filming.’

The new Bill Forsyth film would make a great screen debut for any Scottish actor. The role of Frances is pivotal to the belated maturing of Gregory Underwood. ’Bill said a lot of filmmakers show children up to be kind of naive, kind of stupid,’ says McKinnon. ‘He wanted to show how a younger character can change the life of an older character.’

High praise for Bill, then? ’Bill discussed with me what he wanted from the character. He's notorious for not being specific, but that was good because it gave me scope. He really was prepared to sit down before every

Carly McKinnon

Bill Forsyth reckons that Carly McKinnon, one of Gregory’s Two Girls, ’wasn’t at that time at all serious about acting. It was just something she liked doing and was extremely good at. She's a very, very smart girl,’ enthuses her director. ’Hers is not just an instinctive performance, she's really acting.’ High praise indeed and from one of Scotland's great filmmakers. McKinnon became interested in

Gregory’s Mo Girls

acting in her pre-teens. Local youth theatres and school dramas led to a

part in Raindog theatre company's _

production of Romeo And Juliette at the Strathclyde Arts Centre. She landed the part of Frances in Gregory’s Two Girls, her first film role, after several auditions. ’I was studying for my Highers and rehearsing at the same time,’ she recalls. ’I sat my Higher English the day after I had been filming for one of the scenes. It was really very, very strange. It never really sunk in

scene and talk it over.‘

McKinnon is about to begin studying Scottish and English literature at Edinburgh University with a view towards postgraduate journalism. Not that she‘s putting her acting career on hold: ’Being at university is a bit of a part-time thing really. I know that sounds terrible, but you get huge Easter and Summer holidays. I won't be the first actress with two careers.’ (Miles Fielder)

I Gregory’s Two Girls opens Fri 15 Oct. See preview (above) and review.

preview FILM Ana Kokkinos

’When some financiers read the script they freaked out 'cause we'd written it in an explicit and in-your-face style,’ says Ana Kokkinos, director of Head On, the Australian sleeper film of the year. A graphic and stunning account of Ari’s (Alex Dimitriades) long nights journey into the Melbourne morning with the help of sex, drugs and (police) violence, Head On is without doubt the most exciting and shocking Australasian film we have seen on these shores since Once Were Warriors.

Kokkinos has no regrets: ’The script is adapted from a book called Loaded, written by Christos Tsiolkas, a Melbourne-based writer. In making the film, I tried to capture a visceral, kinetic energy on screen which is Ari’s energy during this 24 hour odyssey through a Melbourne urban landscape. There was a lot of resistance to me getting money to make the film. But I was up- front about my approach to the film. I was honest with our backers. And I would not countenance watering it down.’

Kokkinos, whose first film Only The Brave was acclaimed Down Under, says her film, 'deals with sexuality, ethnicity, race and class and the way these things collide'. Head On certainly throws up some thorny issues, but this is not a problem for a director who counts among her influences Scorsese, Almodovar and Dame Judi Dench. What really surprises about Head On, though, is the unapolegetic approach to cross-gender sexuality - it is Ari's friend Johnny (Paul Capsis), a cross- dressing mother-fixated openly gay Serbian, who is the hero of the film. ’Johnny carries the heart of the picture,’ says Kokkinos. 'He challenges Ari to be free through declaring who he is, to stand up for who he is, whereas Ari believes that to be free you have to keep secrets.’

Boasting the pace and structure you would expect of a veteran filmmaker, and with a great soundtrack and a remarkable lead performance, Kokkinos’s film is a hyper-real collision waiting to happen. Put your helmets on. (Paul Dale)

I Head On opens Fri 15 Oct. See review.


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Unapologetic: Ana Kokkinos, director of Head On

7-21 Oct 1999 THE "8119