Local Hero

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    Craig @craig

    The first entry in what will probably be an irregular Capaldi retrospective. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to give you ‘Local Hero’.

    The internet tells me this is Peter Capaldi’s first role, but somewhere in the back of my mind I think I remember he did something before (other than be in a punk band with Craig Ferguson). Maybe someone can enlighten me.

    It’s a beautiful, humourous movie that has a touch of the old Ealing comedies, especially Whisky Galore. An American oil company representative is sent to a village on the west coast of Scotland to purchase the town and surrounding property so that it can be exploited.

    Written and directed by the brilliant Bill Forsyth who started with Gregory’s Girl, it stars the effortless Peter Riegert, the fantasticly engaging Denis Lawson, the wonderful Fulton Mackay, the captivating Jenny Seagrove and the legend that is Burt Lancaster alongside a very young Capaldi.

    I love it. If you haven’t seen it, what’s wrong with you?

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @craig – he had a tiny part in the film Living Apart Together (so did John Gordon Sinclair).

    Never seen it, but from the description it’s set around the Glasgow music scene.

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    A wonderful and very funny film. It’s one of those films you either love or you haven’t seen it.

    ichabod @ichabod

    I saw in interview at some point with Capaldi in which he said he learned to swear from Burt Lancaster while filming Local Hero — which set him up brilliantly, of course, for The Thick of It and In the Loop later on.  Local Hero is a truly charming film, although what I’ve picked up about Lancaster as a person over the years isn’t.  Never mind, what you don’t know can’t depress you . . . and Capaldi seems to have survived working with Lancaster perfectly well.  He also said in that interview that he’d never done any acting before, and had absolutely no idea how to do *anything*, which is probably why he applied to be accepted at RADA.

    Luckily, they turned him down — I think that would have been the ruin of him, or at least a mess he would have had to spend years working his way out of.

    Anonymous @

    brilliant film

    David Puttnam  -produced of course (who also did The Mission @thekrynoidman amongst other great things) and the score, Mark Knopfler who ended his last intimate concert at the local basement with the theme from Local Hero

    Thanks @craig. I hadn’t actually ever seen the whole thing -bits on Youtube till now.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    It’s a great film, and the mighty Fulton Mackay (a once upon a time serious contender to be the fourth Doctor, which would have made him the first Scottish one) steals the show for me. But there’s not a bad performance here and Bill Forsyth delivers a charming script and visualises it perfectly. It looks amazing — mostly filmed in Pennan, in Aberdeenshire. The phone box was originally a prop but because of popular demand, a real one was installed a few years later. (Thus giving local journalists something to write about at inordinate and tedious length for years to come.)

    And yet, despite it being probably his best known film, I’d have to say it’s not my favourite Forsyth film. I think Gregory’s Girl has a sharper, more acutely observed script, and I prefer Comfort & Joy overall. Local Hero tends to have one eye too fixed on the international markets for my liking, its portrayal of Scotland just a bit too on the cutesey, picture postcard-ey side. As a movie, it’s a close relative of Whisky Galore and Powell & Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going.

    On the plus side, it manages the amazing feat of making Mark Knopfler’s guitar strummings remotely bearable.

    On Capaldi, he doesn’t really have a whole lot to do — just gangle about and be fecklessly in love (anyone think there is something remotely eleventh Doctor-ish about him in this movie?) But he’s definitely got charm and a significant screen presence. You can see the potential there for the future, even if he doesn’t exactly set this film alight.

    Barbara Lefty @barbaralefty

    Do love it. Haven’t seen it since our VCR died years ago. Will have to remedy with a DVD. It is cutesy, but the delightfully venal villagers avert the cute.

    Something about it struck me as recalling Greenvoe by George Mackay Brown, only with humour and where everyone ends up poor but happy, rather than miserable and dispossessed. We’ve done that, culturally speaking, so I appreciate the light touch.

    Also no one gets burnt in a giant Wooden effigy.

    So good all round really.




    Craig @craig

    @barbaralefty You unfortunately reminded me of this – Muppets vs The Wicker Man. Miss Piggy gives me nightmares.

    Barbara Lefty @barbaralefty

    Terrifying, Craig. Thank God no orgy scene, although Piggy as Willow is inspired casting, but nightmare fuel, right enough.

    I think Local Hero was one of the first pieces of film I remember seeing which portrayed a Scotland I recognised at all, although there were obviously others, like the afore mentioned Gregory’s Girl. It also impressed on me that one doesn’t need to be scrupulously honest when telling the stories which tell us about ourselves 😉 Anyway, special for me.

    Had totally forgotten Capaldi was Danny. Lovely wee role.

    Craig @craig

    Found this nice little extra doc which is well worth a watch.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @craig — that’s an excellent little docu. Bill Forsyth a big hero of mine. (Apart from Gregory and His 2 Girls, that is) I even think Being Human is an interesting failure and not as awful is it’s usually made out to be. Saw him gave a talk before a showing of said film at the GFT and it was really interesting.

    And Henry Winkler would have been all wrong for Mac. Peter Riegert was just great, I think.

    @barbaralefty — Yes, the basic plot is essentially the same as Greenvoe, isn’t it. Without all the paganism and relentless Orcadian bleakness. I do definitely think there’s something of Powell/Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going in there too though. The essential message is the same and the portrayal of the women — especially Stella — is very similar.

    Barbara Lefty @barbaralefty

    @craig, @jimthefish, was fascinating to watch, the work and integrity of Forsyth and the faith of Puttnam is apparent. Was an interesting point about the women, Stella and Marina, Sky and sea. In a way it did reduce them to symbols, over idealised, but Forsyth plainly believed it to be the case that women were often just different. I was thinking about this as a counter point to our (read Whovians) debate over the realism of certain female characters. There have always been characters which are symbols in storytelling, just as there are people who fulfill role for us in our lives I suppose. Which is a rambly way of saying, in this instance, I don’t mind. They were interesting and rounded enough.

    ichabod @ichabod

    @craig — really interesting piece on Local Hero.   These guys certainly produced a little gem of a film, exactly in the tradition they were aiming for.  As for the women, well, I accepted them as fine at the time and I don’t think I even noticed “Sky and Sea” as pointers to their symbolic function in the story.  I don’t recall the details of the movie well at this distance, but I think the rest of the story was pretty much entirely male-centered, so if the two women hadn’t served that symbolic purpose, I suspect that there might not have been any women in the film with more than a line or two, if that.  Heck, if you keep track of the statistical analyses that turn up from time to time, we’re still far from representing the real-world presence of women in movies (that aren’t aimed largely at female audiences, that is).

    Craig @craig

    Just another extra. Y’know that guy Kermode that loves great movies and doesn’t like bad movies. He loves ‘Local Hero’. A lot. Here he meets up with Bill Forsyth on location for the 25th Anniversary. I found this quite moving.

    ichabod @ichabod

    Ah, that’s lovely, Craig; thank you.  One of the places I made a point of visiting (once I finally got out of New York and overseas for the first time, teaching with the Peace Corps in Nigeria) was the west coast of Scotland.  Went bombing around everywhere by train by myself, very happily.  My husband and I went about 20 yrs later; I’m hoping to visit once more, on my own again, and this time I’d like to go by the red phone box, provided I don’t have to drive — I don’t trust myself as a driver on the “wrong” side of the road.

    The movie feels like a kind of last hurrah before the devouring monstrosity of Globalization set in for keeps, by way of gutting the planet once and for all, looks like.  It’s good to see a place like this that doesn’t have a g.d. casino on the cliff top . . . or is that a US blight that hasn’t hit the UK yet, and maybe not forever?

    Damn.  And here I thought I was in a *good* mood . . .

    ScaryB @scaryb

    @craig Ah, thank you so much for this. And for The Muppets vs Wicker Man (ROFLd at that ). And the Kermode clip – great stuff. And yes very moving. Wee bit of dust floating about there…

    @jimthefish I’ve probably mentioned this before, but did you ever catch Bill Forsyth’s 1st film, made on a budget of 1 peanut (or possibly a stolen sink!) That Sinking Feeling

    (Starts with discussion of various ways of committing suicide, starting with drowning yourself in cornflakes and milk! It’s black and brilliant)

    lisa @lisa

    @scaryb – didn’t quite catch what all the said but no matter cause I could still ‘feel’
    what they said in that clip of ‘That Sinking Feeling’ which was what you need to ultimately
    have in any successful and brilliant film ! thanks so much for sharing

    Always loved the ‘Local Hero’ flick! It hit a nerve from the first viewing and remains
    a favorite all thru the years!

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @scaryb — ah yes, That Sinking Feeling. Also a great little movie. I’d say stronger for script than direction as Forsyth seemed to be still to find his confidence in terms of directing actors (who are really great and more than a few of them find their way into Gregory’s Girl, I seem to remember.

    I love Forsyth so much because, like Cassavetes, he showed that if you truly want to get out there and make a movie and have people see it then there are always going to be ways to make that happen. You’ve just got to get out there and do it. And that’s even more true today than it was for those guys because the obstacles they faced were greater.

    ScaryB @scaryb


    Completely agree with that. It was Forsyth’s first film as a director  (he wrote and produced it a well) and most of the actors were from Glasgow Youth Theatre (except Ricky Demarco, but he was playing himself! 😉 ). So you can forgive him for being on a learning curve with it! But it has a freshness about it that shines through, not to mention pitch black humour. And it was 1979 so not that many films being made about “Glesca schemies*” back then! Not to mention that the basic equipment for filming was so much more expensive – none of yer digital stuff back then pal!

    I think it was released on DVD last year, must try to track it down again.

    Just got to get out and do it

    You do indeed.

    Still need the idea/vision first though. If you’ve not got that all the fancy kit in the world won’tmake good art  😉



    @lisa Thanks. It’s not a great quality clip, but glad you “got it”.  It’s interesting how you can pick up a sense of things even when you don’t understand all the dialect


    *Babel Fish Translation Services – Young people from a rough neighbourhood (scheme) in Glasgow; probably up to no good!

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    I’ve got a question. I haven’t seen any of Bill Forsyth’s other films, which ones would you recommend I watch?

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @thekrynoidman — I’d say the three Forsyth films to watch are:

    Gregory’s Girl. A brilliant, warm little film about adolescence, growing up and the essential absurdity of school. Very true and very funny.

    Comfort & Joy. For me, Forsyth’s best film. Starring the mighty Bill Paterson as a radio DJ whose life and career goes on the slide at Christmas time while simultaneously getting caught up in the infamous Glasgow ice-cream wars.

    Being Human. A big, sprawling shaggy dog of a film. Largely considered a failure but I think it qualifies as an interesting one. Robin Williams plays an ordinary man in love reborn through multiple points in history, starting as a caveman and ending in the present day.


    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    @scaryb — the remastered version of That Sinking Feeling is definitely worth picking up. Just got it in Fopp for £9. Both DVD and Blu-Ray included and has a shedload of excellent features with it too.

    janetteB @janetteb

    I first watched Local Hero as part of a Film festival, (small “indie” films were only ever shown in Adelaide back then once a year under the film festival banner), when I was a student. I loved it then and does not surprise me that it is one of Kermode’s favourite films. As a critic that raises him a few notches in my estimation. (Not that he needed it.) It is the kind of film I love, small in budget, high in creative vision and integrity.

    Perhaps because I saw it when first living in London but I had a better recollection of Gregory’s Girl but I had forgotten about Local Hero until it was mentioned here when the name of Peter Capaldi was first mentioned as a possible Doctor Twelve. I quickly acquired it and enjoyed it as much as when I first watched it. (Now to find Gregory’s Girl.)

    Though not filmed on the West Coast of Scotland it references what to me is one of the last great magical landscapes, the rugged Scottish west coast. (the east coast is pretty cool too as is everything in between.) Speaking as someone several generations removed, (and lowland Scots at that) I felt rather like the American character, drawn in and going native through the course of the film.

    Having watched the docos I now need to visit the East Coast when I next return to Scotland. (sadly not in the foreseeable future) for my dream trip which is to travel up the west coast, ferry out to the islands, then boat off to Iceland.

    Lastly it is interesting hear the comments about Peter in this, virtually his first role. How much of his character is acted and how much is real I wonder. There is a little of that uncertainty in his immediate post regeneration Doctor. In Local Hero he is discovering that he can act, in Doctor Who he is discovering that he can be the iconic hero he has loved since childhood.



    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @jimthefish Thanks

    ichabod @ichabod

    JeanetteB — recent interview with Dan Starkey, in which he comments (toward the end) on Capaldi being pretty damn nervous on the first day of filming, and the production crew sitting at their monitors whispering, “Yes!  Yes!” as the actor hit mark after mark, gaining confidence as he went.  That dovetails nicely with “discovering that he can be” the Doctor:

    Capaldi has stressed many times how completely lost he felt as an actor in “Local Hero” and other early performances; I think maybe that goes back to having been rejected early by RADA, and not getting that formal training common to top-rung UK actors.  That must make a tougher road, but a road that perhaps leads to a much more distinctively personal style, in this case beautifully suited to Doctor #12.



    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    I don’t really have a huge amount to say about Local Hero – not because I dislike it or anything; quite the opposite. It’s a little gem of a film.

    It’s also a nice satire on ‘Scotland the fairytale’. The Americans come in and see this beautiful, idyllic, mythic land – and the people who actually live there are working two or three jobs to keep afloat. They can’t even afford to eat the lobsters they catch. No wonder all that money is so tempting.

    It’s the Russian sailor who quotes the saying common to Northern England as well as to Scotland: ‘You can’t eat the scenery.’

    It’s also a nice touch that the villagers aren’t all that delighted at the happy ending. Okay, there’ll be money and jobs and they’ll get to keep their homes as well. But for a moment, they thought they were going to be rich. It really would take people a wee while to realise that they did, in the end, get the better deal.

    ichabod @ichabod

    @bluesqueakpip — It might take even longer now, since we’ve been living in the age of official lotteries replacing decent job prospects . . . you get rich quick, or you can’t even afford to stop working *ever*, at least in the US these days.

    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Just to say that Local Hero is not yet forgotten, there’s a nice little profile in the National today….

    Apparently the phone box is in urgent need of some TLC though…..

    Arbutus @arbutus

    I loved this film when it first came out, absolutely loved it. The fabulous scenery and the quirky characters, so many absolutely hilarious lines that just don’t translate when you try to repeat out of context– you simply can’t explain why things are funny. And I loved the metamorphosis Mac undergoes as he walks along that lovely shoreline every day.

    I’ve read in the past about the placing of the phone box there so as not to disappoint the tourists. I always find it interesting the way people want to rush about the world seeing the spots where things were filmed. It’s a beautiful beach and a lovely village, but I expect there are loads just as nice all over Scotland. I think that when I go to Scotland, I’d rather discover my own!  🙂

    Prior to his appearance as Twelve, this is the only work of Capaldi’s that I had seen, so I’m looking forward to working through the rest of the retrospective. Thanks for putting these up, @craig!

    Dentarthurdent @dentarthurdent

    I came across this on DVD in a charity shop, so bought it (mainly because I remembered Mark Knopfler did the music). Watched it the other day – wasn’t till the intro credits I realised Peter Capaldi was in it. And I recognised him quicker from his voice than his looks – he’s got craggier and more characterful with age.

    I dimly remembered the plot as “ruthless American tycoon buys up little village to evict the reluctant locals and destroy it” – which was almost completely wrong (or at least, so incomplete as to be misleading). There were no real villains in this film – the nearest might be the couple of geotechnical engineers who happily contemplated building the refinery. And the film didn’t really have a Message. I did like the way Capaldi’s character quickly capitalised on the tycoon’s eccentricity for stargazing to promote the observatory idea. Best viewed in a relaxed mood and let the story and scenery gently wash over you, I think.

    Incidentally, the movie theme ‘Wild Theme’ aka ‘Going Home’ is one of Knopfler’s most beautiful compositions, the first time I heard the live version from their ‘On The Night’ DVD it brought tears to my eyes. It still does. I’ll see if I can give a link

    Dentarthurdent @dentarthurdent

    Oh, and one thing more – I never could figure out just who the ‘local hero’ was.

    janetteB @janetteb

    @dentarthurdent Local Hero has become one of my favourite films over the years after the re watch discussed above. Peter Capaldi is so young and fresh faced it it. One thing  I noted is that he runs like a penguin. He is clearly not athletic, young or old. In other regards however he has changed completely, from that fresh faced boy who did not seem to know what to do in front of the camera.

    There are so many things I love about the film, setting, actors, script which I know almost off by heart and the music. I saw Dire Straights perform below the old walls of Jerusalem. That was a memorable night.

    There is no obvious local hero, no obvious hero for that matter. The rabbit? I think the hero is the town itself and the landscape, or maybe it is Ben the beach comber, a thoroughly un-heroic character.



    syzygy @thane16

    @janetteb @dentarthurdent

    I think Local Hero is a gem, isn’t it? Definitely, as you say, a fresh faced Peter Capaldi adding to the film’s quirkiness & as for “hero,” I think one could debate for hours as to his/their identity,  when, yes, Janette, it’s the town, even Happer & Mac, who’s faced with the contrasting, hectic lifestyle of his own city when the job’s complete.

    The messages are pretty infused throughout the entire film, I would think: over reliance upon oil, the concept of community & the death of, community elders themselves and their own ancestry (& the significance of their stories), the “everyman executive” & the loss of individualism within corporate empires or entities: but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the film!

    Kindest, Puro.

    Dentarthurdent @dentarthurdent

    @janetteb If I was forced to nominate the ‘local hero’ I might suggest Ben, but maybe that’s just me being subversive. But I tend to agree with you, there isn’t really a definite one.

    @thane16 Puro – yes there could be messages sprinkled throughout the film, but they are so low-key they’re not obvious. If anything the film tends to undercut such messages. For just one example the pristine remoteness is belied by the RAF roaring overhead dropping practice bombs. Or the rabbit, which they carefully look after – until the innkeeper makes it into a stew. But that’s the fate of many rabbits around there, and the innkeeper/accountant isn’t a bad guy.
    At no point does the film hammer you over the head with THE MESSAGE in, dare I say it, Doc13 fashion.

    syzygy @thane16


    I think that the undercutting of the message in Local Hero, is part of the message. At least to me.

    I think there were no larger messages in Doctor 13 than other historical series. There were fascinating moral quandaries in The War Games, from memory.

    The very first serial examining the Thals, & the subsequent anti-war & anti-pacifist stance (confusing) then reminds me of The Brigadier’s horrendous choice in Dr Who and The Silurians -with a similar undertone in Chibnall’s Hungry Earth. Then I think of the Curse of Peladon & its ‘unique’ set of messages.

    Aaand then there’s Inferno…. also laden with messages about protecting earth’s natural resources & the horror of …rubbish dumps… 😀

    I think we can agree that climate activism in stories is important but that sledgehammers are tricky devices to be used occasionally. Perhaps we felt flattened once too many times?

    in the end I did love Doc13. She had a passion I engaged with & behind the rapid fire talk, or the lack of existential debate, there was sadness behind the eyes as if she was running from something.

    The Doctor does evolve & change to some extent, but doesn’t grow or have permanent relationships: they don’t want the way humans want or need? It reminds me, actually, of how to describe the ensouled Angel in the Buffyverse as he can’t grow or feel the sting of human hunger or sense time passing in the way humans do, thus his conscience (& so the Doctor’s) is affected differently.

    If the currency of life is time, then how much we have of it & how we use it, is a gift. The Doctor & Angel have plenty of it so throw themselves into helping others -into persuading them to recognise their time is short so they must protect & manage their homes, their planets, & systems.

    Effectively they often recognise they have to make that event or choice happen or at least narrow the choices before a devastating event occurs <i>- </i>by throwing themselves at it -like the sledgehammer.

    The stories need a certain delicacy but that’s not always possible: we’re not learning from the consequences of our decisions & the Doctor and her companions are frustrated by this, hence the style in which these stories are told.

    Mmm. I’ve been rambling …😀😉

    Dentarthurdent @dentarthurdent

    @thane16 Puro? I don’t know enough of oldWho to make comparisons. So my comparison is of Thirteen with the rest of nuWho. Just for the record, I’m a leftie greenie pinko commie treehugger. (Well, maybe not commie, more like socialist – same thing to Americans 🙂 But I groaned at some of Thirteen’s episodes, the Message was so blatant. Orphan 55 for example, or Praxeus, or Arachnids. And it frequently made no logical sense either.

    I have to admit I never watched Buffy either. The televerse is full of series I never watched.

    “If the currency of life is time, then how much we have of it & how we use it, is a gift.” That’s very poetic. I think I’ve had slightly more than my statistical share of time to date (and intend going on having more as long as I can.) I feel like just wasting time is a crime. (Enjoying oneself is never a waste of time in my book). Though currently I seem to lack the energy to do as much as I ought / want to. Um. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, – A bit over two years ago, I was on a long walk to the beach, a nice day in early summer, and on a little-used track through the bush down to the shore I came upon a young dead woman hanging from a tree. (So I rang 111 and the fire, police and ambulance turned up, all the usual). That – incident – made quite an impression on me – how could anyone ever think their problems are so great they don’t want to live the rest of their life? I just can’t understand it. But it reminds me to appreciate the things I’ve got.

    Apropos of which, the Thirteen episode which dealt with depression, the one with Yaz sitting by the road over the moors, I thought that one was quite well handled.

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