MGM’s 1954 Highland fantasy “Brigadoon” notwithstanding, Scotland inspires more miserabilist movies than musicals. But now one is coming along in the shape of Dexter Fletcher’s “Sunshine on Leith,” adapted by playwright-novelist Stephen Greenhorn from his legit show featuring the music of the revered Scottish folk-rock duo the Proclaimers. The original was first staged at Dundee Rep in 2007.
Currently in production, the film stars Scottish actor-director Peter Mullan (“My Name Is Joe,” “War Horse”) and Jane Horrocks, who revealed her range and dexterity as a vocalist in “Little Voice.” One scene will be shot with a thousand extras on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, site of several iconic monuments. That a hundred dancers will be involved in some sequences indicates this isn’t a village hall production.
The story follows two friends who return to Leith following army service in Afghanistan. According to the UK’s Deadline News, “One finds the love of his life and the other loses the girl he left behind.” The approach is clearly different to Brian Welsh’s disturbing “In Our Name” (2010), about a British Iraq War veteran, played by “Downton Abbey”’s Joanne Froggatt, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Sunshine on Leith” is the second movie directed by former child star Fletcher (“Bugsy Malone,” “Caravaggio”), who made his debut earlier this year with “Wild Bill,” an East End of London crime drama. (Well-received in the UK, it has yet to find a US distributor.)
The producers are Andrew Macdonald (working on a Scottish picture for the first time since “Trainspotting”), his DNA partner Allon Reich, and husband-and-wife team Arabella Page Croft and Kieran Parker, who made the “Outpost” trilogy of Nazi zombie movies.
The film takes its name and romantic themes from the second and best-known album recorded by the Proclaimers – identical twin brothers Charlie and Craig Reid, who were born in Leith, the port district north of Edinburgh city center, in 1962. Most of it will be shot in Glasgow to keep costs down, however. The Reids are hoping to make cameo appearances in between concerts.
“We want it to be one of those high quality British films that people come out to see because it makes them feel good about being Scottish or British,” said Page Croft in the summer. “If we can achieve that we will be delighted. It is a feelgood Scottish movie, dealing with a tough subject but dealing with it in a humorous, warm, loving way and hopefully people will embrace that.
“Having just got really good at blood, weapons, armoured vehicles and prosthetics, it will be a new challenge to deal with the choreography, but it will be really good fun to deal with dancers instead of zombies,” she added.
Image: Jane Horrocks and Peter Mullan/Dave M. Benett/Getty Images, Tim Whitby/Getty Images
Below: The Proclaimers perform “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” on “Late Night With David Letterman” in the late 1980s.