Bill Forsyth

b. William David Forsyth

b. July 29, 1946, Whiteinch, Glasgow, Scotland

by Christopher Meir

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Long before Ewan McGregor climbed into a toilet looking for heroin suppositories or Mel Gibson mooned the English army, when one thought of Scottish cinema, only one name came to mind: Bill Forsyth. A true pioneer, Forsyth became the small nation’s first internationally recognised filmmaker and helped to build from the ground up an infrastructure for film production within Scotland. His early films like Gregory’s Girl (1981) and Local Hero (1983) offered unique insight into the condition of contemporary Scotland and challenged many traditional representations of the nation. Forsyth’s career would also take him beyond the borders of Scotland and saw him produce three films in North America. As was the case with many filmmakers, Forsyth’s experience in Hollywood would leave him embittered and nearly put off filmmaking all together. Despite this he was able to return to Scotland after a 15 year absence and demonstrate that in the midst of a cinematic renaissance and a political movement towards independence, he was still an important artist on the national scene.

Launching a Career and a National Industry

Growing up, Bill Forsyth was not overly interested in cinema. He instead credits literature as being the most important influence on his imagination as a child. This changed one day when a teenage Forsyth fatefully came across an advertisement in the local paper seeking assistants for the Thames and Clyde Film Production Company. Assuming that there had to be good money in the film business, Forsyth decided to apply for the position. As he tells the story, the crux of the interview came when the head of the company asked Forsyth if he would be physically strong enough to carry the equipment; when the young man demonstrated that he could in fact carry the studio’s heaviest pieces of equipment, he was given the job. Such was the inauspicious beginning of Forsyth’s career. Though he was initially a menial labourer in a very small company, Forsyth would soon find filmmaking to be a life calling (1).

After years of work for small production companies making commissioned documentaries for various corporations and government organisations and the occasional experimental short (none of which, unfortunately, still exist), Forsyth, frustrated with his inability to find funding for a feature film project, collaborated with a local theatre troupe on what would become his breakthrough hit. Forsyth and the players of the Glasgow Youth Theatre made That Sinking Feeling (1979) on a budget of only a few thousand pounds; virtually everyone who participated in the film, including Forsyth himself, worked for free and much of the equipment was borrowed from friends and/or the production company. The film itself tells the comic story of a desperately poor group of young men who concoct a scheme to rob a warehouse full of kitchen sinks. After working out a plan involving men in drag as decoys and a borrowed bakery truck, complete with its drugged owner, the gang succeeds in lifting the sinks, though they are less successful in selling their loot and are elated when, through a mix up with a donut van, their truck full of sinks seems to be magically transformed into cakes and pastries.

That Sinking Feeling introduces the kind of pointed humour that would become Forsyth’s trademark. Dealing as it does with impoverished youth on the margins of Scottish life during one of recent history’s worst economic downturns, there is much despair underlying the comedy. One of the film’s funniest and bleakest exchanges comes as the gang’s leader Ronnie (Robert Buchanan) and two of his cohorts discuss their recent attempts to kill themselves, including Ronnie’s attempt to drown himself with a mouthful of corn flakes. The three come to conclude that something must be done because, as one of them puts it, “there has to be more to life than trying to commit suicide.” This dark humour is also lent a political dimension as the film offers some commentary on the state of urban Scotland through its bleak representation of Glaswegian youth completely forgotten by the British establishment. See for instance one of opening scenes in which Ronnie has an argument with a statue of a British war hero; the scene concludes with Ronnie demanding of the national icon, “So why don’t I have a job?” This feeling of alienation from London would only intensify in the 1980s when Scotland as a whole was largely critical of the conservative policies of the Thatcher regime (2).

Gregory's Girl

The success of That Sinking Feeling within Scotland provided Forsyth with the popular breakthrough he needed to secure funding for the production of the film that would become his most celebrated work to date, Gregory’s Girl. For this film, Forsyth would once again enlist the Glasgow Youth Theatre to play the majority of the roles in the story of hormonally overwhelmed teenagers. The main plot of the film centres around the title character (played by John Gordon Sinclair, in a role that would define his career) and his mad pursuit of Dorothy (Dee Hepburn), the new girl on the football team. The scope of the film widens to show a wide range of male characters with their own sexual neuroses and avenues of sublimation, ranging from photography to cooking. As John Hill notes, the film is structured around inversions and reversals: children act like adults, younger siblings act like older ones, etc. (3). But the most important of these is the reversal of gender roles. The only characters that are confident, assured and in control are the girls. Gregory’s ten year old sister is involved in a healthy, normal relationship, much to her brother’s chagrin, and the film ends with a conspiracy of girls leading Gregory to Susan (Clare Grogan) who they deem a more appropriate companion for him.

In terms of Forsyth’s oeuvre and its representation of Scotland, Gregory’s Girl makes for an interesting comparison to its predecessor. Gregory’s world is far from the bleak landscape of urban Glasgow, and is instead situated in the suburban “new town” of Cumbernauld. This contrast in environments is matched by the fundamental difference in the characters that inhabit the films. Forsyth commented on this antithetical relationship between the films’ characters and the kids who played both sets in an early interview:

I saw [Gregory’s Girl] in terms of its relationship to That Sinking Feeling. The kids in Gregory’s Girl are kind of indulged – actually, in a sense, overindulged. Gregory’s life is all organised for him, he doesn’t have to worry if somebody’s going to feed him, and he’s got his best friend and his sister to turn to, to sustain him emotionally. All he’s got to do is worry about who he’s in love with. And the environment, the layout of the New Town, is antiseptic and almost luxurious, so I was seeing all that not just in relation to That Sinking Feeling but also in contrast to the real lives of some of the kids who were acting in Gregory’s Girl (4).

Forsyth is thus poking fun at a specific class as much as he is at the male of the species.

Local Hero

After a brief stint working in television, producing the television play Andrina (1982)for the BBC (5), Forsyth returned to the big screen with Local Hero. The film’s story concerns Mac (Peter Riegert), a junior executive at the American company Knox Oil who is sent to a small town along the Scottish coast with the assignment of buying the entire town so that the company can build an oil refinery on site. Mac is chosen for the mission as much for his negotiating skill as he is for his supposed Scottish heritage, as “Mac” is short for McIntyre, his surname. (The joke being that Mac is in fact of Hungarian descent, and that his father picked the last name McIntyre to sound more American.) Once he arrives in the town of Furness, Mac becomes enchanted with the simplicity of life away from the rat race and increasingly wants to trade his life in Houston for the one in the town. The townsfolk, for their part, are all too eager to sell out and move away from the barren countryside and come close to violence when one villager, Ben (Fulton McKay), threatens to hold up the sale. All is finally resolved when the head of the company, played memorably by Burt Lancaster, arrives and declares his intention to build an observatory (he is an ardent skywatcher who has instructed Mac to update him regularly on happenings in the firmament) instead of the refinery. Mac returns to Houston, to his empty penthouse apartment and wistfully recalls his time in Furness as he confronts the emptiness of his life.

With Local Hero, Forsyth had now taken on a third Scottish milieu, that of the rural village. In doing so he also took on a very prevalent discourse in Scottish representation, that of kailyardism. Kailyardism describes representations of Scotland in which small towns and their denizens are portrayed as possessing an inherent wisdom lacking in the sophisticated modern types who happen upon their village (6); classic kailyardic representations of Scotland on film include Brigadoon (Vincente Minnelli) (1954) and Whiskey Galore! (Alexander MacKendrick) (1948). Local Hero cleverly appropriates this cliched style of national representation to both satirise the style as well as to make a more serious point about the human condition. The film draws on kailyardic expectations for a good deal of its humour, especially with the quaint locals who are all too happy to sell out and move to the cities. There is also Urquart who seems to occupy every job in town, the African minister that you would be unlikely to find in a kailyardic paean to the noble Scottish village, and several other gags that remind us that no town fits the nostalgic paradigm seen in kailyard art, least of all Furness. Likewise does Forsyth purposely disappoint generic expectations in order to make a larger point. As Duncan Petrie points out, the film avoids the typical closure of the kailyardic film, as Mac “unlike his predecessors in the genre, fails to cement his relationship to the magical environment by winning the girl” and instead ends up back in the American metropolis alone as he started (7). The mythic Scottish village is just that – ephemera that only serves to remind us of ideals that are not attainable by modern man regardless of where they live. Mac, for all that he finds in Furness, ends up alone once again, and perhaps as he always was. This maudlin conclusion would become a Forsyth motif as his worldview will henceforth become decidedly darker.

Comfort and Joy

For his next project Forsyth returned to Glasgow but shifted his focus to the city’s middle-class. Comfort and Joy (1984) tells the story of radio DJ Alan “Dicky” Bird (Bill Paterson), whose girlfriend abruptly walks out on him (she meant to tell him long before it happened, but the time was never right so she waits until the movers actually arrive at their apartment). Heartbroken and lonely, Bird takes to driving around the city in his sports car after work and happens upon an ice cream van in which he spots a girl who he thinks makes eyes at him. Intrigued, he follows the van and sees it attacked by what turns out to be a rival ice cream vendor. Bird, seeing a chance to aspire to a more important role in life than passing the time with idle radio banter and insipid advertisements, is subsequently drawn into the war between the vendors before finally brokering a compromise between the two.

The film’s two major plots – Bird’s attempt to overcome the loss of his girlfriend, and his attempt to inject more meaning into his life by stopping the battle between the vendors – are meant to complement one another as the latter is a sort of balm for the former. But, as Forsyth Hardy convincingly argues, the synergy between the two storylines is never convincing or effective. The battle between the rival ice cream vendors, which are given the distractingly goofy names Mr. Bunny and McCool, ultimately comes off as silly and contrived, especially when Bird brings peace in the form of the ice cream fritter joint venture (8). Though Forsyth had said that with Comfort and Joy he wanted to deal with the violent side of Glaswegian life, this attempt at a light-hearted resolution to an imperfectly balanced plot effectively undercuts any social commentary the film may have offered. (There actually was a considerably more violent battle between rival ice cream vendors in Glasgow at the time of the film’s production, one that sadly would not be resolved by novelty confections.) Likewise does the film’s cute ending undercut the kind of pathos for Birdthat Local Hero lent to Mac; any momentum the film may have built with its portrait of the emptiness of the life of Bird and his prized BMW convertible finally peters out with him hokily trying to get a cut of the fritter revenue.

By the time Forsyth had completed Comfort and Joy, the terrain of the Scottish film scene was undergoing radical change. When he was trying to arrange financing for Gregory’s Girl, funding sources for Scottish cineastes were almost nonexistent. The intervening five years saw numerous attempts at founding an industrial base for film production. After two major consortiums in the late 1970s, Film Bang and Cinema in a Small Nation (both of which Forsyth participated in) nationalist movements in the arts led to the establishment of the Scottish Film Production Fund which funded its first production, Living Apart Together (directed by Charles Gormley) in 1983. It can hardly be thought of as coincidence that such a body was assembled after Gregory’s Girl played for 75 weeks in London and after Forsyth received £3 million to produce Local Hero. It would be impossible to overstate Forsyth’s importance as a founding figure for the industry that was now sprouting up just as he was filming his last work in Scotland for quite a long time.

Encountering America: Forsyth Goes West

Although he indicated during the making of Comfort and Joy that he found the idea of working in America unappealing, saying it would involve “too many compromises” (9), Forsyth nonetheless came to North America in 1986 to begin production on Housekeeping (1987). In doing so the filmmaker ushered in a new period in his career, one that would see him work exclusively within the American system and, except for some location shooting during Being Human (1993), wholly abandon production within Scotland. Unfortunately this turn in his career has meant that most critics, who by and large write about Forsyth from a Scottish perspective, have just glanced over the films of this period. This has meant that a very interesting trio of films has been all but ignored.


Housekeeping was the first product of Forsyth’s stay in America. Here, in addition to working away from Scotland, Forsyth was also working for the first time since Andrina from a source, which was Marilynne Robinson’s novel of the same title. For Forsyth it was this novel which brought him to America to produce the film. He would later call his production of the film an attempt to “make a commercial to get people to read the novel” (10). Though such an ostensible goal would seem to imply that Forsyth would be willing to subordinate his own vision to that of the source material, nothing could be further from the truth. The story of Ruthie’s (Sara Walker) growing bond with her eccentric aunt (Christine Lahti) continues Forsyth’s interest in individual and social alienation. Like Dickey Bird and Mac before her, Ruthie becomes detached from an increasingly cold and unfulfilling “normal life” and is attracted instead to the margins, in this case embodied by her aunt, who takes to riding boxcars, stealing boats and collecting tin cans for no apparent reason. As the walls of conformist culture begin to close on them – exacerbated by Ruthie’s sister Lucille, who abandons the two and begins to tell the townspeople about the squalor of her life with her aunt – the two are threatened with legal separation. Ruthie and her aunt choose instead to run away, and do so in the film’s poignant closing shot, one which recalls the final shot of Jean Vigo’s Zéro de conduite (Jean Vigo) (1933), with the pair racing off into the distance.

For his next project, Forsyth went beyond adaptation and worked completely from someone else’s script. The script was by John Sayles and entitled Breaking In (1989). In the course of his routine safe-cracking job, veteran burglar Ernie Mullins (Burt Reynolds) happens upon Mike Lafeve (Casey Siemaszko), a much younger thief whose interest lies solely in raiding his victims’ refrigerator and reading their mail. Seeing something special in Mike, Ernie decides to take him under his wing and tries to teach him all about his craft. Mike, heretofore a dopish and dim-witted mechanic, takes what he sees as a great financial opportunity and agrees to becomes Ernie’s understudy. Mike proves to be less than able to follow in Ernie’s footsteps, however. He quickly begins to make a spectacle of himself once he has the large sums of money he and Ernie steal. He tells his boss off and gets fired; he buys a gaudy Cadillac that he shows off to his former co-workers and the prostitute he becomes smitten with; and he rents a very expensive apartment and pays the rent in cash, much to the alarm of his landlords. He likewise proves to be a less than capable burglar. After a falling out with Ernie over his conspicuous spending, Mike attempts his own job only to end up charring much of his loot in the course of burning the safe open. His incompetence eventually catches up with him and Mike is arrested and charged with many of Ernie’s crimes. Facing a long prison sentence, Mike is once again aided by the patient and diligent Ernie who continues to try to help his slow-witted charge. Though Mike thinks himself to be the toughest guy in the jail, he is unaware that Ernie is secretly paying a mobster to have his goons watch over him.

By the film’s conclusion, Forsyth returns once again to his favourite theme of loss and individual isolation. In a very touching ending, Mike and Ernie conclude a visit and as Ernie leaves the prison, each of the men mutter to themselves about the other’s sad state. It is at this point that we see that the two have been unable to form a deeper bond; Mike remains completely self-absorbed and unaware, while Ernie is left with his longing for the son he never had and the protégé he will never be able to truly connect with.

Forsyth’s next project was intended as a sort of magnum opus upon the themes that had by now become the central preoccupation of his work. With Being Human, Forsyth sought to make a definitive statement on alienation, isolation and loneliness. Ironically though, the making and unmaking of Being Human would leave Forsyth himself alienated from the American film industry and, very nearly, the craft of filmmaking at large. The film would become Forsyth’s largest undertaking in terms of not only budget (US$20 million) but also in terms of scope and ambition, and in terms of its reception, his largest disappointment. The plot of the film revolves around the character Hector (Robin Williams) who is incarnated through five eras of human history stuck in the same basic predicament: longingly trying to reunite with his family from whom he is always separated.

Ominous signs were apparent from the beginning of production. The film’s shooting was troubled, to put it mildly. Forsyth was not prepared for the pressures and responsibilities of heading a big budget Hollywood studio project and was faced with a tighter shooting schedule than he had anticipated, leaving him little time for the kind of close work with his actors that he was accustomed to (11). Further troubles included a sudden shift in location for the film’s shipwreck sequence when the costs of malaria insurance were deemed too high by the studio. This move forced Forsyth to quickly rescript the scene into a desert landing from the jungle and forced him to re-envision the entirety of the segment. The film really ran aground, however, once it was in the canister. Aghast when initial previews left audiences bewildered, the studio began a series of revisions meant to make the film more palatable to mainstream audiences. Forsyth’s early 160 minute cut was turned into an 85 minute version that inspired an audience member to ask Forsyth, following a preview screening, if he had anything to do with the production of the film; when he replied that he had, the woman sharply told him to “Dig a hole and bury it” (12). Such would be the story of Being Human, which suffered through numerous subsequent re-editing sessions and test audiences before being released in 1993 to a dismal critical reception and even worse popular turnout in the US before being sent straight to video in the UK.

The sum of these changes was an extremely flawed movie. The final version of the film features a hideously irritating voiceover, which comes off sounding like a fairytale narrator, effectively undercutting the theme of man’s eternally recurring melancholy. There is also a troublesome lack of coherence among the short stories that compose the film; this can perhaps be attributed to attempts on the studio’s part to superimpose a kind of thematic progression whereas Forsyth had meant for a series of variations on the theme of human loneliness. In spite of these and other problems, the film’s vignettes, when considered separately, are admirable for their fullness and originality. It is also worth pointing out some of the very memorable performances in the film, including John Turturro’s portrait of a desperate and doomed Roman nobleman who bets his life on the outcome of a seafaring venture. But these scattered moments were only cold comfort for Forsyth, who came away from the experience with an outlook on cinema that was forever changed for the worse (13).

Coda: Returning to a Changed Scotland

It would be six years before Forsyth would again bring a film to the screen. To do so he returned to filmmaking in Scotland after a 15 year hiatus (14). The project this time would be a sequel to the film that made his name 18 years earlier: Gregory’s Two Girls (1999). We catch up with Gregory (once again played by John Gordon Sinclair) in his mid-30s. Like many young men unwilling to grow up or develop practical skills, Gregory has become a high school English teacher, and one at his alma mater in Cumbernauld no less. The interceding years have apparently failed to help Gregory get over his hang-ups with women. As the film opens, Gregory has a wet dream set in the locker room in which he first ogled Dorothy, though the target of his lust is now one of his teenage students, Frances (Carly McKinnon). The other girl referred to in the film’s title is Gregory’s colleague Bel (Maria Doyle Kennedy) who, being of his own age and peer group, represents an appropriate sexual and emotional partner for a man of his position. As such, Bel is predictably unappealing to Gregory and spends the first half of the film hopelessly throwing herself at him.

Like Comfort and Joy, Gregory’s Two Girls pairs this personal story with one of mystery and intrigue, though it does so in a much more convincing fashion than the former. Gregory spends most of his class time lecturing his students on radical politics and the students’ ability to make a difference, urging them to not “spectate, but participate.” Frances and her boyfriend (who Gregory finds out about with much chagrin) take his lectures to heart and begin investigating Gregory’s friend Frasier’s computer lab for supposedly supplying instruments of torture to third world dictatorships. The two come to Gregory for help only to discover that their teacher is much more comfortable talking about saving the world than actually doing something about it. As he is convinced to help his students in destroying the torture devices, he also becomes involved romantically with Bel. Gregory thus simultaneously moves from the world of sexual and political masturbation (he is seen often early in the film watching recordings of Noam Chomsky with the obsessiveness that others watch pornography) to one of activism and orthodox sexual relations.

With its assay of masculinity and its humorous look at the protagonist’s attempts to forge meaningful relationships with other people and the world at large, Gregory’s Two Girls acts as an ideal coda for Forsyth’s career. After years of exploring the dark side of the human condition, Forsyth turns back to the unique brand of incisive, pointed comedy and satire that endeared him to so many fans years before. The film also acts as an important moment in the history of Scottish film production as its founding father comes full circle, receiving funding from many of the institutions he helped to create. For portions of the film’s production costs Forsyth drew on Channel 4 and the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund, both of which came into being in the mid-1980s to supplement the efforts of bodies like the Scottish Film Production Fund, which was launched shortly after the success of Gregory’s Girl. Moreover, as Petrie points out, in continuing the story of Gregory, Forsyth provides a bridge between the greatest work of his generation and the growing movement of the next generation that began to take full flight in 1999 (15). Appearing roughly simultaneous to Gregory’s Two Girls were films like Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, Peter Mullan’s Orphans and Paul McGuigan’s The Acid House. Indeed, 1999 was a watershed year for the Scottish film industry as well as the nation as a whole. Not only were a record 15 films produced north of Hadrian’s Wall, but the move toward an independent Scotland (a movement alluded to in Gregory’s Two Girls (16)) finally came to fruition with the establishment of a devolved Scottish parliament. It would have been curious indeed if Forsyth did not participate in such a historic year for the industry and the nation.

The films of 1999 were a continuation of a new Scottish cinema movement which has revitalised the small nation’s industry as it is seen at home and abroad, a movement which began with the release of Shallow Grave (Danny Boyle) (1994) and continues to this day with such recent international hits as The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan) (2003), Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach) (2003), Young Adam (David McKenzie) (2003) and many others. Although he helped to launch a boom in film production in the 1980s in Scotland, it is in this latest movement that we can best witness the continuing importance Forsyth has for Scottish cinema. In a gesture of acknowledgement, Trainspotting (1997) parodies a line from Gregory’s Girl (17); carrying on the work began with That Sinking Feeling, both Lynne Ramsay and Gillies MacKinnon have made their own versions of Glaswegian squalor in the 1970s in their respective works Ratcatcher and Small Faces (1996). Moreover, Forsyth’s thematic preoccupations with masculinity, youth and alienation are revisited in these films and many others among the new Scottish canon. This is all in addition to the countless productions that would never have seen the light of day without the industrial paths that Forsyth’s films blazed. The frustration that Forsyth encountered when trying to find funding for his early projects is much less of an issue for this generation due in large part to numerous financing organisations, such as the Glasgow Film Fund, the National Arts Council Lottery, and Scottish Screen, which have been established since Gregory’s Girl demonstrated that Scottish cinema could be artistically and commercially viable. While we all hope that Forsyth’s filmmaking career has not come to an end, it must be said that were he never to produce a film again, he has put together a body of work rivalling those of India’s Satyajit Ray and Cuba’s Tomás Gutiérrez Alea for their achievements in making their homelands internationally visible both on the screen and in the international cinematic community.

Bill Forsyth


That Sinking Feeling (1979)

Gregory’s Girl (1981)

Andrina (1982)

Local Hero (1983)

Comfort and Joy (1984)

Housekeeping (1987)

Breaking In (1989)

Being Human (1993)

Gregory’s Two Girls (1999)

Select Bibliography

John Brown, “A Suitable Job for a Scot”, Sight and Sound, spring 1984, pp. 157–161.

Eddie Dick (ed.), From Limelight to Satellite: A Scottish Film Book, BFI and Scottish Film Council, London, 1990.

Bill Forsyth, “British Cinema: 1981 to …”, Sight and Sound, Autumn 1981.

Forsyth Hardy, Scotland in Film, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1990.

John Hill, British Cinema in the 1980s, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1999.

Allan Hunter, “Being Human”, Sight and Sound, August 1994, pp. 24–28.

Colin McArthur, Scotch Reels: Scotland in Cinema and Television, BFI, London, 1982.

Duncan Petrie, Screening Scotland, BFI, London, 2000.

Web Resources

Gerald Peary – Interviews – Bill Forsyth
Peary interview’s Forsyth in 1985.

Gregory’s Girl: ’80s Movies Rewind
This 80’s themed site contains a brief synopsis, images and related trivia.

Local Hero (1983)

Being Human

Click here to search for Bill Forsyth DVDs, videos and books at


  1. For nearly all of this information on Forsyth’s early life and the beginnings of his career in cinema, I am indebted to Allan Hunter’s biographical piece “Bill Forsyth: The Imperfect Anarchist” in Eddie Dick (ed.), From Limelight to Satellite, BFI and Scottish Film Council, London, 1990, pp. 151–162. The anecdote concerning the heavy lifting at the job interview is taken from John Brown’s interview “A Suitable Job for a Scot”, Sight and Sound, spring 1984, pp. 157.
  2. For more on Scotland’s political climate under the weight of Thatcherism, see John Hill, British Cinema in the 1980s, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1999, pp. 14–15.
  3. Hill, p. 243.
  4. Brown, p. 158.
  5. See Duncan Petrie, Screening Scotland, BFI, London, 2000, p. 153, for a description of the play.
  6. Colin McArthur, in his Scotch Reels: Scotland in Cinema and Television, BFI, London, 1982, offers the first, and most influential critique of kailyardism in cinema.
  7. Petrie, p. 156.
  8. Forsyth Hardy, Scotland in Film, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 1990, p. 181.
  9. Brown, p. 159.
  10. Hunter, p. 160.
  11. Forsyth singled out his desire early on to spend more time working with Robin Williams and his children in the stone age sequence. He would have liked for the actors to spend several days acting as a family before starting to shoot the scenes, but the film’s tight schedule would not allow for this. For virtually all the information on the making and reception of Being Human, I am indebted to Allan Hunter’s article “Being Human” in Sight and Sound, August 1994, pp. 24–28.
  12. Hunter, 1994, p. 27.
  13. Hunter, 1994, p. 27, quotes Forsyth as saying, “In a way, my perception of film has been reduced” by his experience making Being Human.
  14. Hardy and Hunter make allusions to Rebecca’s Daughter, a project Forsyth attempted to get produced before Being Human. Though the film’s story was set in Wales, Forsyth by all accounts was intent on shooting it in Scotland. See Hunter, 1994, p. 24; Hardy, p. 182.
  15. Petrie, p. 214.
  16. When Gregory and Frances attempt to take their case against Fraser to Scotland Yard, the police are eager to cover up what is going on and tell the two that they must do their duty to Her Majesty and keep this quiet. Gregory replies that they are Scots and will soon have their own parliament, which brings laughs of derision from the officers.
  17. In the scene where Begbie (Robert Carlyle) discovers the person he has been necking with is actually a man, Renton’s (Ewan McGregor) voice-over remarks that, “A thousand years from now, there won’t be men and women, there’ll only be wankers.” This is a parody of a line that the photographer in Gregory’s Girl says to Gregory to the effect that a thousand years from now there won’t be men or women, but that artificial insemination will replace sex.

About The Author

Christopher Meir received his MA in Film Studies from Concordia University. Come the fall, he will begin work on his doctorate in Film Studies at the University of Warwick. He will be writing his dissertation on new Scottish cinema.

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