Former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler has overcome a fierce dislike of song-and-dance numbers to write a new show based on the cult film Local Hero.
“I didn’t think I could do this,” says Mark Knopfler, the erstwhile lead guitarist and singer of Dire Straits, of his latest and, some might say, unexpected, project. Local Hero is a new musical adaptation of the cult 1983 film, for which he wrote the enduring instrumental score. “I don’t like musicals for a start, but I love the story so much,” says Knopfler. “It moves me a great deal, and went on moving me years after. Even reading through this script, I was moved by the end of it, before any actors had read it.” Premiering at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre before a move to co-producers the Old Vic in London next year, and then hopefully further afield in years to come, Local Hero’s source material is a cult moment in British movie history.
“Film music is music, but this was songs,” he says. “I only write songs on my own. I’ve never written with anyone. That’s the only way I can work – go home and write a song, music and lyrics. Whereas with a musical it’s always two people, probably because it’s quite difficult.”
The film tells the story of Mac MacIntyre (Peter Riegert), an American emissary of Texan oil magnate Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster), who is sent to the fictional Scottish coastal town Ferness to secure the construction rights for a refinery amid the North Sea oil boom of the time. Cynical and uninterested at first, Mac is won over by the romantic charms of the locals (among them, Peter Capaldi in his first screen role) and the beauty of the Northern Lights. The eventual arrival of his eccentric boss Happer, and the full weight of capitalism bearing down upon the simple (but not naïve) Scottish way of life, is dealt with more romantically than the country’s recent, real-life encounter with Donald Trump during the development of his Trump International golf course at Balmedie in Aberdeenshire, but the parallels are there.