Local Hero is a 1983 Scottish comedy-drama film written and directed by Bill Forsyth and starring Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Fulton Mackay and Burt Lancaster. Produced by David Puttnam, the film is about an American oil company representative who is sent to the fictional village of Ferness on the west coast of Scotland to purchase the town and surrounding property for his company. For his work on the film, Forsyth won the 1984 BAFTA Award for Best Direction.

In his Chicago Sun-Times review, Roger Ebert gave the film his highest four stars, calling it “a small film to treasure”. He gave particular praise to writer-director Bill Forsyth for his abilities as a storyteller:

What makes this material really work is the low-key approach of the writer-director, Bill Forsyth, who also made the charming Gregory’s Girl and has the patience to let his characters gradually reveal themselves to the camera. He never hurries, and as a result, Local Hero never drags: Nothing is more absorbing than human personalities, developed with love and humor. Some of the payoffs in this film are sly and subtle, and others generate big laughs. Forsyth’s big scenes are his little ones, including a heartfelt, whisky-soaked talk between the American and the innkeeper, and a scene where the visitors walk on the beach and talk about the meaning of life. By the time Burt Lancaster reappears at the end of the film, to personally handle the negotiations with old Ben, Local Hero could hardly have anything but a happy ending

Local Hero with Commentary
Recorded in 2018, this commentary features Local Hero Bill Forsyth and film critic Mark Kermode. Watch a full movie stream, with running commentary, below.

Interview with Bill Forsyth

Movie Connections Documentary

From BBC Scotland’s “Movie Connections” series:
Directed by Tony Fallowell | Produced by Brendan O’Hara

The Making of Local Hero (1983)


Local Hero is the debut soundtrack album by British singer-songwriter and guitarist Mark Knopfler, released in March 1983 by Vertigo Records internationally and by Warner Bros. Records in the United States. It contains music composed for the 1983 film Local Hero, produced by David Puttnam and both written and directed by Bill Forsyth.

In 1984, the album received a BAFTA award nomination for Best Score for a Film. The final track of the album, “Going Home”, is played before every home game of Newcastle United F.C., Knopfler’s local team. Knopfler re-recorded the song as a charity single for the 2014 Great North Run in his home city.

Following a string of three multi-platinum albums with Dire Straits—Dire Straits (1978), Communiqué (1979), and Making Movies (1980)—Knopfler, the group’s lead singer, guitarist, songwriter, and producer, began to look for new musical challenges and opportunities. In early 1982, his manager wrote to several film directors indicating that Knopfler was interested in writing film music. Producer David Puttnam responded, and after reviewing the Local Hero project, Knopfler accepted the job.

Following the completion of Dire Straits’ fourth album, Love Over Gold, recorded from 8 March to 11 June 1982, Knopfler began work on the film’s music. He invited Gerry Rafferty to be the lead vocalist on the song, “The Way It Always Starts”. In 2000, Rafferty invited Knopfler to provide rhythm guitar and lead fills on what would be his final studio album, Another World.

Rolling Stone magazine’s contemporary review called Knopfler’s film music debut an “insinuating LP of charming, cosmopolitan soundtrack music—a record that can make movies in your mind.”

For the Local Hero soundtrack, Knopfler received a BAFTA award nomination for Best Score for a Film


The Musical

Local Hero is a musical with music and lyrics by Mark Knopfler, and a book by Bill Forsyth and David Greig. The musical is based on the 1983 film.

Local Hero opened at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh on March 23, 2019.

Notable casting included Damian Humbley as Mac, Katrina Bryan as Stella, Matthew Pidgeon as Gordon, and Simon Rouse as Happer.

The production transferred to The Old Vic, London where it is scheduled to begin previews 18 June 2020, with an official opening night on 1 July.

Recent Hobbledehoy posts on the David Greig musical