Bill Forsyth’s “Comfort and Joy” (1984) remains a holiday gem

Bill Forsyth’s slice of Glasgow noir never received the praise showered upon its predecessors Local Hero and Gregory’s Girl. The bonus interviews included on this disc hint at the reasons why: Forsyth admits that his script could have been tightened up, and Claire Grogan suggests that the film’s payoff doesn’t feel like a proper ending.

Comfort and Joy is still a treat, though, its dry humour a return to the style of Forsyth’s zero-budget debut. Bill Paterson’s Alan “Dickie” Bird is a Partridgesque local radio DJ whose life starts to unravel when his kleptomaniac girlfriend leaves him. Buying a 99 from an ice cream van he’s chased because he fancies the serving girl (Grogan) unwittingly involves him in a turf war between rival Italian ice cream vendors. The news items we hear on Bird’s car radio are full of African coups and Middle Eastern peace negotiations, foreshadowing his decision to act as a mediator between the two firms.

Cinematographer Chris Menges gives the mean streets of Glasgow a warm, twinkly glow, despite the city’s northern latitude limiting the number of exterior shots. The visual jokes are brilliant: we see that Bird’s problems really begin when he, Alice-like, follows a Mr Bunny ice cream van into a dark tunnel. Alex Norton’s Trevor, reeling from a baseball bat attack on his van, turns out to be relatively unharmed: the blood pouring down his face is actually raspberry sauce. Bird’s prized BMW literally disintegrates as the film unwinds, the victim of bird shit, ice cream and physical violence. As things escalate, he uses his early morning radio show to broadcast coded messages to the warring tribes, prompting boss Rikki Fulton to refer him to eccentric psychiatrist Arnold Brown.

Forsyth elicits predictably winning performances from his large cast, including a convincingly Glaswegian-sounding Patrick Malahide as Bird’s best friend, and Roberto Bernardi as the charismatic “Mr McCool”.

Robert Buchanan has a blink-or-miss-it cameo, and even Claire Grogan’s atrocious Italian accent doesn’t derail proceedings. This restored print looks and sounds excellent; Mark Knopfler’s moody soundtrack adding much to the atmosphere. And, as already noted, the interviews with Forsyth, Paterson and Grogan are a delight, revealing that the idea for the plot was suggested to the director by a young Peter Capaldi.

Source: DVD: Comfort and Joy | The Arts Desk

7 things you didn’t know about ‘Local Hero’

Local Hero

Bill Forsyth’s international hit film Local Hero had a massive impact on Aberdeenshire in the 1980s. As the brand new musical stage production enjoys its world premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, we uncover some interesting local facts about the iconic film.

1. Real-life local hero appeared in Local Hero….

Harbourmaster Baden Gibson (pictured below) starred as an extra in Local Heroalongside Burt Lancaster and Peter Capaldi. Mr Gibson was harbourmaster for 40 years until he passed away at the age of 67 in November 2016. He spent his entire life in Pennan and became the village’s longest-standing resident, when his mother moved away. After being cast as an extra in the film, Baden campaigned for Pennan to be used in more TV and film productions. He is fondly remembered by locals, one said: “When you think of Pennan, you think of Baden. He did his best to give back wherever he could and he became Pennan’s Local Hero.”

2. Hollywood A-lister Michael Douglas didn’t – but he was desperate for a part!

Apparently Michael Douglas was so keen to take the lead role as Mac that he met writer/director Bill Forsyth in Los Angeles, and followed him to New York “as if he was passing through”, according to Local Hero producer, Iain Smith. Iain said in a previous interview: “Bill is a wonderful, Continue reading

Hero to Zero

Local Hero creator Bill Forsyth claims that he’s been dumped by the makers of a musical based on his film

Iconic: Peter Riegert, left, as Mac and Christopher Rozycki as Victor with Local Hero’s unlikeliest star – Pennan’s phone box

ITS blend of gentle humour and stunning scenery made it one of the most iconic films ever to come out of Scotland.

But the mastermind behind Local Hero claims he has been dumped from the upcoming theatre adaptation of his beloved movie – leaving him ‘in a state of shock’.

Bill Forsyth, the writer and director of the 1980s box-office hit, spent more than three years collaborating on the new stage version of his story, alongside playwright David Greig.

But the 72-year-old Glaswegian claims he has been told he should ‘cease to be actively involved’ in the highly anticipated project, due to open this month.

Local Hero, released in 1983, tells the story of American oil company executive Mac – played by Peter Riegert – who is sent to the fictional village of Ferness.

His mission is to buy up the place to make way for a refinery – but things do not go to plan when Mac ends up falling in love with the quaint village. The Ferness scenes – including those with the movie’s famous red phone box –were shot in Pennan, Banffshire.

Mr Forsyth won the 1984 Bafta award for direction for the film.

But he claims he has not been involved in the new musical adaptation of his Bafta-nominated screenplay since last year, when he was suddenly dropped from the creative team.

He said he has received only one email since then from Mr Greig.

The decision is said to have been made during a lunch with the musical’s producer, Patrick Daly, who had initially approached Mr Forsyth to help on the project.

Mr Forsyth – awarded a Bafta for his contribution to Scottish film in 2009 – told The Times: ‘What he said was, I should stop working on the musical and not be involved in any more workshops.

‘He [Mr Daly] said, “You can turn up with the execs and play an editorial part at the end of the process”, which I didn’t take to at all. They wanted me to step back, be a good boy and keep smiling. I left in a state of shock.’

The theatre production, which opens on March 23 at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, is the first time Local Hero has been adapted for the stage.

Former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler – who composed the movie’s soundtrack – has created music for the stage show.

Mr Greig said he was ‘very sad’ to hear Mr Forsyth’s claims that he was being excluded.

He added: ‘I will immediately be getting in contact. We were expecting Bill to come to previews and to be offering thoughts and notes, and we were very much looking forward to welcoming him to the show.

‘I can’t stress enough that there’s so much of him in it, not just the original. He was a deep part of the drafting of the stage show.’

A spokesman for the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company said it was hoped that Mr Forsyth would attend the opening night show.

She said: ‘It’s a real privilege to work with Bill on bringing his beloved story, Local Hero, to the stage.

‘As Mark Knopfler developed a new score of 19 new songs, Bill Forsyth and David Greig worked closely together on several drafts of the script to ensure this transformation to the theatre retained the magic and essence of Bill’s film. As such, we are sad and surprised if he has felt in any way excluded from the creative process.’

The spokesman said that the musical’s director, John Crowley, and the entire stage play’s team had ‘always considered Bill’s voice to be central and integral’.

Without it, she added, any telling of Local Hero would simply not be possible.

The spokesman said: ‘Bill has been engaged with all script developments, and invited to attend each workshop and to all key rehearsal dates.

‘We sincerely hope Bill will be with us on opening night. The Lyceum and its partners would be so proud to share with him the experience of seeing his wonderful story in its new life on stage.’

‘They wanted me to be a good boy’

Bill Forsyth cut out of Local Hero musical 

It is one of the most eagerly awaited theatre productions of recent years but there will be one notable absentee at its world premiere.

Bill Forsyth, the writer and director of the film Local Hero, has said that he has been frozen out of a musical based on the film and will boycott the opening in Edinburgh this month.

Forsyth, who has spent the past three years collaborating on the show with the playwright David Greig, has been told that he should “cease to be actively involved” in the project.

A statement from the theatre said: “As Mark Knopfler developed a new score of 19 new songs, Bill Forsyth and David Greig worked closely together on several drafts of the script to ensure this transformation to the theatre retained the magic and essence of Bill’s film. “As such, we’re sad and surprised if he has felt in any way excluded from the creative process. “A world class creative team, director, designers and musicians have been assembled to create the show, all with Bill and Mark’s approval. “When a new stage show begins rehearsals, it is this team which forms and shapes it for the theatre. John Crowley, the director, and the whole team have always considered Bill’s voice to be central and integral. Without it, any telling of Local Hero would simply not be possible.”