Laughs, songs and the music of The Proclaimers in Sunshine on Leith
Like ABBA did for Mamma Mia, The Proclaimers have done for the new film, Sunshine on Leith. Colin Fraser chats to director Dexter Fletcher about the new movie musical.
When you’re a died-in-the-wool Londoner with an accent thicker than Bob Hoskins impersonating Michael Caine, you might think it takes some brass to take on The Scottish Musical.
Dubbed McMamma Mia! for retrofitting the songs of Charlie and Craig Reid, aka The Proclaimers, to a jaunty story about family relationships, Sunshine On Leith was a sizeable hit north of The Wall.
[Image] Sunshine on Leith Director, Dexter Fletcher
Given how successful ABBA had been, it was only a matter of time that Sunshine would get a cinematic outing of its own. Dexter Fletcher travelled north and before you could say ‘no kilts, no bagpipes, no haggis’, cameras were rolling.
Before turning director, Fletcher was a child star in Alan Parker’s Bugsy Malone and is best loved for Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
“Being from London actually made it more interesting for me,” he tells SX.
“I knew I didn’t want to see just kilts, bagpipes and haggis so I had to go and discover Scotland.”
Collaboration also played its part. “I’ve been in films since I was six, but I’m okay with not-knowing, asking people, ‘What do you think?’ It probably helped that my wife is the director of an opera company in Lithuania.”
WATCH: Sunshine on Leith trailer
But it was casting that clinched the deal. With a track record playing amped up crazies and a voice kindly compared to ‘Tom Waits singing with a mouthful of paper clips’, Peter Mullan wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice. Yet teamed with Jane Horrocks (a sensational turn in Little Voice lifted her fame beyond TV’s Absolutely Fabulous), Fletcher was able to populate the story with fresh, young faces.
“Peter and Jane were my first choice and they both said yes,” he says, clearly pleased with his good fortune. “Their gravitas meant other young talent could emerge.” People he sought more for acting than vocal ability. “They’re not bad singers, and you can fix things in post-production ... It’s like applying make-up.”
This exuberant story of two ex-army lads whose return to Edinburgh involves blossoming romance and a 25th wedding anniversary, spring from the songs of the bespectacled Reid twins.
Mullan sings ‘Oh Jean’ to his wife, Jean. Their daughter will write letters from America while the boys walk from misery to happiness before walking another 500 miles toward the show-stopping finale. What it lacks in subtlety it makes up for in toe-tapping, cheery goodwill, and what it has over Mamma Mia! is The Proclaimers. “There’s such great story-telling going on here.”
Set in a city best known for scudding clouds and bone-chilling rain, what then of the titular sunshine? “Edinburgh’s a beautiful city in rain or sun, but when you’ve got a film called Sunshine On Leith and you don’t have sun then obviously it’s a bit of a disappointment,” laughs Fletcher.
With the weather gods smiling, his Edinburgh is an achingly inviting place that ticks off Tripadvisor’s Top 10 without turning into a tourist brochure.
“We had one week shooting in Edinburgh and the sun shone on Leith every day!”
[Cover image] Antonio Thomas and Paul Brannigan in Sunshine on Leith.
Sunshine on Leith is in cinemas on May 22.