The Fan Carpet’s Jen Scouler spoke to Iain Maclean, Gillies MacKinnon and Eddie Izzard and more at the EIFF Premiere of Whisky Galore!
Edinburgh International Film Festival finished its 2016 run with a joyous closing gala as the new remake of Scottish classic Whisky Galore! made its debut. There to support the film was the director, producer and stars of the film, who negotiated a thoroughly drenched red carpet to speak about a passion project that has been 14 years in the making.
Whisky Galore! tells the story of a group of Scottish islanders in 1941, who have negotiated wartime rations in their remote home with impressive cheer- that is, until the whisky runs dry. As life becomes a little gloomy, an unexpected shipwreck brings the precious cargo that they’ve been missing. Soon enough, the authorities send out stuffy English commander Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard) to sniff out every beloved bottle. The problem is, the islanders aren’t going to give up lightly.
The plot is based on a real-life shipwreck near the Isle of Eriskay and the original film came out in 1949. It is seen as a timeless Ealing Studios classic, so the idea of a remake is somewhat controversial.
Enter Iain Maclean, an islander himself who obtained the film rights 14 years ago. A self-confessed fan of the original, he was determined to bring a new version to the 21st century. Explaining his thought process on the red carpet, he said “The original movie is never going to vanish, it’s always going to be there. This isn’t a file on a computer where you delete the old one and it’s replaced by the new one. In fact, I think this will bring the old one back to life. The younger generation who has never seen the old one will actually go and see it after seeing the new one.”
Getting it off the ground wasn’t an easy task however, and Maclean persisted through the years with the same stubbornness as those villagers had once clung to their whisky. Director Gillies MacKinnon was brought onto the project by Maclean. Speaking to The Fan Carpet's Jen Scouler, he said “The miracle was that Ian Maclean financed it. Every single penny was financed by a private financier and after 14 years it worked. You’ve got to hand it to him, the tenacity is amazing.”
The cast were equally enthusiastic about the new film, speaking warmly of what had been a blissful summer in the northeast of Scotland, which by a stroke of improbable luck had been almost entirely dry. Game of Thrones star Ellie Kendrick plays islander Catriona Macroon and although she wasn’t divulging any spoilers about her other role in HBO’s fantasy series, she did talk about her experience in Scotland. The main question- did she get to keep her English accent?
“I do have to do a Scottish accent but it’s quite a strange one because it’s a period, 1940s wartime Scottish island accent, which is quite unusual. It’s kind of unrecognisable to mainland Scots so you guys will see what I’m talking about when you see it! Off set, it was occasionally quite easy to slip into, because there was a whole group of us doing it and we accidentally find ourself conversing in this amazing accent.”
With a film with it’s emphasis on the famed Scottish beverage, everyone was wondering just how much whisky had been tested during filming. James Cosmo, who plays the village minister Macalister, did state that they used an interesting replacement for on-camera drams “Very sadly, they use an awful mixture of caramel and water. and it’s the hardest thing in the world to pretend to taste whisky when it just tastes awful. I think they should just give the real thing but maybe after twenty takes it might not work so well!”
Comedian Eddie Izzard made a popular entrance to Edinburgh International Film Festival - starring as a new interpretation of Basil Rathbone’s iconic English commander of the original, he certainly gets to use his comic chops in the film. Izzard spoke warmly about the essence of the story and compared it to another classic Scottish film, saying:
“It is like a true fairytale- although it’s based on truth and it actually happened, it’s like a folk tale. That essence is clear but we also wanted to update it and modernise it a bit and I think we’ve done that. I’m very pleased to have done it and hopefully Scotland and the rest of the world will like what we’ve done. It’s got this Local Hero feel to it.”
As the red carpet phase finished and the final bell rang for the start of the film, Iain Maclean’s hard-won battle to get the Whisky Galore! remake on screen came to an end. With that, one thing was clear- this was surely a victory worthy a celebratory dram of delicious single malt.
Written by Jen Scouler