One of the rarer sights around the streets of Scotland is the Hollywood legend. We accept our own screen ‘icons’ such as your Taggarts, your River Citizens and even your Ewan McGregors with cool detachment, as we wouldn’t want them to think that we’re in any way impressed, even if we secretly are… just a wee bit.
But every now and again you catch sight of the real deal. A few years ago my brother had the great Steve Martin walk into his gallery. Although he managed to keep his cool, all the time he was thinking ‘say pointy birds’. You may want to forget it, but at the beginning of the last decade the football based film A Shot at Glory was being shot in and around the central belt. Starring alongside Ally McCoist and the Airdrie United team were Robert Duvall and Michael Keaton. I’ll never forget the night we were sitting in a bar in Glasgow when Batman walked in. He had drinks bought for him all night.
In 2003 there were sightings of the oddest of couples, Morgan Freeman and Jet Li, who were filming the Luc Besson directed Unleashed. There is also a story that a taxi driver once told me about taking Charlie Sheen to Easterhouse to visit a ‘friend’. Unfortunately I can say no more here, but you get the picture. Sightings of Hollywood royalty are rare enough that tales of their visits to Scotland become legend. Perhaps unique amongst such legends, Harvey Keitel came back.
His first visit was for the filming of the Bernard Tavernier thriller La Mort en Direct (1980) which also starred Romy Schneider, Max Von Sydow and Harry Dean Stanton. Set in a dystopian future where disease and early death have been eradicated, but poverty is rife, Keitel is chosen to be the ‘human camera’ who has to follow a woman who is discovered to be ill. In a nod in both directions to Big Brother, this is done in the name of entertainment as well as state control. The film was known as Death Watch in the UK, a title which neatly sums up its premise. Tavernier hand picked Glasgow as the perfect setting for such a story, and this short clip shows why:
The second visit was for the Peter McDougall scripted 1988 drama Down Where the Buffalo Go. In this film Keitel plays ‘Carl’, a United States Navy shore patrol officer who is based at the naval base at the Holy Loch. Shot in Dunoon and Greenock the film follows Carl as he attempts to keep the peace between the sailors on shore-leave and the locals who are often suspicious of their new neighbours. His personal tension comes from his marriage to Stella Gonet’s ‘Rachel’ who is a local woman who wants to leave for America when Carl wants to stay in Scotland. The film is really about the friendship that forms between Carl and his brother-in-law ‘Willie’. The dialogue is classic McDougall and, although Keitel is as good as ever, it is Stella Gonet who is the standout.
Both films should be seen, especially Tavernier’s which at times is like a documentary on Glasgow in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Perhaps, with the right script, Harvey will be back to complete the hat-trick.