|Directed by||Bill Forsyth|
|Written by||Bill Forsyth|
|Edited by||Michael Bradsell|
|Music by||Mark Knopfler|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Budget||£3 million or £2.6 million|
|Box office||$5.9 million (US)|
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.
A stage musical adaptation received its world premiere in 2019. In the same year a Criterion Collection DVD/Blu-ray was released in September.
"Mac" MacIntyre is a typical 1980s hot-shot executive working for Knox Oil and Gas in Houston, Texas. The eccentric head of the company, Felix Happer, sends him (largely because his surname sounds Scottish) to acquire the village of Ferness in the Scottish Highlands to make way for a refinery. Mac (who is actually of Hungarian extraction) is a little apprehensive about his assignment, complaining to a co-worker that he would much rather take care of business over the phone and via telex machines. Happer, an avid astronomy buff, tells Mac to watch the sky and to notify him immediately if he sees anything unusual.
Upon arriving in Scotland, Mac teams up with local Knox representative Danny Oldsen. During a visit to a Knox research facility in Aberdeen, Dr Geddes and his assistant Watt inform them about the scope of the company's plans, which entail replacing Ferness with the refinery. They also meet (and admire) marine researcher Marina.
Mac ultimately spends several weeks in Ferness, gradually adapting to the slower-paced life and getting to know the eccentric residents, most notably hotel owner and accountant Gordon Urquhart, and his wife Stella. As time passes, Mac becomes more and more conflicted as he presses to close the deal that will spell the end of the quaint little village he has come to love. Unbeknownst to him, however, the villagers are tired of their hard life and are more than eager to sell, though they feign indifference to induce a larger offer. Mac receives encouragement from an unlikely source: Victor, a capitalistic Soviet fishing boat captain who periodically visits his friends in Ferness (and checks on his investment portfolio, managed by Gordon).
Meanwhile, Danny befriends Marina, who is under the impression that the company is planning to build a research centre at Ferness. During a date, he discovers that Marina, who seems more at home in the water than on land, has webbed toes. While watching some grey seals, Danny mentions that sailors used to believe they were mermaids. Marina tells him the sailors were wrong.
As the deal nears completion, Gordon discovers that Ben Knox, an old beachcomber who lives in a driftwood shack on the shore, owns the beach through a grant from the Lord of the Isles to his ancestor. MacIntyre tries everything to entice Ben to sell, even offering enough money to buy any other beach in the world, but the owner is content with what he has. Ben picks up some sand and offers to sell for the same number of pound notes as he has grains of sand in his hand. A suspicious MacIntyre declines, only to be told there could not have been more than ten thousand grains.
Happer finally arrives on site, just in time to unknowingly forestall a potential confrontation between some of the villagers and Ben. When Mac informs him of the snag in the proceedings, he decides to negotiate personally with Ben and, in the process, discovers a kindred spirit. Happer opts to locate the refinery offshore and set up an astronomical observatory instead. He sends MacIntyre home to implement the changes. Danny brings up Marina's dream of an oceanographic research facility and suggests combining the two into the "Happer Institute", an idea that Happer likes. A sombre MacIntyre returns to his apartment in Houston. He pulls from his pocket pebbles and shells and spreads them out on the work surface. The local phone box in Ferness starts ringing.
David Puttnam originally approached his regular backers Warner Bros. and Goldcrest Films to fund Local Hero, but they initially turned him down. When Puttnam won a BAFTA for Chariots of Fire in 1982 this convinced Goldcrest executives to fund the movie.
Goldcrest decided to finance the entire film. Warner Bros agreed to pay $1.5 million for US rights.
Puttnam always wanted Burt Lancaster to play Happer but the casting proved problematic because the Hollywood star wanted his $2m salary, which was almost a third of the film's entire budget. However, upon learning of Lancaster's potential involvement in the project, Warner Bros. offered Puttnam a US distribution deal and provided the additional funding to secure Lancaster. After negotiations, Puttnam ended up having an additional $200,000 in the film's budget. He later remarked in an interview that "big stars are not a liability, they are an asset!".
Michael Douglas and Henry Winkler were both actively pursued by Bill Forsyth for the role of MacIntyre (which ultimately went to Peter Riegert).
Local Hero was filmed in several locations around Scotland. Most of the Ferness village scenes were filmed in Pennan on the Aberdeenshire coast, and most of the beach scenes at Morar and Arisaig on the west coast.
Main article: Local Hero (soundtrack)
The film's soundtrack was written and produced by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. This has led to the popularity of the film with fans of the band. Knopfler has since performed an arrangement of "Going Home (Theme of the Local Hero)" as an encore at many of his concerts. This tune borrows some melodic riffs from traditional songs. In his review of the album in Allmusic, William Ruhlmann wrote:
Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler's intricate, introspective fingerpicked guitar stylings make a perfect musical complement to the wistful tone of Bill Forsyth's comedy film, Local Hero. ... The low-key music picks up traces of Scottish music, but most of it just sounds like Dire Straits doing instrumentals, especially the recurring theme, one of Knopfler's more memorable melodies.
Gerry Rafferty provided the vocals for "The Way It Always Starts" on the soundtrack. The album was certified a BPI silver record.
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.
James Berardinelli gave the film three and a half stars out of four, calling it "a fragment of cinematic whimsy—a genial dramatic comedy that defies both our expectations and those of the characters". Berardinelli also focused on Forsyth's abilities as a storyteller, noting that the director "finds the perfect tone for this not-quite-a-fairy-tale set in a quaint seaside Scottish village named Ferness. By injecting a little (but not too much) magical realism into the mix, Forsyth leavens his pro-environmental message to the point that those not looking for it might not be conscious of its presence." Berardinelli concluded that Local Hero represents "the best kind of light fare: a motion picture that offers a helping of substance to go along with an otherwise frothy and undemanding main course".
The New York Times critic Janet Maslin wrote, "Genuine fairy tales are rare; so is film-making that is thoroughly original in an unobtrusive way. Bill Forsyth's quirky disarming Local Hero is both." Maslin concluded:
Local Hero is a funny movie, but it's more apt to induce chuckles than knee-slapping. Like Gregory's Girl, it demonstrates Mr. Forsyth's uncanny ability for making an audience sense that something magical is going on, even if that something isn't easily explained.
In Variety magazine, film critic Todd McCarthy wrote, "After making the grade internationally with the sleeper hit, Gregory's Girl, Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth has broken the sophomore sesh jinx the only way he could, by making an even better film ... Given a larger canvas, director Forsyth has in no way attempted to overreach himself or the material, keeping things modest and intimate throughout, but displaying a very acute sense of comic insight."
Almar Haflidason called Local Hero "a wry film that slowly slips under the skin to surprising effect" in BBC Home. Haflidason concludes, "Once over, the mood of the film hits home and a longing develops to visit once again the characters of this warm and deceptively slight comedy."
For Movie Gazette, Gary Panton described the film as a "magical, intelligent comedy". Panton praised the cinematography as "little short of amazing" and that Local Hero was "Bill Forsyth's finest work of all, this is a perfect film."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a rare 100% positive rating based on 36 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.80/10. The site's consensus reads: "A charmingly low-key character study brought to life by a tremendously talented cast, Local Hero is as humorous as it is heartwarming". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 82 out of 100, based on reviews from 15 critics.
Some Scottish critics were less enthusiastic about the film, pointing out that it repeated and reinforced long-established cinematic representations of Scotland and the Scots and perpetuated a comforting but misleading narrative about Scotland's relationship with international capitalism. The Glasgow Women and Film Collective interrogated what it saw as the film's male-oriented narrative about innocence and power and the marginal roles it accorded to women.
Local Hero earned $5,895,761 in total gross sales in the United States. Goldcrest Films invested £2,551,000 in the film and received £3,290,000, earning them a profit of £739,000.
|1984||British Academy Film Awards||Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Burt Lancaster||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Chris Menges||Nominated|
|Best Direction||Bill Forsyth||Won|
|Best Editing||Michael Bradsell||Nominated|
|Best Film||David Puttnam||Nominated|
|Best Film Music||Mark Knopfler||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||Bill Forsyth||Nominated|
|1983||National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||Local Hero||Won|
|1984||National Society of Film Critics Awards||Best Screenplay||Bill Forsyth||Won|
|1984||New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Screenplay||Bill Forsyth||Won|
The minor planet 7345 Happer is named after Lancaster's character in the film and his quest to have a comet named after him.
Main article: Local Hero (musical)
A stage musical based on the film premiered at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in spring 2019 before transferring to The Old Vic, London. The musical featured music and lyrics by Mark Knopfler (writer of the film soundtrack) and a book by Bill Forsyth (original film screenwriter and director) and David Greig, and was directed by John Crowley.