Scotland on Screen: A brief history [The Caledonian Times]

an Times]The internet is currently buzzing with the news that the latest Avengers movie will begin filming in Scotland this month. Last week saw the arrival of the movie’s stars to the country with Elizabeth Olsen being spotted entering the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh and co-star Jeremy Renner tweeting a photo of himself on a plane captioned “it’s time”.

Film fans across the country are eagerly awaiting a glimpse at their favourite stars with A-listers Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downy Jr making an appearance during the filming for Avengers Infinity War which is set for Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Highlands.

However, this is not the first time that Scotland has played host to Hollywood. The country has a strong history of film with both home-grown talent and foreign film makers choosing the country’s city streets and country scenery as the perfect location for movies. In 2015 a USA Today poll for the “10 best reader’s choice” awards voted Scotland the best cinematic destination for scenic landscapes and old fashioned cities.

Scotland played host to the biggest franchise of all time with multiple locations being used for the Harry Potter films. Loch Shiel in the North West became the Black Lake which surrounds the wizarding school of Hogwarts and the historical Glennfinnan Viaduct in Lochaber can be seen in The Chamber of Secrets as when Harry falls from his flying car on the way to school. Producer David Heyman also built the hut for the character of Hagrid on location in Clachaig Gully in Glen Coe after being blown away by the mountainous landscape.

2015’s adaptation of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender also took advantage of the northern landscape for Shakespeare’s Scottish play. The actors fought the freezing weather of the Isle of Skye to film the atmospheric period drama, Fassbender later described the island as “cold, wet and beautiful” during the film’s press tour.


It is not just the countryside which has won the affections of film makers. Scotland’s cities have also starred on the big screen. The 15th century architecture of Edinburgh’s Rosslyn Chapel featured in 2006’s The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks. The quirky streets of the capital’s old-town create the romantic, opening setting to the adaptation of David Nicholls’ novel One Day in 2011 with Anne Hathaway and Jim Strugess as the newly graduated main characters.

Edinburgh’s Princes Street has also been immortalised by director Danny Boyle in the adaptation of Irvin Welsh’s pivotal coming-of-age novel Trainspotting. The city was thrust into the global spotlight again with the hotly anticipated sequel T2 earlier this year.

Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, is also no stranger to the big screen with British director Ken Loach using the city multiple times throughout his career. Robert Carlyle plays the Glasgow bus driver who falls in love with a Nicaraguan asylum seeker in 1996’s Carla’s Song; Peter Mullan plays a struggling alcoholic in 1998’s My Name is Joe which analyses social inequality in some of Glasgow’s poorest neighbourhoods and young Glaswegians plot to transform their lives using their newly acquired knowledge of whiskey in the comedy drama The Angel’s Share (2012).

Yet aside from home-born talent which Loach utilised for his productions, Glasgow has also welcomed the A-listers, most recently with 2013’s World War Z. The apocalyptic film sees Brad Pitt fight zombies in Glasgow city centre, disguised as an uptown Philadelphia. 500 local extras were employed to run through George Square and The Merchant City during the shoot.

Scarlett Johansson played a terrifying man-hunting Alien in 2013’s Under The Skin, which saw the actress in areas all over Scotland from North Berwick to Auchmithie Beach. Glaswegian viewers could also spot the retailers of Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries as Johansson stalked amongst busy shoppers in the popular city centre attraction.

From action adventure to gritty realist dramas to stunning landscape cinematography, Scotland has the capacity for a diverse range of filmic genres. Avengers Infinity War is the latest in a long historyof Scotland’s relationship with the screen and certainly will not be the last.


Originally written for the Caledonian Times 

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