His latest movie could have been a shot in the arm for our film industry – but Billy Boyd is frustrated that new “Scottish” flick Ecstasy is full of Canadians.
The Lord of The Rings star, from Cranhill, Glasgow, has spoken out about the “nightmare” scenario faced by Canadian film-maker Rob Heydon when he tried to secure funding from creative bodies in Scotland for the film adapted from an Irvine Welsh story.
Instead of a cast full of Scots, Ecstasy, released this week, has only two homegrown stars, including Billy.
And the actor says the reluctance of funding bodies to cough up over the last decade has deprived Scots in the film industry of work in the recession.
Billy, 43, said: “I first met Rob 10 years ago to talk about this project.
“He’s been trying to get it made in Scotland since then and couldn’t get the finance from Scottish Screen (the now defunct Scottish film body).
“In the end, he just gave up and made it in Canada instead.
“When he met with the funding bodies in Scotland, he was told that it ‘wasn’t Scottish enough’.
“I’m sure there must be all sorts of ins and outs business wise. But why the hell in this country would we not make a film that would give something like 20 actors work and 40 crew jobs? It beats me.
“The film’s set in Leith, after all. The guy’s been trying to get an Irvine Welsh film with a good script made for years in Scotland. I have no idea why that wouldn’t happen.”
Billy appears with Scots actor Adam Sinclair (currently appearing in BBC3’s Lip Service) and a slew of Canadian names, including Smallville star Kristin Kreuk.
He said: “Kristin plays it Canadian but there are a lot of Canadians doing Scottish accents.”
Only a handful of scenes in the adaptation of Edinburgh writer Welsh’s short story, The Undefeated, were filmed here.
It tells of two lonely souls who hook up on the Scottish club scene in the Nineties.
Kreuk plays the lead as a Canadian living in Scotland but most of the film was shot around Toronto.
Welsh has also been quoted as saying the film was “an absolute banker” to be shot in Scotland, pointing out a combination of nostalgia for the Nineties and healthy sales on release would suggest a ready-made audience here.
Billy – who also plays in a band called Beecake – concedes he has no idea if it will have the same success as Welsh’s most famous adaptation, 1996’s Trainspotting.
He said: “You can never second guess these things. Nobody knew what would happen with Trainspotting until it happened. Everything just hit in the right place. It’s like making a war movie and asking if it’s going to be an Apocalypse Now.
“Sometimes it takes off, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ve done my bit.”
A critical mauling on the back of the Scottish première of Stone of Destiny, in which he starred in 2008, also proved a salutary experience for Billy.
He said: “They were thinking about opening Ecstasy in Scotland and I told them I didn’t think it was a good idea.
“I love Scotland but the weird thing is there tends to be a, ‘don’t touch our stories’ thing going on.
“Stone of Destiny had an American director who didn’t know Scotland as well as we do. But if I go and make a film in the US I’m not going to know it as well as Francis Ford Coppola.”
Billy plays DJ and e-prophet Woodsy in Ecstasy, which went on release last night, after a première at London’s Ministry of Sound this week.
As a 19-year-old during the so-called “second summer of love”, and in his 20s at the birth of the e-fuelled rave scene in the Nineties, Billy plays his cards close to his chest about how much of it he experienced first-hand.
He said: “We went to Ibiza when I was about 17 and we couldn’t believe all these happy faces. We didn’t know what was happening, we were more used to everyone fighting in Glasgow.”
Did he partake himself?
“That’s a question you know I’m not going to answer,” he said, politely.
If he’s adept at dodging a tricky question, it may be due to the research he’s done for his upcoming theatre role. Billy joins Maureen Beattie, John Bett and James Pearson in National Theatre of Scotland’s latest project Enquirer, an “investigation into newspapers”.
The play, which opens at Glasgow’s Hub next Thursday, is based on interviews done by three British journalists with people in the media in the days of circulation battles and debates on ethics.
Directed by Black Watch’s John Tiffany and NTS Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, it has been edited by top Scots writer Andrew O’Hagan.
As someone whose affinity for newspapers stretches back to his days delivering them in Cranhill, Billy still prefers buying a paper to going online. “I like to get to know the writers and their work and still like the feel of a newspaper,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have been interested in doing a piece that was about bashing newspapers. There has been some horrible stuff going on, with the Leveson Inquiry, phone hacking and so on, but you can’t destroy a whole industry because of that.”
After Enquirer, Billy will provide The Voice of the Book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy at Glasgow’s King’s Theatre in June, and also has a couple of films in the pipeline.
After co-producing inter-galactic comedy Space Milkshake – about “four people in a space station who collect rubbish in space” – he starred in Carmel opposite true Hollywood royalty.
He said: “It’s set in the art world in the town Clint Eastwood was mayor of. I’m in it with Lauren Bacall, Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) and Alfred Molina. It was quite something to be working with Lauren Bacall.
“She’s hardcore, real Hollywood. But she was great to me, and was really good with my son Jack when she came out for dinner with my wife Ali and I.
“I’d be sitting with my family and listening to her telling stories about Humphrey Bogart. It was incredible.”
Ecstasy is out now. Enquirer, The Hub, Glasgow, April 26 to May 13. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Glasgow, King’s Theatre, June 8-9. Beecake appear with Jon Fratelli and Tom Urie at the MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, on June 15.
The National Theatre of Scotland have shared a link to comments following the preview of Enquirer