Local Hero was the first film soundtrack that Dire Straits singer and guitarist Mark Knopfler ever composed and performed, and the album was so successful that it reportedly made more money than the film. The final song in the movie, “Going Home,” is played before home games of the Newcastle United football club, Knopfler’s local team.
Michael Douglas and Henry Winkler were in the running for the part of Mac, ultimately played by Peter Riegert.
Two locations were used to create the fictitious town of Ferness. The beach scenes were shot on the west coast of Scotland, in Morar, and the village scenes were shot on the northern coast, in Pennan, over four hours away. The church seen in the exterior shots was actually a life-size cardboard facade built by the crew to make the two locations appear as one.
The film’s story was inspired by a news report about U.S. oil companies buying up land in the Orkney islands. While working on a first draft, producer David Puttnam (Chariots of Fire) and director Bill Forsyth found another source of inspiration when they screened Alexander Mackendrick’s Whisky Galore!, a 1949 film based on a true story about Scottish islanders who band together to circumvent outside forces, like the villagers of Ferness.
At the film’s wrap party, the cast and crew presented actor Burt Lancaster with a complete Highland outfit as a gift. According to producer Iain Smith, the sixty-nine-year old actor stripped to his underpants and donned the kilt for all the guests to see.
The red phone box that becomes a central prop in the film didn’t exist in the village of Pennan. In 1989, the village installed a replica to please visiting fans who were hoping to see it there.
In 1983, shortly after the premiere, British cinema legend Michael Powell wrote director Bill Forsyth a letter praising the movie: “I was not prepared for such exquisite color photography . . . I loved the film—a lovely film, eccentric and egocentric.” Powell did have one point of criticism, though. Find out what it was in the below clip, which features critic David Cairns reading the letter.
In the film, Burt Lancaster’s character, Felix Happer, wants a comet named after him. Scottish astronomer Robert H. McNaught made that dream a reality in 1992, naming an asteroid “7345 Happer.” Like Happer, Bill Forsyth is also an amateur astronomer.
Local Hero is Al Gore’s favorite movie.
Years before Donald Trump became a presidential candidate, Forsyth called him out in an article published in the Guardian in 2012. Responding to a documentary he’d just seen, 2011’s You’ve Been Trumped, Forsyth drew an “unavoidable comparison” between the corporate exploitation depicted in his film and the “malign concoction of egotistical bullying" surrounding a golf resort Trump was building in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He even slyly noted that Trump had “appropriated at least the cashmere coat of my own eighties’ screen villain Happer,” without possessing any of the three-dimensional humanity of that character.
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