Written and Directed by Bill Forsyth
Starring Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert, Peter Capaldi, Jenny Seagrove, Dennis Lawson, Jennifer Black, Fulton Mackay
Bill Forsyth was a Scottish writer/director who loves his characters. He had a knack for creating quirky but real people to populate his films, and his scripts often meandered in ways you’d never expect. Local Hero is his best work.
“Mac” McIntyre (Peter Riegert) is an executive for a Texas oil company run by Felix Happer (Burt Lancaster). He’s sent to Ferness, a small town on the Scottish coast, with plans to buy up land for an oil refinery. Mac meets with the oil company’s agent, Danny Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) and takes rooms at the hotel/pub run by Gordon Urquhart* (Dennis Lawson). Gordon also runs everything else in town and, unbeknownst to Mac, knows all about the plans. The townspeople are perfectly happy to take their money from the refinery, except for Marina (Jenny Seagrove), a marine biologist who wants to protect the local environment.
The movie allows you to enjoy the characters. Marina seems to have some miraculous secrets, and Gordon is a charming conniver. There’s also a Russian sea captain who docks in order to watch over his stock portfolio, and Ben Knox, a beachcomber who owns the beach.
Burt Lancaster is wonderful. At this time in his career, he had learned to be a little less intense and the result is – like everything else in the film – is charming. All of the character vie to be funny and very, very human.
This was Forsyth’s most successful film. His next, Comfort and Joy, was also a charmer, but his career petered out after that. Maybe it was his leaving Scotland.
*Thankfully, no relation of Francis Urquhart.