04 April 2023

Local Hero 40th to be celebrated in north-east

The 40th anniversary of the film Local Hero is to be celebrated with a long weekend of events and screenings in the landscapes where the film was set.

Screenings, which are supported by Aberdeenshire Council, are being run by Cinescapes, which specialises in outdoor screenings in the Scottish landscapes that inspired them.

The project is supported by Aberdeenshire Council’s Coastal Community Fund via the Banff and Buchan Area Committee.

Director Bill Forsyth’s classic comedy is one of the most popular and successful films ever made in Scotland.

The film, which tells the story of an American oil man who falls in love with Scotland, was partly filmed in the tiny coastal village of Pennan.

Jonathan Melville, author of the book ‘Local Hero: Making a Scottish Classic’ said: “It’s a very important film – because it was a Scottish writer and director showing you could make a film for a global audience. Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster has a major role in the film and came to Scotland to take part.

“The film is about an American oil man who comes to Scotland to buy a village.  You’d imagine the locals would fight back – but they are very keen on getting their hands on the money. The humour of it turns things on its head.”

Many of the key moments of the film take place at the phone box on the harbour – where Mac the oilman, played by Peter Riegert, rings Houston to update the company on how negotiations are going and is entranced by the northern lights.

Today, Bill Pitt, originally from South Carolina, but now living near Pennan, regularly repaints the village phone box, which is a site of pilgrimage to Local Hero fans from around the world.

He said: “Once I was busy repainting the phone box when someone came to take a picture of it and asked if they could help me paint it.  I handed him the brush and he said it made his year.   We get Local Hero fans coming from all over the world and hoping to see the northern lights.”

Events will begin in Pennan, with a Champagne celebration on Thursday May 25 at Pennan Village Hall.

There will be regular showings of the film at Pennan Village Hall throughout the summer.   Villagers hope some of the cast and crew will make the return trip to the village, which became the fictional village of Ferness.

On Friday evening, May 26, there will be an outdoor screening of ‘Local Hero’ at Banff Castle.    The Ship Inn, in Banff, was the setting for the indoor scenes in the MacAskill Arms.

Residents and film fans will have the chance to meet author and film expert Jonathan Melville on Friday morning at Banff Springs Hotel, where some of the cast and crew stayed during filming.

The beach scenes were filmed on the west coast, in Morar and Arisaig – after film maker Bill Forsyth realised that nowhere combined the village setting and coastline needed for the story.

Jonathan Melville said: “People don’t realise it but there is film magic at work.  The houses are in the north east and the beach is in the west.   The telephone box in the film was also a prop – while the real phone box was hidden.”

Saturday, May 27, will see outdoor screenings of family friendly films, shorts and documentaries at Banff Castle.

On Sunday, May 28, there will be outdoor screenings of family friendly films at Portsoy, followed by an evening showing of Local Hero.

All events will be reasonably priced, with food and drink from local suppliers.

Founder of Cinetopia, the company behind Cinescapes, Amanda Rogers said: “Ever since I began this project, I have dreamed of staging a screening of Local Hero.

“Local Hero is an utterly charming film which has stood the test of time.   We are particularly excited to be working with Jonathan Melville to explore stories behind the making of the film and its impact on the Aberdeenshire area and on the film industry in Scotland.”

Aberdeenshire Council Leader and local Troup councillor Mark Findlater said: “This is very exciting news not only for Pennan itself but for the surrounding communities along the north coast. Our communities still have a real affinity for Local Hero 40 years on from its release and, of course, the iconic red telephone box remains a must-see attraction for visitors to the village. I would encourage local residents and visitors alike to come along to our events in May and be part of the celebration of this wonderful film.”

The film is being re-released in UK cinemas on May 19 by distributors Park Circus.

Cinescapes has previously run outdoor screenings around Scotland, showing films in Leith, Princes Street Gardens, East Kilbride, Oban, Glasgow and Fife as part of its Cinescapes Festival.  The company also worked with Edinburgh Council to create a short film crafted from local archives which was projected onto local landmarks.

Nicola Kettlewood, Manager, Film Hub Scotland, says: “The re-issue of Local Hero will allow both a new generation to discover this charming Scottish film, and the rest of us to enjoy it all over again. The film’s depiction of Scotland’s beautiful landscape was made for the big screen and feels even more prescient in this environmentally-conscious time. We’re delighted that Cinescapes are leading activity to celebrate this classic in Aberdeenshire, as they create such inventive and enjoyable cinema events.”

For details of Pennan screenings and events follow Pennan Hall on Facebook

 For details of Cinescapes screenings and events go to