January 2, 2017


Gillies MacKinnon (1948-) b. Glasgow, Scotland.

Gillies MacKinnon

A former art teacher and cartoonist, Gillies MacKinnon work won him acceptance into the National Film School where he first met future collaborator Shane Connaughton, together with his brother Billy they marked their first collaboration with Passing Glory (1986). MacKinnon’s first film given any wide release was Conquest of the South Pole (1989), a docudrama about unemployed Edinburgh youths who attempt to recreate Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole. He followed this with two BBC productions, Needle (1990) and The Grass Arena (1991). The latter was based on the true story of John Healy, an alcoholic ex-boxer who finds redemption as a chess champion. MacKinnon’s breakthrough film was The Playboys (1992), a well-received romantic-comedy drama of an Irish unmarried mother courted by both a constable and a young traveling-entertainer starring Robin Wright, Albert Finney and Aidan Quinn. Hollywood immediately took note of MacKinnon but his first US production, A Simple Twist of Fate (1994), a watchable transposition of George Eliot’s ‘Silas Marner’ to contemporary America was a box office flop. Returning to his native Scotland, MacKinnon turned his attention to Small Faces (1996), a sweeping rites-of-passage tale focusing on the urban street gangs of 60s Glasgow co-written with brother Billy. He returned to an Irish setting with Trojan Eddie (1996), an underworld tale starring Stephen Rea and Richard Harris. The director’s next three projects were made under the aegis of BBC Films. The busy filmmaker earned critical acclaim for Regeneration (1997), adapted from Pat Barker’s compassionate and intelligent novel focusing on a World War I-era military psychiatrist treating soldiers traumatized by trench warfare. MacKinnon’s next film, Hideous Kinky (1998), was based on the early-1970s adventures recounted in Esther Freud’s book, the film charts the inverted relationship of Kate Winslet and her young daughters, who are dragged across North Africa in the wake of their mother’s post-divorce mission of self-discovery. One of his most popular and accessible works was the television film Last of the Blonde Bombshells (2000), a Golden Globe award-winning success starring Judi Dench as the leader of an all-female swing band whose reformation rekindles memories of World War One. The Escapist (2001) was a vengeful tale of a man who abandons his comfortable life and reinvents himself as a ruthless criminal after his wife is killed by a deranged burglar. The uplifting Pure (2002) was an independent, innovative social melodrama told through the eyes of a ten-year-old who must deal with survival in an ever-changing London East End neighbourhood.

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