Eddie Izzard unaware Whisky Galore was a true story

EDDIE Izzard has admitted he had no idea the classic Scottish comedy Whisky Galore! was based on a true story until he started working on a new version.
Eddie Izzard attends the Whisky Galore premiere at the Festival Theatre. Picture: Ian GeorgesonEddie Izzard attends the Whisky Galore premiere at the Festival Theatre. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Eddie Izzard attends the Whisky Galore premiere at the Festival Theatre. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The stand-up comic and actor said he believed the story of the islanders who raided a cast cargo of whisky from a stricken ship was “too outrageous” to be true.

Now he is joining forces with Rab C Nesbitt star Gregor Fisher to revive the war-time “fairytale” - which was famously based on real-life events which unfolded after the SS Politician ran aground off the Hebridean island of Eriskay in 1941.

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They were joined on the red carpet by co-stars James Cosmo, Sean Biggerstaff and Ellile Kendrick as Glasgow-born director Gillies Mackinnon’s new version brought the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival to an end.

Izzard plays a Home Guard commander trying to thwart the efforts of the islanders, who cannot believe their luck after running out of whisky due to war-time rationing.

The 54-year-old, a self-confessed fan of Alexander Mackendrick’s original 1941 film, revealed he agreed to play the “very English bad guy” shortly after the Scottish independence referendum.

Izzard, who almost joined the armed forces as an officer cadet, said he used his “ encyclopedic knowledge” of the Second World War to come up with an imaginary backstory for his character, Captain Waggett, in the film, which was largely shot in Portsoy, in Aberdeenshire.

He said: “I had seen the original film before. I really like Ealing comedies and I’m a big admirer of Gordon Jackson, who is in it. I didn’t realise it was a real story, I thought it sounded too outrageous. It’s a fairytale, but it’s a real story. That’s the weird thing.

“I don’t think we did feel any pressure when we were making the film, you’ve just got to do what you do. If you’ve got any trepidation it’s not a great way to go into a role. I do feel the original is beloved and I hope people who like it will like this one, but there will be people of younger generations who don’t know the first film.

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“They did want to shoot in the area where it all happened, but the logistics and raising money for the film were so difficult. In the end we filmed where we did because we didn’t have to ship everything across.

“Everyone was so helpful and supportive on location. People loved having the film in Portsoy. I ended up doing a gig for the local scout hall.”

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Fisher, who plays postmaster, James Macroon, admitted he put the script in his “bottom drawer” after being offered the part as he was unsure the film would ever get off the ground.

He said: “I got a call from Willy Wands, one of the producers on the film, who I actually shared a flat with when we were working for Dundee Rep Theatre. He sent me the script and I quite fancied it, but I am a realist. I’ve had a lot of scripts in my day - three quarters of them have never been made.

“The process of things getting made just seems to get longer and longer, and more and more complicated. I thought ‘I hope that gets made’ and put the script in my bottom drawer and waited. Lo and behold it has.”

Fisher shrugged off any suggestion a remake of Whisky Galore was in some way “sacrilegious.”

He added: “Would Laurence Olivier have thought that when he was playing Richard III? It’s just a story. I knew the original black and white film and this isn’t a remake. It’s a retelling. We’ve taken a story and are telling it our way.”