Sep 252015

Action comedy American Ultra is a novel mix of fighting, explosions and laughs, but falls short of being something you’ll remember for any great length of time. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson watches this stoner/sleeper cell mashup.

American Ultra screen

There weren’t too many people in Cineworld at the Queens Links during the Tuesday night showing, which was probably standard given that the film is nearing the end of its screen cycle. Casting-wise the composition of its starring actors is a curious one.

First you have a guy primarily known for his voiceovers as protagonist parrot ‘Blu’ in Rio and Rio 2.

On the other hand, as distinctive as her voice maybe, you have the supporting actress in the form of Kristen Stewart who is primarily pictured as the love interest pin-up ‘Bella’ in the Twilight saga.

Whilst the latter plays doting girlfriend, Phoebe, the former is dopey druggie, Mike. They reside in a small town in West Virginia where Mike works as a convenience store clerk.

It turns out there’s a part of his mind compartmentalised, in hibernation and waiting for activation. This comes in the form of a CIA operative visiting his store and using code words which at first seem just like gibberish. However, when they sink in he becomes an unlikely combat expert who can dispatch an opponent with a spoon.

It’s a tad like Matt Damon in the Bourne films, but doesn’t take itself half as seriously. The title also suggests a word play on ‘Project MKUltra’, a series of experiments by the CIA which began in the early ‘50s and basically aimed to achieve mind control.

There are two factions at war in this film. There is Mike, of the Ultra program; and members of the Tough Guy project. Good guy versus bad guys. It’s judged that Mike must be eliminated so this is done in the guise of a supposed ‘super typhoid’ outbreak, shutting down the small town completely.

There are some genuinely interesting facets of Mike’s backstory. Like how he was a ‘three strike delinquent’, volunteering for the program but having his memories erased when it was scrapped. Or how Phoebe’s an undercover agent tasked only as his handler, but genuinely falls in love with him during her assignment.

There’s also a clever little episode within the closing scenes when Mike finally proposes to Phoebe. He’s spent the entirety of the film seeking an appropriate time to do so, and this takes place in front of several squad cars. One taser shoots, crisscrossing into him, as unto her. This Romeo & Juliet are star crossed lovers, indeed.

Other than that, though, some of it was rather corny and sometimes the line between silly and serious was so blurred that I didn’t know exactly how I was meant to react scene on scene.

Having enjoyed those facets of the characterisation, don’t get wound up in them and expect any serious development, just focus on the laughs and the unlikely tools of combat. For example, the frying pan used for JFK-esque bullet trajectory.

Sep 042015

Action thriller, Hitman: Agent 47 is a tad more intelligent than its non-direct 2007 predecessor, but isn’t as entertaining. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson takes a look at this computer game-based reboot.

HitmanThere were maybe a dozen people at Cineworld at the Queens Links during the Monday afternoon showing, which was probably not bad given the overall profile of the film.
Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware) is searching the globe for her father. In the process she finds out that she’s a product of bioengineering, along with Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), who turns out to be her brother.

Whilst the latter is a stealthy killing machine, she’s a ‘90’ and thus more advanced than he is. She has extra sensory awareness and can perceive things outside the scope of mere mortals.

The bad guys want to take over the aforementioned bioengineering program for their own ends, which in turn is a threat to the world as we know it.

There are a few nice twists here and there, mostly concerning the dubious role of Agent 47 as purely protagonist or antagonist. Sometimes it seems more like a spy film in the vein of the James Bond series than a more straight ahead action film.

However, there is enough intrigue, plus interesting science fictional aspects that consider the nature versus nurture debate, to keep the viewer reasonably engaged.

Go for the guns and explosions, trying your utmost not to analyse it too much and you might leave the screening happy.

Aug 212015

Celebrate Aberdeen logoWith thanks to Phil Moar, Account Manager, Citrus Mix.

A film which was commissioned to celebrate 200 years since the construction of Union Street commenced is set to be shown in public this weekend for the first time in 21 years.
‘No Mean Street – Union Street 200’ will be shown this Saturday and Sunday (August 22 and 23) at Belmont Filmhouse as part of the Celebrate Aberdeen weekend festivities that will take place at various venues across the city centre.

The film, written and directed by Alan White, was commissioned by Aberdeen City Council in 1994 to celebrate 200 years since the act of parliament authorised the construction of Aberdeen’s main thoroughfare.

Starring local ex-drama teacher, actor and stand-up Ally Dunbar as Doctor Kelly, the film follows the time travelling architect as he guides viewers into the past and present history of the street. The film also features the song Abercrombie’s Dream by Old Bling Dogs which lyrics tell the story of Abercrombie, the young civil engineer who came up with the street’s design.

It was shown daily during the Union Street 200 celebrations over four months in 1994 in a temporary exhibition and cinema that utilised the arches within Union Terrace Gardens.

The flick is being revived thanks to support from business organisation Aberdeen Inspired, with Aberdeen-based filmmaker Roy Stewart, whose short video on Aberdeen went viral online earlier this year, also forming part of the programme across the weekend.

Aberdeen Inspired is also supporting the parade element of the Celebrate Aberdeen weekend which will take place on Union Street on Saturday morning and will see hundreds of third sector groups take to the streets in a celebration of the work they do within the city.

Aberdeen Inspired has teamed up with four charities – Aberdeen Cyrenians, Aberdeen Forward CFINE, Bethany Christian Trust and VSA – as sponsor.

Gary Craig, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“Both No Mean Street – Union Street 200 and Roy’s video on Aberdeen give an insight into the past and present of the city and we’re delighted to be able to play a role in bringing them to the big screen this weekend.

“Aberdeen has so many aspects that are worth celebrating – from its landscape and heritage to the charities, groups and volunteers that work so tirelessly for the benefit of the city – and we’re really looking forward to a weekend of showcasing what is great about the place so many of us live and work within.”

‘No Mean Street – Union Street 200’ will be shown at Belmont Filmhouse on Saturday, August 22, at 1.30pm and Sunday, August 23, at 3.30pm. Tickets are free and are available on a first come, first served basis.

Celebrate Aberdeen takes place this weekend, August 22 and 23, at various venues across the city centre. For more information, please visit

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute. Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district.

Further information on the work of Aberdeen Inspired is available at

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Aug 072015

Filmmakers agree to stream for free the movie Donald Trump tried to ban. With thanks to Anthony Baxter.

Michael Moore with Anthony Baxter. Courtesty of A Baxter

Michael Moore and Anthony Baxter courtesty of A Baxter

An award-winning documentary that Donald Trump threatened to sue the BBC over is being made available to Americans before each US Presidential debate.

You’ve Been Trumped will be available to watch in its entirety at 12:01 am EST on Thursday, August 6, the date of the first debate in Cleveland, Ohio. This first free showing will expire after 24 hours.

The trailer for the film can be viewed here.

“Since Mr Trump has soared in the polls we have received many requests for You’ve Been Trumped,” said its director Anthony Baxter. “In a way we feel we have a public duty to make the film available as widely as possible.”

“You’ve Been Trumped shows a side of Mr Trump that anyone thinking of voting for him hasn’t seen, and so it’s perhaps no surprise Mr Trump hates the film.”

Trump tried to sue the BBC when the corporation aired You’ve Been Trumped in 2012. He then launched a bitter Twitter tirade against the film’s director and threatened legal action. But You’ve Been Trumped was aired anyway to record audiences (trending number one on twitter) and led to a collapse in his popularity in Britain.

“We intend to make the film available the day of each Presidential debate that Mr Trump takes part in,” said Mr Baxter.

Baxter, who was thrown in jail after an arrest by Scottish police backed by Trump (the police later apologised), is in the United States as part of the release of A Dangerous Game, which looks at the impact of Trump’s super luxury golf courses in America and Scotland, and features an explosive interview with the billionaire in Trump Tower. The BBC has acquired the film for broadcast later in the year.

Members of the public wishing to view You’ve Been Trumped, should go to

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Aug 072015

Sports drama Southpaw has had some rave reviews, particularly for Jake Gyllenhaal’s depiction of a down on his luck boxer.  Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson cast his eye over this recent offering.

vuepicThere were maybe a dozen people at Vue on Shiprow for the Thursday night showing, which you could suppose is okay for the night time viewing of a film having already been out almost for a week.
The basics of the story are that Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is top of the pile as light heavyweight champion of the world.

He’s come a long way from the kid brought up in an orphanage, like his wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams), in the notorious neighbourhood of Hell’s Kitchen.

They both attend a charity event particular to their upbringing, and he makes a candid if not particularly confident speech regarding his childhood and the good work the system did in its bid to make a positive impact upon his life.

After this a contender for Billy’s belt harasses him, goading with explicit remarks about Maureen. This descends into a scrap. The two are pulled off eachother, but not before his wife is accidentally shot during the skirmish by one of the challenger’s entourage.

This was a little bit evocative of Rocky III, to be honest. The mouthy challenger, the champion losing a loved one after a fracas; though in this case a wife, instead of trainer.

The comparisons to that series don’t end there, neither.

Billy’s subsequent fall from grace following Maureen’s death is akin to the money problems Rocky Balboa encounters at the beginning of Rocky V. Both end up moving from spacious mansions back to their old unpretentious stomping grounds, the places where they made it and made it from.

Even generally speaking Hope’s fighting style is one of sheer determination, persevering through punch after punch with minimal blocking and an inhuman granite chin. Sound like anyone?

During this time Billy loses the championship to an unremarkable fighter, who is then beaten by the said Colombian Clubber Lang.

Not only that, Hope lashes out at the referee and finds himself suspended from boxing. This is where the aforementioned money problems kick in, his income drying up.

His descent into drink and drugs mean the social services take away all that’s left for him to care about, his daughter. This begins a long process to get sober, resume boxing and regain eventual custody.

Trainer Titus Wills (Forest Whitaker) moulds Billy into a more defensive fighter, like when Apollo Creed takes Balboa back to the drawing room, fighting wise, again as said, in Rocky III.

Ultimately, come fight night, Hope learns not to be goaded, like was at the charity event; winning with a cool head, instead of losing all with a hot one.

As an aside, Rachel McAdams was slightly perplexing. Upon first inspection she looks like Laura Vandervoort of V remake fame. However, when she starred in About Time two years ago, onscreen she was more akin to a younger, fresh faced Hilary Swank.

You would be forgiven for thinking she was some sort of reptilian shape shifter, akin to her character in that very sci-fi series from 2009. Strange stuff.

Moving on, in all honesty the film was a bit sickly at first. The happy clappy family life came to a welcome end and the real hardship and heartbreak made for better dramatic viewing.

It did seem a bit ‘boxing movie cliché aplenty’ at times, but there was enough grit in it to not glorify the sport as some sort of cakewalk that some similar films unintentionally make it.

Aug 072015

Huntly seems an unlikely venue for a film set in the American Wild West frontier. However, when you come up the Aberdeenshire country drive to the Tranquility Wild West Town for the first time, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. On the weekend of 11 July director Paul Vernon, town founder and script writer Ally Baranowski, actors and crew worked at breakneck speed from dawn to dusk to film the short movie ‘Trail to Tranquility’. Suzanne Kelly was on hand to report – and to take the role of Kitty, Tranquility’s saloon owner.


Karl and Michael on the Tranquility set.

Trail to Tranquility is the latest in a series of films to be shot in Huntly’s Wild West Town, Tranquility. When this film comes out in December, condensed to 35 minutes, it promises to be an action-filled, fast-paced adrenalin ride.

Without giving too much of the plot away, outlaws make their way to the little town of Tranquility, where they take a hostage. Battle rages between the US Marshal’s forces and the outlaws, with fatal consequences for some.

Award-winning director Paul Vernon was joined by a hard working film crew including Calum McCrae / Patrick Haram on sound recording duties.

Professional makeup artists Deborah Cowan and Kym Murchie did an outstanding job ranging from making up the saloon girls to ensuring any wounds looked realistic.

Vernon told the team:

“Every single participant contributed to this overall project, whether it was a townsperson attending a scene on Sunday morning or a member of the main cast and crew, or even that person making teas, or cleaning out the toilets, to filling up the water trough, or making the director a cuppa! Each and every one is as important as the next.”

The actors came from across the UK; with male lead Mikey Mccallen and others coming from the Southampton area for the shoot.

The cast and crew that made it all happen are:

Mikey Mcallen, Michael Lorsong, Gregor Cameron, Ryan Hamilton, Stuart McGough, Mikey Rennie, Dave Alexander, Roderick Mackenzie, Karl Fredrick Hiemeyer, Atholl Buchan, Alistair Baranowski, Andrew J Douglas, Stuart Patterson, Suzanne Kelly, Kiera Robertson, John Haram, William Kidd, Brian Grassie, Brian Watt, William Beaton, Brendan Moir, Patrick Haram, Andrew McDonald, Calum McCrae, Phil Vinden, John de Sykes, Larry Willett, Will Napier, Cameron Lawrie Ross, Jim Anderson, Jane Leiper and Danny, Vicky Largue, Kelly Moir, Samantha Domeracki, Erin Sharpe, Iona Rennie, Deborah Cowan, Kym Murchie, and a wonderful group of extras who came from all over the Aberdeenshire area.

Tranquility founder and scriptwriter Ally Baranowski said:

“This weekend was the culmination of months of preparation by both myself & Paul Vernon, the director & in the last few weeks by Debs & Kym. And over that long weekend everyone managed to gel together as a team so enabling a successful conclusion to the film making.”

December will see the film’s premier at Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema. Aberdeen Voice will keep you informed of developments and the launch date.

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Jul 302015

Robert Carlyle makes his directorial debut with comedy thriller The Legend of Barney Thomson, an adaption of a book by Scots author Douglas Lindsay. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson reviews.

vuepicsqThere weren’t many people at Vue on Shiprow for the Wednesday night showing, though this was no indicator as to the quality of the film.

For a start Ray Winstone was brilliant as the ever so slightly jingoistic copper, Holdall. There’s a funny scene on the phone to someone reporting a crime to whom he replies he can’t understand what they’re saying, adding he knows damn well fine the caller’s Scottish.

He’s always simmering, even coming to boiling point walking past some ne’er do wells on the streets of Glasgow.

To be honest, when news of the film came to light it was half expected Holdall would be a fluent Glaswegian police officer and that perhaps he’d don at least a reasonably respectful Scottish brogue.

Turns out he’s does what he best, authentic Cockney.

Having said that, English actress Emma Thompson is to be commended for her performance as Carlyle’s onscreen mother, the fierce yet happy go lucky matriarch Cemolina, with a very convincing Scottish salt of the earth portrayal.

Anyway, Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle) leads an uninspired life as a barber pushed further and further away from the shop window as his colleagues bemoan his lack of ‘chat’ to customers.

He’s awkward and antisocial to the point he’s deemed almost the perfect discontented serial killer.

Only this is by accident, though. This is comedy of silly slapstick combined with some grisly gore, both elements offsetting one other.

It also turns out there is another serial killer on the loose, and that Barney’s two accidental murders, his boss and colleague, are suspected by the ever bungling police to be all at the hands of the same person.

There’s a few nice twists throughout the film, and if you haven’t read the books, like many, the ending may come as somewhat of a surprise.

Overall, it’s something different from the typical Hollywood fare. It’s got that certain British grit and humour about it.

Jun 152015

The eagerly awaited Jurassic World is now in cinemas, almost fifteen years after Jurassic Park III. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson sized up this latest offering.

vuepicsqMaybe a dozen people tops came to Vue on Shiprow the morning of its release. You’d suppose that while many people were at work, there could be no telling how many geeks, including this reporter, would arrive in plenty time for the cinema doors to open.

Generally, there was some good suspense that you’d come to expect from this series of films. Evading the clamping jaws of a predator so narrowly you almost can’t bear to watch, sort of thing.

However, it could be said that the very teasing trailers this past few months were maybe better than the film itself.

Probably the key incentive to actually go and watch is to get more than just a fleeting glimpse of what the film calls the Indominus Rex, the film’s chief antagonist. A bit like what lured audiences into seeing the Godzilla-esque creature in Cloverfield a few years back.

It starts with Zach Mitchell (Nick Robinson) and his younger brother, Gray (Ty Simpkins), seeing their parents off at the airport. They’re visiting auntie Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who’s operations manager of a dinosaur theme park.

She’d promised her sister she would spend quality time with her nephews, but instead palms them off to her assistant. The latter proves not diligent enough, and the boys are left to themselves for the most part.

In the film, dinosaurs are widely regarded as old hat after the events of the previous three instalments. To maintain interest in the park, geneticists deem it necessary to genetically alter their makeup.

As an aside, notice the head of genetics, played by B.D. Wong, is the only recurring character in the film. You may remember a much younger version of him in the first Jurassic Park movie.

When the hybrid in question breaks loose from its enclosure, Chris Pratt, who starred in Guardians of the Galaxy, comes to the rescue as Velociraptor trainer, Owen Grady.

Although the island is being evacuated, Zach and Gray have waded into dangerous off road territory, in search of something more than the typical attraction.

This is a bit like the first film when everybody, bored with what little to sightsee on the planned tour, jumps out their vehicles to get a closer look at an ill Triceratops.

The comparisons to the previous films don’t end there.

The Mitchell brothers are then terrorised by the Indominus in their globular method of transport, called a ‘gyrosphere’. This is evocative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex tearing strips out of the tour jeep in Jurassic Park, as brother and sister struggle to evade its killer jaws.

Nothing can quite top the cliff edge scene in The Lost World, though. How did Jeff Goldblum and company escape that trailer in one piece, all hanging from a rope as it was tipped into the sea and rocks below?

You could add the Spinosaurus scenes in Jurassic Park III attacking the crashed plane lodged in the tree, and the boat in the water at the end.

Anyway, the film continues with conspiring forces, and additional antagonists. These profiteers seek the prehistoric carnivores as modern weapons of war.

Recurring in almost every film, these people are the lawyer in Jurassic Park, and the hunters and businessmen seeking to bring the ‘exhibits’ to the mainland in The Lost World.

This theme, if you will, is only tenuously made in Jurassic Park III via Dr Grant’s charge who tries to steal Velociraptor eggs for monetary reasons.

Closing Jurassic World, there’s a battle maybe even better than the one in the recent King Kong adapation, where the super simian takes on three Tyrannosaurs.

This sort of scene and theme repetition throughout the series is most welcome. Though some may consider it lazy, it could conceivably be regarded clever. Classical music repeats certain motifs, each time slightly modulated, to give shape, so why not in modern cinema?

Jun 112015

The horror flick series Insidious has now reached its third outing. Aberdeen Voice’s Andrew Watson reviews Chapter 3, a prequel to the first two films.

vuepicNot many people came to view this supernatural chiller at Vue on Shiprow for Saturday lunchtime’s showing, the film having being released only the previous day.

You can see why, in a way. Though sometimes genuinely scary, it could be frustratingly hackneyed.

Anyway, single father Sean Brenner (Dermot Mulroney) juggles work and two kids to feed. His eldest, Quinn, it seems, while trying to be a mother to her younger brother (Tate Berney), harbours ambitions as an actress. 

The stresses of this perceivably mould her into an introvert.

The film opens with her seeking advice from medium, Lin Shaye, who reprises her role as Elise Rainier from the previous two films. Quinn’s mother has passed recently and Quinn wants guidance.

Though Elise has long quit her professional capacity doing psychic readings, she agrees just this one more time.

Perturbed by the seemingly negative energies in the room, having sought Quinn’s mother in the spirit world, she warns the teenager to cease her yearning. She says if you call out one dead person, others hear, too.

Surprise, surprise, it wouldn’t be an hour or two sat in the screening if this advice was heeded. There’s an innocent game of knock-and-response on the wall splitting Quinn and her next door neighbour.

Only he’s not even there. It all kicks off from there, really.

Gradually these incidents escalate; hospitalising her, breaking her legs, and damaging her neck. Soon it’s not just a fight of the physical, as events spiral out of control, so much so, that her own soul is at stake.

Elise is once again persuaded to help, and even online house haunting bloggers are enlisted. Together the combine towards the film’s resolution.

From this bit onwards it all gets a bit corny. Psychic doing battle with evil spirits. Mortal woman tossing inconceivably evil, malignant and powerful forces with just a shove. Saving the day in The Matrix was more believable.

The saccharine ending, however, was thankfully tempered with, if not reality, some semblance of where the story goes from thereon.

If you were largely unimpressed with the hackneyed horror or corny combat, at the very least the story arc, if you’ve watched the previous two, keeps you at least a little bit interested and mildly curious.

May 252015

One of Scotland’s fastest-rising young stars in Hollywood is actor Declan Michael Laird. Awarded a fully-funded place at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting based on his performance at a workshop, he’s been busy ever since. Now it seems he’s set his sights on more than acting. Declan talks to Suzanne Kelly.

DeclanLairdpic (1)At age 21 most of us didn’t have a clue what we wanted to do for our career.

Childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer, cowboy or an astronaut were being swapped for aspirations of a more practical kind. For those who wanted careers in sports, arts or entertainment; well-meaning family, friends and school advisors were probably trying to talk them out of it.

‘Too much competition,’ ‘No reliable prospects,’ ‘No money to be made for most people in that field’ would be some of the sensible persuasions used to veer young people towards surer, more conservative jobs.

Luckily for Declan, his family stood by his dreams. Initially he sought a career in football, and was doing well until an injury brought his pro career to an abrupt end. 

His second career choice? Acting. And his family stood by him again.

A mixture of support, perseverance and lashings of talent got him roles in River City, short films, and a prestigious scholarship to the legendary Stella Adler Academy of Acting in LA.

If luck plays a part in his meteoric rise, it is the kind of luck that comes from working hard, networking, and trying new things. With offers coming in faster and faster, you might think that sticking to acting alone would be Laird’s game plan; it isn’t.

Declan and I find a chance to speak for half an hour; he’s on his way from one appointment to the next. I’ve done a little advance homework, and am pleased for him when I see that at the ripe age of 21, he’s got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s always keen to talk about what he’s doing, but tonight he’s even more so; his voice is just that bit more excited; he’s speaking just that bit faster.

What do you discuss first with a Scotsman living abroad?  The weather, of course.  I bemoan the unpredictable time we’re having weather wise and the end of April snows we briefly had.

How’s the weather in LA?

“California’s been in a drought; but now something like a year and a half’s worth of water fell in a day.  All the roads are flooded.  When it rains here, it’s as if people have never seen it before.  It’s carnage; it’s like a futurist film.”

What are you up to right now?

“Right now I’m driving to Stella Adler for two reasons.  One – I’ve got work coming up in July, so I am brushing up and making sure I’m in class and all the mechanisms are well oiled.  But also two –  my photo has been put up on the Stella Adler walls.  They put up pictures of alumni such as Mark Ruffalo, Salma Hayek and Robert De Niro and now I’m up there as well.  I’ve got a huge smile on my face. “

Laird does sound like he’s smiling and on the verge of happy laughter; he continues:

“I remember coming here three and a half years ago and looking at the wall and hoping someday my face would be there.  The Head of School John Jack called last week and told me to bring up a head shot.

“I’m in a class right now called Character Class; the idea is to push yourself to new limits.  They assign you something completely different than what you would usually be cast as.  I’m playing in Homebody/Kabul by Tony Kushner. I am a 35 year-old heroin addict in Afghanistan. I can grow a decent beard but it’s funny; last night my mum texted me and asked what I was doing. I replied ‘researching heroin’. She thought I was talking about heroines – she didn’t get it.”

Laird’s got a lot on his mind; it’s coming out.

“I’ll launch into what’s going on. I booked a pilot which films in the Nassau in the Bahamas. I go out on 30 July, and the production company manning that are Stone Village. The executive producer Scott Steindorff and he’s a pretty big deal.   He was producer of the television show ‘Las Vegas’; he did ‘Lincoln Lawyer’; he’s a pretty big deal.

“I’m a series regular.  It is on location at a new Bahamas resort – the biggest and most expensive resort in the world.  It’s not open yet; it opens this summer.  It is a casino hotel.  The story is to do with the employees, the ins and outs and things that go on good and bad.   The actor playing the head of the resort is a guy called Rick Fox.  He’s an actor now but is a LA Laker’s Hall of Famer and a sports pundit.”

After pausing for breath Declan seems to be thinking aloud when he muses:

“How the hell am I managing to be paid to go to the Bahamas?”

Have you got anything else in the works?

DeclanLairdpic (2)I ask, even though I can tell he’s bursting to tell me more news.

I’m aware that Laird is also a brand ambassador in the US for Scottish brands ‘Kennett Timepieces’ and ‘Dumore Scotland’.

To me this seems like a lot of juggling for a 21 year old fledgling actor; but there has never been any hint of stress or pressure in our conversations or correspondence.

“When I come back I have three other projects, so it’s all on the go.  There’s a short film ‘What Happens at Night’ and the director is Gordon Maniskas.  Basically I play a new vampire that hasn’t made its first prey.  They want to do the festival circuit ; he’s a great director.  There’s such a huge built in market with it; people love it.  I like the ‘Twilight’ movies, but never got the huge appeal.  But if people like it, I can go with it –  I can go around biting people.”

I can hear the amusement in his voice at the idea of being a vampire; I’m sure he’ll make a far more complex, frightening and alluring one than some of the recent teen vampire actors have managed.

“I’m signed on for a movie, ‘The Rectory’ a horror about Harry Price, who was the first well-known paranormal investigator. It’s looking for the last bit of funding, and looks likely to shoot in January next year but seems like a million miles away. This summer hopefully there’s another movie I’ve booked. 

“The script is in pre-production; it’s called ‘Isolation’ and that’s going to be directed by Peter Foldy, who is Canadian. ‘Isolation’ is a psychological thriller aimed at late teens.  Sean, my character is a nasty piece of work. It seems to be the kind of role I fall into. Sean looks clean-cut but is maybe, well a bit of a dick. This month filming the ‘Kali the King’ – a supporting role.

“It’s amazing out here the saying is ‘work creates work’ and I never knew what that meant. But the guy from the Chevy film [Laird had a Chevrolet commercial] called my agent and offered me the part.

“I think it really makes a difference- if you show up on time, are polite and punctual, they want to work with you in the future. Kali the King is a movie about an ex sort of drug cartel leader in east LA trying to go clean; I upset him by accident and it may or may not cost me my life.

“On the other side of things I’m really broadening out. I’m working with Dylan Russell, a big film producer; I play on his footie team on Sundays sometimes. I am learning about producing and writing, and I’m in writing classes right now. I really enjoy it.  I’ve a few things on the go – producing and writing a very dark medical-based drama set in east LA doing with Dakota Lupo; he’s very successful.”

We discuss how working on one kind of creative endeavour can bring new, previously unsuspected insight and depth to other areas of work.

“It informs what you’re doing – I think you really have to be smart about it; it’s no use to dedicating time to writing if it takes time away from acting, but there are so many channels – Yahoo!, Netflix, etc., it may be easier to sell things.  But you really have to be passionate and I’m passionate.  I’m not writing roles for myself;  if I love the story I go with it.”

I intend asking what he thinks of the recent events back home from the SNP landslide to Celtic’s season – but I sense he’s not done yet discussing his projects.  And he’s definitely not.

“This summer I’ve just got optioned the life rights to the true story of one particular gentleman who was in a Budapest WW2 concentration camp. I am going to go to Budapest this August to do some research and Melbourne later this year to meet with him.  We’ll try to adopt his story into a movie, and I have a few different producers working with me on this.

“I’m doing that in August because I’ll be back then after the Bahamas.  I’m also doing a thing at the Edinburgh Film Festival.  The literary death match is very popular in the US.  Three writers write short stories and three actors go up and perform the stories or speak, and have three judges who decide which story / delivery was best.  The Edinburgh Film Festival got in touch and asked me to be a judge.

I am producing that short film with Dakota Lupo which will film across Scotland in Glasgow and Aberdeen and then Paris.  We will be casting for that when we’re here.  It will be fun to cast and be on that side of things.  It’s a comedy short; about 12 minutes but we’ll do it across Scotland and day’s filming in Paris.  That’s called ‘The Wake Up’.

“My plan is to come to Europe for 3 weeks between Budapest and whatnot and filming ‘The Wake Up’ and get casting, and hopefully spending 4-5 days at home to do nothing.  So from now until the end of the year it’s kind of mad.  It’s good. I’m getting joy in my classes.”

Home for Declan is with his family, just outside of Glasgow. I don’t see Laird getting either bored or jaded any time in the next few decades. The calibre and diversity of the projects is enviable, and will undoubtedly add considerable further strings to his bow.

Tell me please how Camp Abercorn is coming along? This is a web-based, crowd-funded series based loosely on scouting, and has had support of thousands of people – including George Takei.

“I think it’s wrapped for now; to be honest I’ve not heard much recently. I think they’re shopping it around. Up fronts are when all the pilots get sold to the networks. From what I saw the producers are still to sell it to a network. You just never know. If I get a nice phone call one day, then that’s great.”

I am conscious that time is marching on, and he’ll be at his alma mater soon, but I get a chance to ask what plays he’s reading, what films he’s seen.

“I’ve seen Mad Max’ – I’m very lucky that I’m in the BAFTA Newcomer Programme and get to go to screenings for free which is nice. ‘Mad Max’ was last night and it was absurdly fantastic. It was non-stop action start to finish; truly crazy; it was so fast moving it was almost as if I needed to have a rest after it.”

The film stars Tom Hardy; I know Declan’s about to talk about him. Laird’s previously mentioned Hardy with great admiration.

Tom Hardy – if someone had to ask me who I’d base my career on, I’d say him. I feel stupid saying this because he’s a huge star; but I’ve followed him for a while now, and now he’s popular everywhere. It’s like when you hear a song first and knew it was going to be massive, but you were one of the first to have heard it.”

Declan’s feeling about Hardy – which he admits is a kind of childish/possessive ‘I was the first to discover this’ feeling is wholly understandable. When you’ve found someone and were struck by their talent before the rest of the world recognised it, you do feel a bit proud, a bit possessive, a bit like you don’t want to be seen as just someone who got on the bandwagon late.

Truth be told, within a year tops it’s exactly, precisely how I am going to feel about having been introduced to Declan Laird so early in his career.

I can’t wait for our next conversation to see what he’s up to next.

Keep up to date with Declan on twitter.