James McAvoy: Scots poorly represented because accent ‘foreign’

James McAvoy in Filth, for which he won a best actor award at the Scottish Baftas. Picture: Neil Davidson

James McAvoy in Filth, for which he won a best actor award at the Scottish Baftas. Picture: Neil Davidson

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One of the nation’s leading actors says his home country is being poorly represented in film and television because the Scottish accent is considered “foreign”.

James McAvoy said the industry north of the border was crying out for “more stories about Scottish people.”

The Glasgow-born actor said the Scottish accent was regarded as “foreign to many people and puts them off” because they do not hear it often enough on screen.

Speaking at the BAFTA Scotland awards ceremony in Glasgow, the 37-year-old said there was a notable shortage of “Scottish stories, told about Scottish people, by Scottish people, in Scotland.”

McAvoy, who studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and Glasgow, starred in TV dramas Shameless and State of Play before finding fame in hit films like Atonement and The Last King of Scotland.

The latter film, which was director by Glasgow-born director Kevin Macdonald, was one of McAvoy’s few screen roles playing a Scottish character.

He returned to Scotland in 2012 to film Filth, an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s best-selling novel about a corrupt detective in Edinburgh. The film went on to win him a best actor award at the Scottish BAFTAs, where he returned last night to present the best film actress award.

McAvoy said: “Every time we come to the BAFTAs in Scotland we talk about how amazing things are and that there is so much happening in Scotland. I think there needs to be more happening in Scotland.

“Proportionally, with the amount of people we have got compared to the rest of Britain, we need to have more stories told about Scottish people.

“I don’t know why that’s not happening. I do know that our accent is foreign to many people and it puts many people off.

“It’s not because it’s unpleasant to listen, it’s because they just go: ‘I cannot hear that, I cannot listen to it, I cannot understand it.’

“The only way to change that is by putting more accents like ours on telly and making people understanding it so that it doesn’t become some strange, foreign sound to them.

“It’s the only thing I can think as to why we don’t have more Scottish stories told about Scottish people, by Scottish people, in Scotland.

“We don’t need to have them broadcast throughout the rest of the world. I’m just talking about TV and film for Scottish people, by Scottish people, in Scotland. We don’t seem to do that well enough.

“It’s a business, it’s an industry, it’s about finding money, it’s expensive thing to make TV and film, it’s very, very difficult.”

Speaking before the ceremony, Scottish stage and screen star Bill Paterson called for other productions to be allowed to use the vast Cumbernauld studio where Outlander is based.

A £4 million public funding deal to help the privately-owned Wardpark Studios complex - where the Sony-Starz series has been based since 2013 - expand in future was announced last year by the Scottish Government.

The 71-year-old, who revealed he has revived his role as Ned Gowan in the hit time travel series, said: “The studio at Cumbernauld is colossal, it’s fantastic.

“Scotland already has a ready-made studio as far as I’m concerned. Outlander is not there all the time. They’re in and out.

“A lot of good films were made here in the past without actual studio set-ups. We’ve got the landscape in Scotland and great locations, and as far as I’m concerned we’ve also got a studio base at Cumbernauld.”