ONE of Scotland’s rising movie stars has brought the curtain down on the Edinburgh International Film Festival – with his portrayal of the singer-songwriter Morrissey.
Jack Lowden was joined by Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay, who plays Morrissey’s artist friend Linder Sterling and Laurie Kynaston, who plays his songwriting partner Marr, at the world premiere of England Is Mine at the Festival Theatre.
Borders-born Lowden, who is also about to appear in cinemas in golfing drama Tommy’s Honour and Second World War epic Dunkirk, admitted he was a newcomer to the ground-breaking music of The Smiths frontman when he took on the role.
Now he wants to meet the man he plays as a young adult struggling to pursue his dream of becoming a singer-songwriter in 1970s Manchester while working in a tax office.
Speaking on the red carpet, Lowden said he immersed himself in the music of Morrissey and The Smiths after getting the part.
He added: “I really chucked myself into it and I actually can’t stop listening to Morrissey and The Smiths now.
“The film is set in the pre-Smiths years, so in some ways that wasn’t too important, but I felt it was, as his music reveals a lot about himself and what he thinks. When he first got into Oscar Wilde, he suddenly realised he could say profound things in very simple ways. You can really tell that in his lyrics.
“I really want to see him live now. It’s very rare to get to make a film about a legend like that who is still around. I’d love to meet him too. There isn’t a lot of footage of him before he was in The Smiths I just find him incredibly fascinating, enigmatic and beautiful. I listened to a lot of music he listened to, and watched a lot of films he liked.”
Born in Oxton, near Lauder, Lowden first found fame starring in an Irn-Bru advert sending up Disney’s High School Musical while studying drama in Glasgow. He was in the National Theatre of Scotland’s award-winning production of Black Watch, played Olympic hero Eric Liddell in a stage adaptation of film Chariots of Fire and was one of the main characters in the BBC mini-series War and Peace.
His next major role will be in the new feature film Mary Queen of Scots, which is due to be shot in Edinburgh in August, as Lord Darnley opposite Saoirse Ronan, who is playing the eponymous royal, and Margot Robbie as her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
Lowden has had a starring role at the film festival for the second year in a row after Tommy’s Honour, which was directed by Sir Sean Connery’s son Jason and was named best film at last year’s Scottish BAFTAs, was chosen to open the 2016 event.
In England Is Mine, Morrissey is struggling with trying to balance his musical ambitions and holding down a full-time job.
Discussing his role in England Is Mine, Lowden added: “As an actor if you’re fortunate enough to get a role like this you try to see what you can get away with, and what you can and can’t do.
“I think Morrissey’s fans will learn a lot about him that they don’t know. It’s really a film about hesitation and what you always thought you might want to do but never doing it. It should spur people on to do what they have always dreamt of doing. The film really shows him before anybody cared what he said and when he was trying to work out what he wanted to be. It’ll be really interesting to see what people think of it.”
Brown Findlay, 27, who played Lady Sybil Crawley in Downton Abbey, said she had “delved” into the life of Linder Sterling, one of Morrissey’s lifelong friends, who was a huge influence on the singer after they met in 1976, the year the start of the film is set.
Before taking to the stage of the Festival Theatre with the other key cast members, she added: “I absolutely loved The Smiths before I started working on the film, so it felt like such an honour to be part of their story and to delve into that whole world.
“Our formative years, friendships and connections with family and friends are the most innovative and exciting and bold ways that someone can be formed. I think it is really beautiful to examine.
“Linder is an extraordinary artist in her own right and an incredible woman. I looked at her work and the political landcape of the time and really delved into that. After a certain point you have to sit back and do your own thing with it.”
Kynaston said: “I didn’t know an awful lot about The Smiths even though they are such an iconic band and you hear their music all the time. There is heaps out there on Johnny Marr and The Smiths, but unfortunately his autobiography came out just a few weeks after we stopped filming. It was a bit annoying!”
Richard E Grant, Ewen Bremner, Kevin Bacon, Stanley Tucci, Danny Huston and Sheila Hancock have been among the stars appearing at this year’s EIFF.