Dire Straits legend’s songwriting fears for Local Hero stage show

Portraits of British songwriter and guitarist Mark Knopfler for the release of his album 'Down The Road Whatever'.
Portraits of British songwriter and guitarist Mark Knopfler for the release of his album 'Down The Road Whatever'.
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Dire Straits legend Mark Knopfler has admitted he did not think he was the “best choice” to create new music for the forthcoming Local Hero stage show.

The award-winning musician and composer thought he would simply have to agree to his iconic score being adapted for the production when he was first approached.

But Glasgow-born Knopfler ended up agreeing to write a whole new clutch of songs for the production, which the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh will premiere in March.

Knopfler, who penned the original soundtrack more than 35 years ago, has reunited with the film’s writer and director, Bill Forsyth, on the show, which has been in development for several years. The final script is by Royal Lyceum artistic director David Greig.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Knopfler promised the musical will “tug on the heartstrings” of its audiences.

He said: “I’ve obviously loved Local Hero. You can’t not love it. It become an important part of life, that film. There is such a good feeling towards it.

“I thought my involvement would simply be to allow the theatre to use the music and for me to say: ‘You are very welcome to the theme. Go to town and have fun, I’ll see ya.’

“It sort of dawned on me I was being asked to write songs for the characters and do a completely different thing.

“My initial feelings, although I don’t know whether I voiced them, were that I wouldn’t be the best choice for this.

“I felt that there were people who specialise in musicals and that they were not my big thing. But the more I thought about it just started happening and I started turning over some ideas. Before I knew it I was at full torrent and was sending demos of songs to everybody and getting pretty favourable responses. Once I started I just felt like finishing.”

Knopfler said he was conscious that the main theme of Local Hero, Going Home, had been adopted by many people since the film’s release in 1983.

He added: “The theme became quite an important song for a lot of people and found a place in their lives. It was delightful that it could stand up on its own. But essentially it belongs to the story and it still reverberates with me in that way. When I’m reading the script now and I get to the end I get very emotional. Combined with the music, it seems to do something very explosive.

“I’ve had a new draft of the script recently. I find myself getting tied up emotionally with the whole thing, because I’ve written other new songs for it. It just has a way of tugging your heart strings.

“We’ve got be really careful with the film being as powerful as it is, and Bill’s writing of the film. We can’t just ape it. The challenge has been to honour the film but create a new reality for Local Hero.”

Recalling his reaction to being sent the first demos of the new music Knopfler has created, Greig said: “It was a complete surprise that coming out of the blue were these fully-formed pieces of music that captured the lightning in a bottle that’s film. All the emotions like ache, yearning and joy, and the wry comedy - his lyrics just caught the essence of the film.”