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Monday 19 February 2018

Morrissey biopic premiere closes Edinburgh International Film Festival

England Is Mine is a portrait of Morrissey’s early years in 1970s Manchester.

Morrissey (Ben Birchall/PA)
Morrissey (Ben Birchall/PA)

By Catriona Webster, Press Association Scotland Reporter

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has drawn to a close with the world premiere of Morrissey biopic England Is Mine.

Director Mark Gill’s portrait of The Smiths singer’s early years in 1970s Manchester had its first screening at the festival’s closing night gala in the Scottish capital.

Joining Gill on the red carpet were stars including Scottish actor Jack Lowden, who plays Morrissey, and Jessica Brown Findlay, who plays artist and friend Linder Sterling.

Gill said it was a “real honour” to close the festival, which has been celebrating its 70th anniversary after being formed in 1947 alongside the city’s International Festival and Festival Fringe.

He said the biopic, which was not authorised by the singer, was a “passion project” born out of growing up on the same streets.

He told the Press Association: “I grew up in Stretford in Manchester on the same street as Morrissey, The Smiths were my first love and I was always interested in who that voice was coming out of the speakers, especially on his early records.

“Once I started digging you realise there’s a really interesting story there so it is a very personal story for me.

“Every film has to be a passion project to some degree but I think this for me, it’s my first film, I wouldn’t say it was easy but getting to make a film about where I grew up, about something that I loved, it was comforting.”

Asked how he went about making a film about a living music icon, he added: “I think you have to show a great deal of respect.

“I think that’s very important and we have tried to be very respectful, but you’re also dealing with a character who comes to life on the page.

“So in that respect that was really exciting to try and develop who he might have been and try and make it more for people beyond the fanbase.”

Morrissey (Yui Mok/PA)

Lowden, who starred in the BBC’s recent adaption of War And Peace, said it was great to be able to close the festival having grown up about 45 minutes away in the Scottish Borders.

He said he did not know what the singer would make of his portrayal, adding: “I think it’s true to what we had in front of us.

“You forget that it’s Morrissey, that’s how you do it. As soon as you’re aware that he’s iconic then even the way you put on a tie will be iconic. You just need to play a person.”

Findlay, best known as Downton Abbey’s Lady Sybil, said it was “incredible” to be part of the festival’s finale.

Jessica Brown Findlay (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

She said: “It’s such an honour particularly with a film that’s so dynamic and exciting and sort of full of its own angst, that feels great. I love it here.”

Speaking about Sterling and her friendship with the singer, she added: “What a dream to be able to play a punk, feminist artist. Every word in that sentence is music to my ears, so that felt wonderful.

“What they end up doing is prolific but in that moment they are two people who are scared and excited by the world and they had a meeting of minds and it’s so rare when you meet someone who sparks you off like that creatively, and when you do you can’t let go of it.

“And there is a real force behind Linder seeing that in Steven and I think that’s beautiful and a wonderful way to tell that story.”

Press Association

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