It was back in 1986 that Highlander introduced cinema-goers to two immortals who had fought for centuries to be the last man standing, a fight that began in Scotland and ended on the streets of New York.
Thirty years on, one of those immortals returned to Scotland to introduce a restored version of the film to a packed auditorium at Edinburgh’s Cineworld, part of the 70th edition of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
For the fans, it was a long-overdue return to the Highlander universe by Clancy Brown, aka The Kurgan, who had effectively distanced himself from the franchise due to differences with the producers over his original salary.
Before entering the cinema, Brown told me about his arrival in Scotland for the Highlander shoot in 1985:
“When we first went up to Glencoe to shoot the battle scenes, I wasn’t treated like most of the cast and and had to take a train up to Glasgow. I got into the station around midnight and there was nobody to pick me up. I thought I’d have to spend the night in the station, until a Glasgow copper told me to move along.”
He also recalled his first encounter with a certain Sean Connery:
“Sean said only three words to me the entire show, ‘Do you golf?’ I said no, and that was the last time he spoke to me.”
It’s likely that the EIFF was one of the better ways to return to the fold, a festival that’s light years away from San Diego Comic Con and its ilk. Rather than fans dressed in Kurgan costumes or brandishing swords, this was a more restrained crowd happy to hear the actor’s memories of working on Russell Mulcahy’s fantasy epic three decades ago.
“We were all so young and svelte,” noted Brown after the screening. “I loved seeing the Scottish scenes, Jim Cosmo, Billy Hopkins, Celia Imrie, for me that’s the best part of the movie, I love that period stuff. I remember killing Sean, that was quite an honour.”
Other Highlander recollections included learning how to handle a sword under the tutelage of choreographer Bob Anderson, trouble with extras in Fort William (they got a little too enthusiastic during the battle sequences) and the truth behind the rumour he almost decapitated Connery during one scene (he didn’t).
After almost half an hour of good humoured banter with the audience, the actor was surrounded by fans eager to have their photo taken with The Kurgan, before he headed off to the festival’s ceilidh.
Of the film itself, being screened from a restored 4K version that debuts on Blu-ray in July, it looked and sounded better than ever, a must-buy for fans still holding onto murkier DVD editions.
For those who missed the screening there’s still one more on Sunday 26 June as part of Best of the Fest, while other events will take place at Belmont Filmhouse Aberdeen (15 July), Filmhouse Edinburgh (18 July) and Eden Court Inverness (29 August).