Ex-classmate of trickster 'Brandon Lee' makes new movie about incredible scam

Alan Cumming as Brandon Lee
Alan Cumming as Brandon Lee

Scotland's most notorious imposter is set to share his incredible life story - after being persuaded to feature in a new film directed by a former classmate.

Brian MacKinnon, 30, acquired a new identity as 17-year-old schoolboy Brandon Lee and enrolled himself in class 5C at Bearsden Academy in 1993.

He pretended to be Canadian, told pupils his parents had died and said that he had been sent to live in Glasgow with his grandmother.

In fact, he was a grown man pretending to be almost half his age in a bid to go back to his former school and get the grades needed to get into medical school.

MacKinnon achieved five A-grade Highers and the school's headteacher gave him a glowing report, recommending him a university place and a career in medicine.

The Walter Mitty almost got away with his plan, but was finally thwarted when he was forced into a starring role in the school play and his cover blown.

Glasgow Times: Brian MacKinnon image for one time use only
Glasgow Times: Brian MacKinnon image for one time use only

Brian MacKinnon image for one time use only

Now his former classmate, Jono McLeod, has directed My Old School, allowing classmates and teachers to finally have their say on the scandal which engulfed the school and made headline news all over the world.

Speaking exclusively to the Glasgow Times, Jono told how he managed to track Brian down and persuaded him to take part in the documentary film.

He said: “Brian refused to go on camera, but he was happy to share his side of the story.

"In the film, Scots actor Alan Cumming, who plays the role of Brandon Lee, lip-syncs, and it is Brian’s real voice that you hear. He only agreed to be part of the film because it was one of his old registration classmates making it.

“It was important to me that it was authentic, and we were able to reconnect. I spent quite a bit of time with Brian creating his audio.

"I don’t really think he has any regrets about what he did. Looking back, he was just one of the lads and fitted in well with everyone.

“Everyone liked him and never suspected he was a 30-year-old man pretending to be a schoolkid. There was no reason to doubt him. We just sort of believed what we were told."

Glasgow Times: Jono McLeod
Glasgow Times: Jono McLeod

Jono McLeod

The film is set to have a special screening at Glasgow’s GFT tomorrow, with Cumming and Jono attending.

Brian told BBC Scotland following his expulsion that he had simply wanted to go back to medicine and get a degree before deciding on his future.

He said: “Even after that, I would not have wanted to have gone on to a career that necessarily had direct hands-on involvement with patients, unless I had by that stage come clean.

“I wanted to give myself the peace of mind that I knew what was necessary for what I wanted to do in life, and I had satisfied the authorities.

“Then, if I was to come clean, as I intended to do, they could have said to me, ‘well, I’m afraid you are not going to be a regular doctor but perhaps you may be able to apply your talents'."

MacKinnon recalled his first day at Bearsden under his bogus identity and encountering a teacher from his previous time at the school, telling how he just "kept his head down" to prevent being unmasked.

He recalled overhearing a pupil tell a friend that Brandon Lee had a “face about 40”.

He said: “I felt quite insulted. I was only 30 at the time.”

MacKinnon turned his back on a potential six-figure book deal and published his autobiography online in 1997.

Jono revealed it took five years to make the film, which also features Clare Grogan and Lulu alongside former pupils and teachers who were attending or working at the secondary school at the time.

Glasgow Times:
Glasgow Times:

He added: “For the most part, taking a straw poll of my classmates, there is a certain fondness for him and an understanding that, however crazy it seems to us when he tells you his version of events, there is a weird sense of logic to it.

"People do kind of get what he was trying to do.

"It was funny as a kid because the teachers all fell for it. If your teachers have been shown up as total mugs it’s brilliant. There are some people to whom Brandon is almost a folk hero.

“I think the charm of it is that something like this just couldn’t happen, it was all about that time in our lives.

"With the prevalence of social media today, he would be clocked straight away."