Story of schoolboy imposter ‘pushes all our buttons’ – Cumming

Actor Alan Cumming said the story of a schoolboy imposter “pushes all our buttons” for Scots as a film about the fake pupil received its European premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival.

My Old School tells the story of Brian MacKinnon who, aged 32, posed as a 17-year-old called Brandon Lee in 1993 to re-enrol as a pupil and re-sit his Highers at his old school Bearsden Academy.

His deception was not discovered until 1995 after he had gained five A grade Highers and a place at medical school at Dundee University.

Cumming lip-syncs to the words of an audio interview that MacKinnon granted to director and his former classmate Jono McLeod, as MacKinnon did not want to appear on camera.

Speaking on the red carpet at the film’s European Premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, Cumming told the PA news agency: “It’s one of those great Scottish legendary stories like Whisky Galore or something.

“I think it’s because Scottish people, we think we’re canny, we don’t think we can be duped but we were, so we’re kind of amazed by that but at the same time we’re also sort of full of admiration for someone who could pull off such a great kind of scam.

“So I think it’s a really great Scottish story because it pushes all our buttons and it’s also not over, this film is about the people who experienced it, his classmates, what their stories were, what their experiences were.”

Cumming, who has starred in films including GoldenEye and X2, said he has been connected to the story for many years as 25 years ago he was going to do a narrative film and play Brandon Lee but it never happened.

However, he said: “This is a much better version of the film I would have made and I think it’s nice that life’s like that, characters come back to you and you get to tell the story eventually.”

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance festival earlier this year but that took place virtually.

My Old School
The film also features animation (Hopscotch Films/PA)

As the film screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Thursday evening, Cumming said: “This actually is the live world premiere tonight, it’s a Glasgow film so it’s great that the first live audience seeing it is in Glasgow.”

While initially viewed as something of a geek, MacKinnon found friends at Bearsden Academy and even went on to star in a school production of South Pacific.

Although he gained a place at medical school he dropped out of the course at Christmas 1994 for personal reasons and was refused re-admission after the scandal broke.

Director Jono McLeod returned to his old school in East Dunbartonshire to make the film which blends the memories of teachers and fellow pupils with animation in a documentary hybrid, with a soundtrack featuring Lulu.

The singer also attended the premiere and said she was “intrigued” by the story and happy to be involved in the film.

She praised director Jono McLeod and said: “I think it’s an amazing achievement for him to have got this unusual story, for it be kind of about Brandon Lee but it’s also about his classmates.

“You might think oh he duped all these people so he’s not going to be liked, people are going to hate him but actually they don’t and he actually was very helpful to a couple of people and you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t see this film.”