For Will Fletcher, filming during the pandemic was a breeze compared to the wind and snow of a Hebridean winter.
The actor spent six weeks in Lewis making The Road Dance, set in a crofting community on Lewis at the outbreak of the First World War.
Described as an “epic love story”, but also a tale of overcoming adversity, the film’s poster is being unveiled today on Valentine’s Day, ahead of the film coming to cinemas nationwide on May 20.
Film based on a true story
Based on broadcaster and writer John MacKay’s book, the film centres on the true story of a community ceilidh held in the street, which sparks a series of life-changing events.
It stars Will, in his first film role, alongside Hermione Corfield, who has appeared in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, and Mark Gatiss, co-creator of the Sherlock TV show and a writer on the Doctor Who series.
Will, who plays Murdo MacAulay, the love interest of Kirsty Macleod, played by Hermione, said arriving on set around a blackhouse village in Lewis was liked stepping back in time.
“Sometimes you have to rely on the set. But this wasn’t the set, it was the real thing.
“We were there at the tail end of autumn and into the depths of winter. I’d like to go back and experience it in summer where I understand it takes on another personality.
“I knew it would be cold, but didn’t know how many kinds of weather you can get there in an hour.
Story focuses on community at wartime
“We had sleet and snow and glorious sunshine within 15 minutes. It made it particularly difficult for filming, but it was great nonetheless.
“The island was full of charm which I hope the film captures.”
Will says as well as the initial hopes and dreams of the main players, the story focuses on the effects on the community as it deals with its young men going off to war.
“After the events of the road dance it becomes about resilience, perseverance and trying to rekindle the hope that war snatched away from them, and Kirsty in particular.
“Before Murdo leaves there was such hope and a sense of adventure between the two of them.
“It becomes bleak and the fact it’s based on a true story emphasises how horrific it was. It is a story about hope overcoming despair.”
He said he threw himself into the part, including the accent: “I love accents and as soon as I found out about the role I just starting sitting in the accent and didn’t drop it until end of film to try to make it as authentic as possible.”
Actor ‘lived on black pudding for six weeks’
However his method didn’t stretch to learning Gaelic: “The decision was made to make it English speaking to reach a wider audience.
“Part of me would have liked the extra challenge, but I’m not sure I could have done it justice.”
As part of his immersion in local culture Will also learned about the famous Stornoway black pudding.
“I lived on it for six weeks, it helped keep me warm.
“I brought quite a lot back and have now found a place in London that sells it.”
Viewers can see Will in the upcoming ITV adaptation of the classic romance novel Tom Jones, which stars Hannah Waddingham, Solly McLeod and Sophie Wilde.
He has also recently returned from New Zealand where he completed filming on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
“It was very similar in some ways to the Hebrides. But it doesn’t have as good black pudding.”
Director captivated by islanders’ dream of a better life
Writer director Richie Adams said he was fascinated by the story.
“After being presented John MacKay’s novel, what intrigued me most against the reality of war-torn 1916 was the innocence of characters on a remote Scottish island, the idyllic yet Spartan life they led, the harsh seaside environment with its thick-walled stone habitations that deflected wind and cold, and of course the first love shared by Kirsty Macleod and Murdo Macaulay.
“I was captivated by the excitement and escape they found in stories and poetry, their dream of a better life, perhaps in a place called America, and not suspecting the vile act that would come and tear Kirsty’s world apart.”
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