Dundee actress Lesley Mackie was paid £50 to make her movie debut in The Wicker Man alongside Christopher Lee in 1973.
Lesley’s bit-part would have been limited to one scene but for a duet with Edward Woodward during a company get-together in a local pub.
This resulted in Lesley being offered the chance to sing the film’s opening theme and she was also tasked with the unusual job of making Britt Ekland sound Scottish!
So how did Lesley go from playing Little Red Riding Hood at Dundee Rep to appearing in one of the most iconic horror movies of all time?
Lesley was born in 1951 and went to Hawkhill Primary School.
She stepped on to the stage of the old Nicholl Street Rep in Dundee in 1957 and played Little Red Riding Hood in the Christmas show.
Lesley headed for Harris Academy in 1963 and was School Captain alongside Donald Findlay QC.
Lesley and Donald won the Inter-Schools Debating Competition in 1969, before she went off to drama school in Glasgow.
Lesley’s big break came in the 1972 BBC TV play Just Your Luck, before she was paid £50 to play the role of Daisy Pringle in The Wicker Man.
Lesley wrote in her memoir: “They were looking for someone to play a 12-year-old schoolgirl in a film called The Wicker Man.
“After strapping up my bust, I went to meet the director, and I landed the fabulous part of Daisy, who had all of four lines to say.
“Oh well, maybe I wasn’t destined to become a movie star just yet, but my week on The Wicker Man was to provide me with enough stories to keep me going for months!”
Directed by Robin Hardy with a screenplay by Anthony Shaffer, the cast included Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt and Christopher Lee.
It’s the sinister tale of Sergeant Neil Howie, played to perfection by Woodward, who travels to the Hebridean island of Summerisle, searching for a missing girl.
It was shot in Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright and Plockton, while some of the opening scenes feature the Storr and the Quiraing on Skye.
Lesley said: “Although the part of Daisy was hardly Oscar-winning material, I arrived in Newton Stewart full of anticipation and excitement.
“It was, after all, my movie debut.
“The chaos that greeted me came as something of a surprise.
“I discovered that I should have been there a few days earlier to dance naked whilst leaping through a fire.
“However, due to a mix-up, they hadn’t put that dance in my contract.
“I can honestly say I wasn’t too disappointed about that!
“I also discovered that quite a few people had been sitting around for weeks.
“A friend of mine who had been hired, along with her baby, to do just a few seconds filming, had been there so long she was worried that her baby would be completely weaned before they got to her bit!
“Newton Stewart had never seen anything like it.
“The nice, quiet little town had been invaded by hordes of actors and film crew.
“The members of Scottish Equity seemed to be there in full but, of course, only in the small parts.
“Stars had been flown in from elsewhere to play the leading roles.
“Edward Woodward, Diane Cilento, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland headed the cast.
“Britt was playing a voluptuous Scottish wench, and the reason behind this monumental piece of miscasting was that they needed a ‘star name’ for the American market.”
Ekland, who plays the landlord’s seductive daughter, Willow MacGregor, could not pull off a passable Scottish accent and was dubbed by Annie Ross.
Lesley said: “There were several vocal coaches on site to help the English and other foreigners master the accent.
“They even engaged my services for a day to help Britt disguise her native Swedish lilt, but to little avail.
“Her singing lessons were no more successful, and in the end a music student dubbed her song and Annie Ross, sister of Jimmy Logan and accomplished jazz vocalist, dubbed her dialogue.
“I was never quite sure just how seriously we were supposed to take Britt.
“At the end of our day’s work on her accent, she said to me: “I will now be able to put ‘Speaks Scottish’ on my CV!”.
“Perhaps she had a sense of humour, after all.”
Christopher Lee is marvellous as Lord Summerisle, who oversees the place and doesn’t seem overly fussed that his people are putting toads in their mouths to cure sore throats and mysteriously claiming the girl being sought never existed.
The climax of the film was shot on the clifftops at Burrow Head.
Lesley said: “The Wicker Man was all about pagan sacrificial rites, and it was set on a fictitious Scottish isle.
“Many of the locals willingly appeared as extras, mainly wearing animal heads, and I don’t think they had a clue what was going on.
“When they finally saw the film at its premiere in Stranraer, they realised for the first time that they had been playing ritual murderers.
“Many of them were outraged by the rather controversial storyline.
“My contribution to the whole thing was fairly minimal and, but for a happy accident, would have been limited to my one scene as Daisy, a rather nasty little girl who has tied a spider up inside her school desk.
“I had a few lines of dialogue with Edward Woodward, who was playing the part of the village policeman, and that was that.
“But at the end of my week, there was a company get-together in a local pub and, somehow, I ended up singing Summertime as a duet with Edward.
“This burst of exhibitionism resulted in an offer to sing a song in the film, a lovely Highland lament which was played over the opening title sequence.”
When filming finished she caught the sleeper and headed to London to take part in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show at the Young Vic with Billy Connolly.
The highlight of Lesley’s career was winning a Laurence Olivier Award in 1986 for her portrayal of Judy Garland in the musical play, Judy, at the Strand Theatre.
Other highlights were playing Edith Piaf in Piaf in four separate productions.
Lesley, who lives in Perth, reprised her role as Daisy in The Wicker Tree alongside Lee, who made a cameo reappearance in the sequel, which was released in 2011.
“He was very kind to me and we were the only two from The Wicker Man to appear in The Wicker Tree, which was made in 2009,” she said.
“Sir Christopher said in an interview that playing Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man was his favourite role.”
The film received mixed reviews.
They were both to be cast in the third part of the trilogy and final chapter, which was called The Wrath Of The Gods, before Lee died at the age of 93 in 2015.
Lee considered The Wicker Man “one of the best British films in history”, showcasing “the best part I’ve ever had”.
Like Christopher, Britt and everyone else, Lesley was never in anything better.
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