Kelly Macdonald

by Tom Doran

Kelly Macdonald , the extraordinarily talented actress who has appeared in a variety of well known films, was born in Glasgow Feb 23th 1976. With one TV film behind her (Flowers of the Forest), she made a spectacular feature film debut at 20 playing Diane, Renton's (Ewan MacGregor) girlfriend in the independently produced Trainspotting, a film many hail as the renaissance of British films. She has since appeared in a number of famous films.

In 2001, Ms. Macdonald appeared in a leading role as Mary Macreachran in the period mystery film, Gosford Park directed by the well known director Robert Altman. Three years later she appeared in the semi-biographical film about Scottish writer James M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), Finding Neverland, in which she plays Barrie's most memorable creation, Peter Pan. As Carla Jean Moss in the award winning No Country for Old Men she produced a fine southern accent and garnered a good deal of attention for her performance.

More recently, she appeared in the massively successful Harry Potter series as Helena Ravenclaw (the ghost of Ravenclaw House) in the final film Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2. She replaced actress Nina Young who had portrayed the character in Deathly Hallows Part 1. Kelly can currently can be seen as Irish immigrant Margaret Schroeder, the mistress of Atlantic City's premiere boot-legging gangster, Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, on HBO's award winning Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi.

Kelly and Steve in the conservatory

Kelly Macdonald (as Margaret Schroeder) with Steve Buscemi (Enoch "Nucky" Thompson) in a scene from HBO's "Boardwalk Empire".
Photo by Macall B. Polay / HBO

The series is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by author Nelson Johnson, and while based on real characters and events, Ms. Macdonald 's Margaret is entirely fictional. Her Irish accent is flawless. There's a lot of depth behind the eyes of the character that Kelly brings to the part. You can see her thinking, and not for a moment does she betray a modern sensibility in her performance. She seems to be a product of the era the character inhabits - the turbulent 1920's.

Her ability to capture the right sense of time and place is obvious in her period piece films (Gosford Park, Finding Neverland, Boardwalk Empire) and produce a variety of accents makes her an outstanding performer. In fact her vocal talents will be on display in the upcoming Disney-Pixar animated feature film Brave. She voices the lead character of Princess Merida in a story set in a mythical Scotland of centuries past. In addition to Brave, Kelly will also appear next year in Joe Wright's Anna Karenina (Focus Features, 2012) with Jude Law, Keira Knightley and Aaron Johnson.

It is small wonder that Ms. Macdonald has been the recipient of numerous prestigious awards from many organizations including  Broadcast Film Critics Association, an Emmy, Florida Film Critics Circle, a Satellite Awards, London Critics Circle, and the Screen Actors Guild. A list of her awards and nominations can be found at

In 2003, Ms. Macdonald , married another Glaswegian, musician Dougie Payne, and in 2008 the couple had a son, Freddie Peter Payne, on March 9, 2008.

Kelly and Rory

Kelly Macdonald shown here with her "Boardwalk Empire" son (Rory McTigue)
Photo by Macall B. Polay / HBO

Thanks to Tobe Becker Vice President, Media Relations HBO and publicist Craig Bankey for their help.



The (mis)Adventure of the Company of Scotland

by Tom Doran

There are many languages spoken in central and south America that are not among the large number of native languages of the area. French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, English are many of the primary languages of the nations that were created by colonial powers centuries past.

But imagine if you will a Central American nation that did not speak the Spanish of the conquistadors, but instead the Scots language! And possibly even Scots-Gaelic. It almost happened.

The 1690's were a turbulent time in Scottish history (was there an era however that wasn't?) - famine was threatening, clan wars and political turmoil and an extremely poor system of exports left the country even poorer and possibly more desperate than before. But it was also an age of exploration, and many had seen the English and Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese get rich from their colonies overseas - and their ruthless exploitation of the new world (and old). Money was influence and real power on earth.

The Scottish Parliament had a notion - found their own colony in Central America - specifically on the isthmus of panama - and created a colony that would control a trade route from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It was a spectacularly innovative and forward thinking idea. Indeed the Panama Canal of the future would prove the need for a link between east and west in just this location.

The idea was to establish trading centers that cut through the isthmus - hauling cargo overland from Pacific ships, to waiting vessels on the Atlantic side (and vice versa) - circumventing the very long and treacherous trip around the Cape of Good Hope.

The Company of Scotland was thus founded - and shares offered and sold in England, the Netherlands and finally in Scotland. Indeed it seemed that everyone in Scotland wanted to participate and it became a truly national (and nationalistic) endeavor - there was not a class or level of society that did not participate in giving. Anyone with a little money to invest did so. They'd beat the English in particular at their own game and enrich the nation in a way that might never be possible in any other way.

In July of 1698 the expedition took sail, and while not necessarily doomed from the start - got off to a more or less bad start with the outward voyage of 5 ships dreadful almost beyond belief in terms of comfort. Arriving at their destination, which they called New Caledonia and the first order of business was to bury the already dead. The would-be colonizers were soldiers, families and craftsmen and all had the highest of hopes. They quickly built a fort and watch tower - but there was no readily available supply of fresh water to make the fort a useful structure in time of conflict.

The local Indians, while not hostile (as they were towards the hated Spanish), didn't seem particularly interested in helping either - and disease, lack of food (much was spoiled on the journey) and failures of farming started to claim the colonists in great numbers. And making their presence well known and threatening, were the Spanish of course.

Within a very few months, over 400 of the original 1,300 were dead. The natives did give them what food they could, but it was never enough.

Even more ships set sail from Scotland - having had no word of the terrible conditions of the colony, and thus unprepared for the incredible hardships that had befallen those who had gone before.

Battles increased with the Spanish, and while the Scots fought hard and well - with a serious determination, but it was still a lost cause.

Despicably, the English King (William, the Dutchman) sent out strict orders that no help should be given by any of their other colonies in the new world (including Dutch territories). They saw the debacle unfolding and wished to ensure it by an astonishing lack of basic human decency. William's hated of the Scots was well known (he who had signed the orders for the Glencoe Massacre - survivors of which were actually part of the colony).

Finally, the end came. In less than a year, the Scots could not secure a viable, working foothold in the new world - thanks to bad planning, bad luck, political opportunism, and the powerful interference of the ruthless world powers trolling the waters of the new world.

Scotland was now virtually bankrupt - every household felt it. The consequences were far reaching. Though the union of crowns had long before taken place with the ascension of James VI in 1603, the Scots had always resisted the next step - a union of nations. Now things were different. Only their financially mighty southern neighbor could help them out from the crushing financial ruin they found themselves in.

In 1707, the union of nations finally became a reality. Many powerful Scottish lords and landowners were bought off for their "aye" votes - and the promise that monies lost in the Darien disaster would be covered by the English crown. It was a temptation many could not pass by.

Scotland's national integrity and independence was finally lost, not on the battlefields of Britain, but in the dense jungles of central America.



Brigadoon, Braveheart and the Scots:
Distortions of Scotland in Hollywood Cinema

By Colin McArthur
I.B. Tauris and Co. Ltd

In recent years it has become more common to find film analysts and film historians looking at "the other" - that is the people in the film who are "different" from the film makers themselves. There have been analysis of depiction of a variety of ethnic minorities such as American Indians (Native Americans if you prefer) and Arabs for example, women, gay, lesbian and transgendered people and many others. Interestingly there has been little written on the depiction of Americans in the films of other cultures. So it comes as no great surprise that someone would finally write something about the depiction of Scots in American films.

While McArthur's book is hardly a survey of all American films about Scots, it takes on two of the most popular films that have been done Brigadoon and Braveheart. Both of these films were immensely popular and like Harry Lauder in his day shaped something of the image of Scots around the world.

The book is well written and interesting. It is cast in a post modern theoretical form which can be and has been criticized by different authors. Like many analysis of art forms, the author's biases towards the subject matter as well as the impact of the art form on society in general become apparent. In some cases these analysis tell us more about the author's likes and dislikes and political positions more than the works they are analyzing.

None the less, one of the important things about the approach is that each reviewer sheds a different light on the work at hand and as a result one may begin to see things in a work that had not been noticed before. Brigadoon, Braveheart and the Scots: Distortions of Scotland in Hollywood Cinema is such a work, and whether you agree or disagree with the author's politics and aesthetics, the book will certainly bring to light many things about two films which clearly have had an impact on the way that people both in Scotland and outside Scotland regard the country and its history . These two films (no surprise) are Brigadoon and Braveheart. The two films differ in that Brigadoon makes no pretense of being an actual historical event while Braveheart does . But as McArthur points out, it is not the historical aspects of the story alone that one can criticize. Even the filmed version of Brigadoon has historical inaccuracies. By setting itself in 1954 (the year the film opened) the year of the "miracle", which froze the town in time, would have been 1757 - a time when tartans and kilt wearing had been outlawed. Braveheart, by presenting itself as a story involving real people, in real events can be criticized heavily for its historical inaccuracies. And in fact McArthur does so going one step beyond. In his chapter "Braveheart's Historical Distortions" he lists from p 187-190 a partial list of the historical inaccuracies in the film, but "reveals" the reasons for the inaccuracies.

To do this, McArthur establishes a Scottish Discursive Unconcious (SDU) - a construct of Scotland which McArthur defines as having at its core "ensemble of images and stories about Scotland as a highland landscape of lochs, mists and castles inhabited by a fey maidens and kilted men who may be both warlike and sensitive - which serves internationally to signify "Scottishness".

McArthur is concerned that this image has impacted the Scots themselves and that its appearance in Braveheart "is having the most immediate and dramatic effects on post-devolution Scotland. It has already inflamed the resentment of anti immigration groups such as the Scottish Watch and Settler Watch and seems (a properly mounted sociological study is urgently needed) to be having unpleasant effects on some young Scottish men, particularly in the way they relate to English people. On the other hand, Braveheart seems to have generated a renewed interest in Scottish history and brought additional tourists to Scotland. The social costs and benefits of Braveheart need to be soberly assessed." (p6)

The book is well worth reading - even if some Scottish Americans may cringe when they read "The Scots inability to make good object choices in relation to the American South continues to be embarrassingly revealed. The ridiculous Tartan Day (McArthur 1998:13) was shepherded through Congress by none other than Trent Lott... [who] was revealed as a closet racist" (p201). It raises many interesting questions about the nature of the stereotypic depiction of a people and the impact it has on the way the world perceives them and the way they may come to see themselves. Ah - Wad some power......