TV preview: Stonemouth
BBC adaptation of Iain Banks' 2012 novel stars Christian Cooke and Peter Mullan
Stonemouth was Iain Banks' penultimate novel and this BBC Scotland production is the first adaptation of his work since his untimely death in 2013. In fact, with such a rich canon of work, it's surprising we haven't seen even more of Banks' novels brought to life on both the big and small screen. However, after the BBC's fantastic version of The Crow Road back in 1996 (has it really been that long?), we should be in safe hands.
Set in the fictional Aberdeenshire town of Stonemouth (and filmed in Macduff), it’s a town that hides a dark secret. 'Stonemouth is about a guy called Stewart Gilmour,' explains Christian Cooke who takes the lead as Gilmour, 'who comes back to his home town for the funeral of his best friend Callum Murston, son of Don Murston [Peter Mullan], a much feared and respected figure in the town. Callum is believed to have committed suicide. However, once Stewart returns, he starts to investigate the possibility that perhaps Callum’s death isn’t what it seems, and that perhaps he was murdered.'
After several years down south, Gilmour's return stirs up the locals. It's a gritty two part Scottish drama that puts a criminal gang at the heart of this Scottish coastal town, but alongside the murder mystery there's also a tense romance. 'The other narrative thread is that Stewart used to be engaged to Don Murston’s daughter, Ellie Murston [Charlotte Spencer],' adds Cooke, 'but after a moment of infidelity, was forced to go on the run and leave Stonemouth for good. He’s been given a free pass by Don to return for the funeral and hopes that he can possibly patch things up with her.'
Stonemouth captures the feeling of claustrophobia and isolation that can be inherent in isolated communities. 'Stewart is an intelligent, thoughtful person who always had dreams far beyond the confines of the small town he grew up in,' says Cooke. 'He and Ellie were very much soul mates and shared ambitions to travel and see the world. Stewart has a certain wit and cynicism about him that colours his view of the world. He also has a sound moral compass and a very determined nature.'
Cooke particularly relished the opportunity to work with Mullan: 'Loved it. Bit of a dream come true. I believe he’s one of the greatest screen actors of all time and it was amazing learning from him.'
You might recognise Cooke from ITV's Where the Heart Is; two episodes of Doctor Who, alongside David Tennant, and criminally overlooked meta-comedy Moving Wallpaper / Echo Beach or films including Love, Rosie and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's Cemetery Junction. He's also had success over in the States with recurring roles in Magic City and Witches of East End. And he's currently in Montreal filming Sony's first original series for their online video distribution service Crackle, under the working title of The Art of More, with Dennis Quaid and Kate Bosworth. 'It’s about a blue collar guy called Graham Connor, who I play, who gets a job working for one of the top auction houses in New York and who leverages his way into this exclusive existence by exploiting his connections to antiquities, smuggling rings he was exposed to as a soldier in Iraq.'
BBC One Scotland, Mon 8 Jun, 9pm (BBC Two, rest of the UK, Thu 11 Jun, 9pm) .