A former art teacher and cartoonist, Gillies MacKinnon became intrigued with film and started experimenting with the medium. His work won him acceptance into the National Film School, where he first m...
Feature film directorial debut, "Conquest of the South Pole"
First collaboration with brother Billy, MacKinnon's graduation film, "Passing Glory"; Billy served as producer
Raised in Glasgow, Scotland
Directed "Small Faces"; also co-wrote with brother Billy
Won first real notice as a director with "The Grass Arena" (shown on BBC television)
Met Shane Connaughton at National Film School
Gained international acclaim with "The Playboys"
Directed first US film, "A Simple Twist of Fate"
A former art teacher and cartoonist, Gillies MacKinnon became intrigued with film and started experimenting with the medium. His work won him acceptance into the National Film School, where he first met future collaborator Shane Connaughton. "Passing Glory" (1986), his graduation film, also marked his first collaboration with his brother Billy, who served as producer. MacKinnon's first film given any wide release was "Conquest of the South Pole", a 1989 docudrama about unemployed Edinburgh youths who attempt to recreate Roald Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole. He followed this with two BBC telefilms, "Needle" (1990) and "The Grass Arena" (1991). The latter, based on the true story of an alcoholic ex-boxer who finds redemption as a chess champion, won MacKinnon the prestigious Michael Powell Award at the 1991 Edinburgh Film Festival.
MacKinnon then made the commercially well-received "The Playboys" (1992). Widely distributed in the US, the feature starred Robin Wright, Albert Finney and Aidan Quinn in the story of an Irish unwed mother courted by both a constable and a young actor. Based on that film's success, MacKinnon directed his first US production, "A Simple Twist of Fate" (1994). A modern retelling of the classic novel "Silas Marner", the film focused on a man (played by Steve Martin, who also scripted and produced) who adopts a baby girl and is brought to trial by the child's biological father. While it was a respectable work, the feature met with a mixed critical reception and lackluster box office. Returning to his native Scotland (and collaborating with his brother Billy on the script), MacKinnon turned his attention to "Small Faces" (1995; released in the USA in 1996), a sweeping tale of the parallel between a Scottish industrial city and the London flower power era of the late 60s, focusing on the vigorous street gangs of Glasgow. "Small Faces" opened to mostly respectable reviews. He returned to an Irish setting with "Trojan Eddie" (1996), starring Stephen Rea and Richard Harris. The busy filmmaker earned glowing notices for "Regeneration" (1997), which focused on a World War I-era psychiatrist treating soldiers traumatized by battle.