Hawick offers to roll out red carpet for Hollywood star Mel Gibson

Hawick councillor Watson McAteer in the Heart of Hawick cinema.
Hawick councillor Watson McAteer in the Heart of Hawick cinema.

Hollywood legend Mel Gibson could be heading to Hawick if an audacious bid to stage the world premiere of a new blockbuster film in the town comes to fruition.

Gibson plays Denholm-born headteacher James Murray, one of the creators of the Oxford English Dictionary, in the forthcoming movie The Professor and the Madman.

Mel Gibson in The Professor and the Madman, playing James Murray.

Mel Gibson in The Professor and the Madman, playing James Murray.

The film, co-starring Sean Penn, is currently embroiled in a legal wrangle in the US threatening to delay its opening.

But Hawick councillors Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer have written to the film’s producers to request that they consider the town as a location to stage its premiere.

Instead of London’s Leicester Square, often the scene of top movie premieres, they asked that, given the film’s local connection, they pick Mr Murray’s home town instead.

The elected members have received an acknowledgment of their request, and although they’ve been informed such an offer is “unlikely” to be taken up, they’ve been told that “other options may become available”.

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the 1995 film Braveheart.

Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the 1995 film Braveheart.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Mr McAteer said: “We have been in contact with the producers of The Professor and the Madman asking for a premiere in Hawick.

“At the moment, the legal wrangle has got in the way.

“There has been a response indicating that it would be unlikely that such a premiere could take place but that other options may become available.

“Whatever is ultimately decided, it would be a tremendous boost for the town if an internationally-renowned actor playing the part of a famous Hawick son was part of some acknowledgement at a local level.”

Hawick and Denholm councillor Mr Marshall added: “Earlier this year, both Watson McAteer and myself penned a letter to the director of the movie, inviting the cast to consider using our town to premiere or showcase what will, I’m sure, be a very interesting film.

“What a scoop for our town if it were possible for us to play host to such an array of stars, and I know that all of us in Hawick would certainly roll out the red carpet with great excitement.”

Murray was born in Denholm in 1837 and died in Oxfordshire in 1915 at the age of 78. He left the Borders in 1856 in search of milder weather and took charge of the dictionary project in 1879, overseeing it until his death.

The Hawick Grammar School teacher will be the second Scot to be played by US-born but Australian-raised Gibson, 61, following his portrayal of William Wallace in 1995’s Braveheart.