Stars play big part in GFT's success story

A STAR-STUDDED line-up of luminaries from the big screen have supported Glasgow Film Theatre over the years but one of the biggest contributions came from closer to home with Harry Potter star Robbie Coltrane.

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GFT development executive Liana Marletta
GFT development executive Liana Marletta

The first honorary patron of the seat sponsorship scheme, which funded the building of cinema two, he penned a hilarious letter that was then sent out to encourage donations.

"Robbie generously dedicated his seat to Amnesty International who were raising awareness for prisoners of conscience throughout the world," explains Liana Marletta, development executive at GFT.

A few years later Ewan McGregor followed in his footsteps and Liana still remembers the warm-hearted and generous spirit of the Star Wars star who made numerous appearances at GFT.

"His mother Carole McGregor used GFT to test pilot a new initiative she wanted to develop; audio description for film-goers who are visually impaired," explains Liana.

"She did this at GFT with Little Voice in 1998 using Ewan's recorded voice as the descriptor.

"Meeting people who were visually impaired or blind was one of the most moving and exciting events I experienced at GFT. They said it was a really memorable evening and would cherish it forever."

She first started working at GFT in 1988 and after a spell at the Citizens Theatre returned four years ago. Her work with the fundraising team has brought her into contact with many stars over they years.

"I remember when we got the first cheque for cinema 2 from the council and did a press launch with director Bill Forsyth," she says. "At lunch afterwards he pushed a cheque across the table to me and said, 'I've been holding this big cheque for £100,000 for all these photographs, now I feel I need to give you this.

"It was a payment from him for £350 for a seat dedicated to his two children.

"He said when they were grown up he could imagine them going to the art school and sneaking off to come to GFT and sit in their dad's seat."

Legendary Hollywood actor Mickey Rooney came to Glasgow in the mid-1990s and spoke to film-goers after a screening of A Midsummer Night's Dream from 1935, in which he starred as Puck.

In a packed-out cinema, the audience had a barrage of questions for the easygoing actor.

"One guy from the back shouted: 'You were married to the most beautiful woman in the Hollywood - Ava Gardner. How could you let her go?'," says Liana.

"Mickey paused and look down, then lifting his head replied: 'For every beautiful woman there is one husband sure glad to get rid of her.'"

Liana also mentioned the amazing support GFT's seat sponsor scheme received from the Evening Times, which was crucial to its success.

Our gossip columnist Mr Glasgow regularly mentioned the latest celebrity seat sponsor or visitor.

"Mr Glasgow was unstinting in his support," says Liana.

"For many years I didn't meet him - he was almost like this mysterious Bond character who kept himself hidden and didn't meet people face to face. I did meet him briefly at the Evening Times office. He was my big hero."

Head of learning at GFT, Emily Munro, says she was starstruck for the first time in her life when she came face to face with Twin Peaks director David Lynch.

"I was standing on the stairs waiting to take him into the cinema when he shook my hand and said, 'Nice shoes'," she remembers.

"I was pleased, I'd chosen the red shoes especially for the occasion in a tribute to the Wizard of Oz and Lula in Wild at Heart."

Meanwhile, senior front of house manager Angela Freeman says she will never forget meeting Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann and McGregor, who did a Q&A with school pupils at a screening before the film went on general release.

"I remember thinking how inspirational it must be to see and meet the filmmakers at such an early age," says Angela.

"Baz was with his wife Catherine Martin, who had worked on the film as costume designer, so the questions ranged across the whole production of the film."

She adds: "I was about to finish on maternity leave and getting a pat on the bump and good luck wishes from Ewan MacGregor made this all the more memorable."

No mention of famous faces who have visited GFT over the years would be complete with a tribute to notable Scottish artist George Wyllie.

He memorably jumped out of a birthday cake sculpture he had made, dressed in a mafia suit and sporting a toy machine gun, to pay homage to movie The Godfather at the Italian Film Festival. And on another occasion the spotlight was on him when he danced, Fred Astaire style, in top hat and tails across the stage.

"I remember when we first brought back It's a Wonderful Life and George came on as an angel and made a presentation wearing wings," laughs Liana.

Some stars never stop shining.

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