Many people, when asked what they would do differently if they could go back in time, insist, “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Not Brandon Lee.
In 1993, a 16-year-old boy by that name enrolled at a Scottish high school called Bearsden Academy, located in a posh suburb of Glasgow. He claimed to have grown up in Canada, the son of a traveling opera singer who had died in a car accident. His academic gifts dazzled, though his social skills were less than impressive. With his precocious intellect, Lee seemed well on his way to achieving his stated goal of getting into medical school.
The truth took more than a year to come to light: “Brandon Lee” was a fiction. Lee was actually Brian MacKinnon, a 32-year-old Bearsden alumnus who had returned to school disguised as a teenager. The strange story is told in my old schoola new documentary directed by John McLeod and with Scottish actor Alan Cumming as Lee. the Pictures of Magnolia The launch is now playing in select cities.
“One of the most incredible stories of the last 30 years,” says McLeod. And he should know. He was a student at Bearsden when Lee appeared out of nowhere.
“He looked older than us, that’s for sure,” McLeod recalls, but says he and his fellow students were unwilling to question what their elders set in stone. “Our classroom teacher told us that this new kid had come from Canada, here he is at 16, so we bought that. and they had told him [that] by his superiors… So, yes, we just got carried away. And there were always kids at school who seemed a little older than the other kids.”
Brandon Lee sported curly hair, owl glasses, and a shy manner. At first, he didn’t exactly fit in.
“This was a classic geek that had come with us. He wasn’t one of the cool kids,” recalls McLeod. “But then over the course of the next year, he somehow he managed to cut his way through those social strata of high school life and he really turned things around.”
Brandon invited his classmates to his apartment, where a woman Lee said was his grandmother served them tea and sandwiches. Later, it was revealed that she was, in fact, his mother, who had not died in an accident after all. The revelation of Lee’s identity attracted widespread attention in the UK and among those who followed the news was Cumming, the Tony Award-winning and Emmy-nominated actor who was born in Aberfeldy, Scotland.
“When it all happened in the early ’90s, it was a great story. I knew it and was a little bit fascinated by it…just the sheer audacity of it,” says Cumming. “It’s an interesting thing about identity and the things that we’re dealing with in our culture now that if you want to be perceived in some way and if you believe in your own identity enough, then you go out into the world asking for that and it will be returned to you, and that’s what happened to him.
Decades ago, Cumming was commissioned to play Lee in a movie he was going to direct, but the project fell through.
“I was really a little devastated,” recalls Cumming. “You don’t normally get a chance to revisit something like this, with Jono bringing this character back to me. He hadn’t realized how much he meant to me, how much unfinished business there was.”
There is a curious parallel between actor and subject: Cumming goes back in time, so to speak, to attend to unfinished business, just as Lee had done. In my old school Cumming sits at a desk in a classroom, looking directly into the camera and lip-synching an audio interview Lee gave to McLeod.
“It was a really fascinating exercise,” Cumming says of lip-syncing. But it wasn’t easy. On set, McLeod’s cameras rolled as the words Cumming needed to lip-sync blasted through a loudspeaker.
“It would be like that thing when you do ADR and it goes, beep, beep, beep, and then the [recording] begin. And then we kept going and going and going until we both felt like we had it,” says Cumming. “It was like a cult indoctrination because people [on set] I kept hearing these same messages over and over and over and over and over again. And besides, it was very cold because we were in December. . Due to Covid all the windows and doors in this school in Glasgow had to be open.”
Cumming laughs: “We had temperature deprivation and these repeated messages. It was really like a cult.”
McLeod uses animation to tell an important part of the story, including how Brandon’s deception is finally unraveled (his true identity came to light after he embarked on an ill-advised vacation abroad with former classmates) . The colorful animation style harkens back to a popular MTV character around the time Brandon was pulling off the imposture on him.
“Brandon arrives with big curly hair, glasses, an American accent and a fairly monotone voice. He’s would give–really a total icon of ’90s animation,” says McLeod. There were additional animation benchmarks, including The Archies Y Scooby Doo. Like the plots in Scooby Doo“Brandon would have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for those pesky kids.”
Wild Child Animation, based in Sterling, Scotland, handled the work of my old school.
“Because it’s a really big, complex plot and there’s a lot of back and forth, I wanted to help people understand exactly what was going on,” explains McLeod. “And the easiest way to do that was through really nice, clean, simple animation. Wild Child did a fantastic job.”
my old school fits, in a sense, with recent movies and series that revolve around tricksters, fakers, impostors and con men. abandonment Y inventing ana put a fictional spin on real-life stories, while documentaries The Tinder scammer Y bad vegan expose a couple of other world class fakers. The protagonists of those stories were looking for profit or fame, but Brandon Lee was motivated by something less venal. As an adult, his dream of becoming a doctor had been derailed; he saw going back to high school as the opportunity he needed to go back to medical school.
McLeod and several other classmates of Brandon’s appear in the film, sharing somewhat conflicting memories of those events three decades ago. Several poignantly speak of the ways Lee helped them when they were inexperienced youngsters: helping them with homework, introducing them to music that broadened their minds, etc. Lee may have been wrong, but he wasn’t necessarily a crook.
“I always saw this as a high school movie, and Brandon definitely had a positive impact on a lot of the kids,” says McLeod. “That was something that I just wanted to reflect and show that not everything was dire. It was good and bad. I didn’t want to tie things up with a bow at the end of this movie. I wanted people to go away talking about it and discussing it and trying to figure out whose side they’re on.”
my old school it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and went on to screen at other festivals around the world, including in Poland, Croatia, Greece, Belgium and Finland.
“ME Really I love the movie,” says Cumming. “I’m really excited to be a part of this because I think it deals with topics that I really find fascinating, like memory. I guess, having written a few memoirs, I am fascinated by how an incident can be perceived in so many different ways and also how it can change in your memory the older you get, the further away you are from it… This story is now being told by all these people who were there at the time, but of course you realize they have very different memories of that.”