Exclusive – First-look trailer for The Last Bus, starring Timothy Spall as a widower embarking on a cross-country pilgrimage
Director Gillies MacKinnon told RadioTimes.com that his new film is about a "man who feels as if he’s at death’s door and actually lives again"
Timothy Spall stars as an elderly man embarking on a very special journey in upcoming film The Last Bus – and RadioTimes.com can exclusively reveal a first look at the trailer.
Directed by Gillies MacKinnon (Whiskey Galore!, Torvill and Dean), the film follows Tom, a recently widowed man who decides to travel the length of the UK with his wife's ashes, using his free bus pass for the entire pilgrimage.
On the long journey from John O'Groats to Land's End – where he had met his wife for the first time – Tom encounters all sorts of people and becomes something of a news story, as you can see in the trailer below.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com about the film, MacKinnon explained what had first attracted him to the script, which is penned by former Brookside writer Joe Ainsworth.
"I was very interested in this idea, which I homed in on and kept in my mind throughout the entire shooting of the film, which was you have an old man who feels his life is over but he has one last ritual to perform," he explained. "And he makes his decision to travel to the far end of Britain back to where it all began in order to perform that ritual; and this is a quite dangerous thing for this old man to do in many ways.
"But what he doesn't realise is that this trip to fulfil this ritual is actually a journey. It's a journey where he's going to encounter life again in ways that he can't imagine.
He continued, "In other words, he's going to rediscover the world before he fulfils his ritual but he doesn't know that – it's not in his mind. He just thinks, 'I'm gonna go back there, and I'm going to do this,' the bit in between he hasn't really properly taken on board.
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"And so he lives for that space of time, and he has a journey, he lives a life; he encounters people, he plays a role in other people's lives. He hadn't seen that coming and that was something that I found really interesting. This man who feels as if he's at death's door and has his final ritual actually lives again."
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MacKinnon said he had already been interested in casting Spall before he happened to bump into him at a film festival in Italy, and he that the two of them hit it off instantly.
The one problem was making sure the actor could convincingly play a man more than two decades his senior – Spall is only in his early 60s, while the man he's playing is in his late 80s – but the director said there were two things that made sure the ageing wasn't too much of an issue.
"One of them was Tim working on the physicality of the character because, when he arrived in Glasgow, I still didn't know exactly how we were going to do this," he explained. "But he kind of did something with his body and I said for a moment I saw him as an old man.
"And then we had this fantastic Scottish makeup person called Christine Cant who decided there was not going to be any prosthetics there; he wasn't going to be in the chair in the morning for two-and-a-half hours.
"So what she was going to do – and she knew how to do – was to work on anything on his face that she could accentuate to age him without having any kind of gross, prosthetic thing going on.
"And the combination of these two things, the physicality that Tim brought to it and Christine working on accentuating any little details on his face, produced this character and I was completely convinced of Tim as an old man."
Even though the old man might be at the centre of the story, MacKinnon believes the story has universal appeal and won't only work exclusively for older audiences.
"I'd imagine an older audience would be a good audience for the film but I certainly don't think exclusively," he said. "The film is full of young people and it's very much reflects modern Britain.
"The story of an old man on his last journey is one thing but what he encounters is all of everything that's happening in Britain today, in a kind of a multiracial society. So I don't think it will be exclusively for an older audience."