NEW INTERVIEW: David Tennant Talks R.D Laing and Mad To Be Normal At The Glasgow Film Festival
Tonight saw David Tennant's latest film project, Mad To Be Normal, have its global premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival's Closing Gala and David was there amongst the cast walking the red carpet.
Mad To Be Normal follows the work of controversial psychiatrist R.D. Laing who challenged the medical model of the treatment of mental illness and set up a medication-free community in East London where mental health patients and practitioners lived alongside one another as equals. David Tennant stars as Laing; the cast also includes Elisabeth Moss, Michael Gambon, Gabriel Byrne and David Bamber.
Talking to the Scotsman at the screening David said:
“I first became aware of RD Laing when I was at the RSAMD, when one of the other years did the David Edgar play Mary Barnes, which is about one of the patients in Kingsley Hall, and which he comes into as a character. I was intrigued by him.
“I’ve always known there was this character from Glasgow out there and that there were stories to tell about him. I’ve always had a bit of sneak fascination with him and when I read the script I thought: ‘This is a story that has to be told.’
“He’s one of these people whose name crops up again and again in all sorts of weird different places because of his influence and ideas. He was more than a psychiatrist, he was a sort of counter-culture philosopher.
“His legacy is still hotly-debated, but the ideas that he was writing about and the debates he started are still rolling on today. He still infuriates as many people as adore him - he is still a very divisive figure. I don’t think people quite know what to make of him.
“In some ways he was his own worst enemy. He seemed to be some kind of strutting peacock who would upset everybody, but was also doing extraordinary work, which redefined how we think about psychosis. People struggle to make sense of these two contradictory elements, but from an acting point of view that is delicious.
“There were so many paradoxes. He had wells of empathy, but at the same time could be something of a bully. His own family saw nothing of him while he poured love into people he had never met before. He didn’t always seem to practice what he preached. That’s an extraordinary character to try to get to grips with.
“You just have to present as accurate a portrayal of a character like that as you possibly can. He was charismatic and people did fall for him. But he also drove people mad and he elicited reactions wherever he went. I didn’t try and make him sympathetic, I just tried to play the as he was. It’s quite hard not to like someone when you walk in their shoes.”
Talking to PA he added:
"I'm so chuffed we're at the Glasgow Film Theatre, this is where I came as a student, so this feels like a bit of a full circle for me.
"I hope he (RD Laing) would be very pleased - I hope he would be pleased about the film and I'm sure he would be pleased we were in Glasgow to premiere it.
"He was a complicated man but he was a fascinating man so he is someone that I was completely entranced by and fascinated by and I just hope we have done him justice."
Mad To Be Normal opens in UK Cinemas on 6th April