How we made Gregory's Girl

John Gordon Sinclair: ‘We knew we were getting it right when we saw the director’s shoulders shaking with laughter’

John Gordon Sinclair (Gregory)

Bill Forsyth showed up on my doorstep one evening. It was a bit awkward. I knew him from the Glasgow Youth Theatre, but I was an apprentice electrician by then and just kept him standing there, with my mum shouting in the background: “Invite him in!” Eventually, he told me he’d got the money to make Gregory’s Girl and wanted me to play the lead.

He cast kids because he was nervous of using professionals. Shooting was fun: it never felt like work. You knew you were getting it right because you’d see Bill’s shoulders shaking with laughter behind the camera. I had to ask him to move out of my eyeline, because it would get quite distracting.

We were all about the same age, but everyone was a bit in awe of Dee Hepburn, who played Dorothy, the girl who makes it into the school football team, and the one Gregory tries – and fails – to date. She was already a professional actor. For the football scenes, she actually trained with Partick Thistle.

The chemistry between myself and Clare Grogan was real. She was playing Susan, the girl Gregory ends up with. We’ve been friends ever since. Clare was into bands and was always heading off to London. She was incredibly cool, whereas I was in a combat jacket with long hair, listening to Rush.

I especially remember the scene after our date in the park, where there’s a shot of us walking off into the sunset. We were both in tears. It was the last day of filming. It was all over. This magical bubble we’d been in was about to burst.

Clare Grogan (Susan)

I was working part-time as a waitress when Bill Forsyth walked up and asked me if I’d like to be in Gregory’s Girl. He asked for my phone number, but my mum had warned me about strange men, so I just said: “You know where to find me.”

I was 17, very naive, yet had incredible delusions of grandeur and glamour. I realise now how lucky I was: Bill had faith in me and was brilliant at making us all feel relaxed on set, spoonfeeding us ideas.

When I first met Gordon, I was staggered to see he was still in flares. I thought: “Oh my God, you’re not wearing straight legs!” I was a baby punk and remember thinking he was so uncool because he was excite d about going to a Rush concert. But Gordy, as he’ll always be to me, is the funniest person to be around.

Clare Grogan as Susan with John Gordon Sinclair in Gregory’s Girl
Clare Grogan, who has still not seen the entire film, as Susan with John Gordon Sinclair in Gregory’s Girl Photograph: PR company handout

I love all the role reversal in the film: girls playing football, me and Dorothy doing experiments in the science lab, the boys taking baking lessons. And it’s the girls who manipulate all the events in the film.

Altered Images, the band I sang with, got signed by CBS during shooting, but I never told the film company about the music, or the record company about the film. Now a marketing team would be all over that like a rash. To this day, I’ve never seen Gregory’s Girl in its entirety. I always have to leave at some point because I find it too much.• Gregory’s Girl is screening across the UK as part of BFI Love.


Interviews by Jack Watkins

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