Story of medical maverick to hit big screen
HE remains one of the most controversial figures in Scottish medical history, and now the life of RD Laing, the radical psychiatrist who championed LSD and wrote The Divided Self, is to be made into a film.
Based on the 1994 biography by Laing’s son Adrian, the biopic of the Glasgow-born psychotherapist – who became a counter-cultural guru in the 1960s and whose techniques and theories remain hugely controversial – is scheduled for shooting in Glasgow and London next year.
Written by Glasgow screenwriter Tony MacDonald, the film will be produced by the Ettinger Brothers, who are currently looking for £3.5 million to complete the budget.
Laing was born, raised and trained in Glasgow, attending Glasgow University and working at hospitals in the city before moving in the 1950s to London.
There he became a maverick figure who challenged many of the conventions of psychotherapy, most notably the use of drugs and breaking down barriers between doctors and their patients.
Adrian Laing said: „This film has been a long time coming. My book on my father came out in 1994 and, although there have been various ideas over the years for a film, it has never gotten far.
„But I was approached by Tony and I was taken by his ambition and he just seemed to have ‚got‘ my Dad, the youthful energy, the Scottishness.
„Over time we developed the script but I am very happy to say it is his, not mine.
„We came to the view that we needed to see the world of his youth, his mother and father, his young years, because you don’t know RD Laing’s story until you know where he came from.“
RD Laing, who died in 1989, was raised in Govanhill, and the producers hope to shoot a lot of the movie around the area and in the west end of the city.
Adrian Laing, a media law expert, solicitor and writer, said: „Govanhill gave my dad a lot, especially its extremely well-stocked library.
„By 1956 he was a senior registrar and he decides to go to London with his daughters, and that was a major decision in his life.
„So it’s really about those years, the transformation of Dr Ronald Laing into RD Laing.“
He added: „We have come a long way, but we need to find the £3.5m that would get us up and running and, if we found that, we would be into production very quickly.“
Robert Carlyle has for many years been in the mind of Laing to play his father, but there are a number of actors under consideration.
RD Laing’s methods remain controversial – and earlier this week it was reported that Sean Connery tried to warn the writer Edna O’Brien off experimenting with LSD by telling her of his own experience with the drug.
The James Bond star is said to have told his friend of his negative LSD experience with RD Laing, which O’Brien describes as a „freight of terrors“.
The producers of the film say a „select short list of leading actors“ have been approached for the lead role and a director will be announced shortly.
Mr MacDonald, who has spent three years writing the script, added: „It’s a great story, and only part of his life. Being a Glaswegian, I understood a lot of what drove him.
„Glasgow is a unique city and it produces complex characters. As soon as I read Adrian’s book I knew I had to write the script. It’s a great story. Now is the time for it to be told.“
Philip Ettinger, the producer, said: „All the Ettinger Brothers are delighted to be working with Adrian Laing and Tony MacDonald to bring the film of RD Laing to life.
„We know that the story of RD must be seen by a cinema audience and they will be witness to a truly unique and compelling story based on one of the most controversial but human characters of his or any other generation.“