While many consider Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry to be the epicenter of country music, its influence extends around the world.
In Scotland, Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry provides the backdrop for a singer dreaming of stardom in Wild Rose. And although it lacks the glamour or history of its Tennessee counterpart, the real-life venue matches the passion while mixing Southern twangs with Scottish brogues.
“There are hard-core, underground fans,” said the film’s Irish star, Jessie Buckley. “It used to be a morgue that was turned into a cinema, which was then turned into this church for country music where all the daily workers from around the city gather on Friday and Saturday night and take out the American flag and do this line dancing. It’s like a religion.”
This crowd-pleasing saga chronicles an aspiring working-class country singer who dreams of overcoming obstacles and making it big in Nashville. Buckley’s character, Rose-Lynn, has just been released from prison and struggles to reconnect with her two young children and disapproving mother (Julie Walters). But the allure of the stage beckons, causing her to reconsider her priorities, for better or worse.
“Half of it is about someone trying to attain their dream, but really the story is about not running away from your responsibilities at home,” director Tom Harper said during the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin. “You can’t cut off your roots. It not just about someone who wants to be a singer, but about someone who’s trying to reconcile these two different parts of her identity in order to be more honest.”
In that sense, the film was semiautobiographical for screenwriter Nicole Taylor, whose script is a love letter to her mom, her city, and her favorite genre of music.
“She realized she could never escape Glasgow, and it was always going to be a part of who she is,” said Harper (The Woman in Black 2).
After he was sent the screenplay, Harper immediately thought of Buckley (Beast), and not only since the two of them had collaborated previously. Aside from her acting resume, Buckley also is a singer and former runner-up on “I’d Do Anything,” a British talent-show reality series.
Once Buckley became involved, she worked with Taylor on writing some original songs for the performance scenes. All of the music sequences were filmed live with actual musicians on site.
“Those moments where she can sing are her escape from this structure that’s built around her,” Buckley said. “It was really important to make that as real and live as possible.”
Besides filming in Glasgow, production took place for a week in Nashville — after a month’s delay for visa issues — including stops at the historic Ryman Auditorium and other landmarks.
“It almost felt like a pilgrimage. Standing on that stage, where these legends of country music have stood, it felt like I had arrived,” Buckley said. “It’s quite ghostly. You feel like all these souls are flying around the place. I just wanted to soak it all in.”