They’re making a killing.
True love costs an arm and a leg.
Director: John Landis
Writer(s): Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft
Genre: Thriller, Comedy
Filming: Filmed in and around Edinburgh, as well as at Ealing Studios in London, from January 2010.
Box Office: Made a total of $4,349,187 worldwide. Received its most wide release in the UK, taking $3,661,217 and entering in at #6 on the BO charts. Only made $4,833 in the US, but barely had a theatrical release there.
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: R in the US, 15 in the UK
BURKE & HARE is a black comedy based on the true story of the body-snatchers William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis), directed by Hollywood legend, John Landis. These two Irish entrepreneurs discover that a dead body can fetch a hefty price when the demands of the leading medical professors Dr. Knox (Tom Wilkinson) and Dr. Monroe (Tim Curry) reach beyond that of the local supply.
William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis) were two lowlife Irishmen who went to Edinburgh and, in the late 1820s, found that they could make easy money by selling fresh corpses to a doctor named Knox (Tom Wilkinson) who needed them for anatomy lectures. Burke and Hare soon found murder to be a more efficient source of bodies than death by natural causes.
Simon Pegg … as William Burke
Andy Serkis … as William Hare
Tom Wilkinson … as Dr. Robert Knox
Jessica Hynes … as Lucky
Bill Bailey … as Angus the Hangman
Tim Curry … as Prof. Alexander Monro
Hugh Bonneville … as Lord Harrington
David Schofield … as Fergus
Ronnie Corbett … as Capt. Tom McLintock
Reece Shearsmith … as Sgt. McKenzie
Sir Christopher Lee … as Old Joseph
Jenny Agutter … as Lucy
Stephen Merchant … as Hollyrood Footman
As this was a UK production, the film received its first release there on October 29th 2010. It was screened at various small film festivals in Europe in 2011, and received a theatrical release in Russia in June 2011, and in France in August 2011. It went straight to DVD in Germany in May 2011. Australia got the film in their cinemas in May 2011, and there was even some promotion for the film there, with several clips plus a trailer for the film released. After several months of waiting, US fans got the film on the new Video On Demand on August 5th 2011, and then a release (albeit very limited – 1 cinema) in cinemas there on September 9th 2011.
Isla plays Ginny, a bright and bubbly young Scottish lady, to whom William Burke becomes immediately attracted to. We first meet Ginny one night in a pub – wannabee actress Ginny has just proposed to her friends that they put on the first all-female production of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, but her friends are slightly skeptical about this. Having had a bit too much to drink, Ginny then gets up on the table reciting the play … unfortunately, no-one else wants to hear it. Except Burke, that is. He then leads her to believe that he might be willing to fund Ginny’s dream production, and she is immediately attached to him. She doesn’t want to go back to the previous ‘performances’ she had to give. Burke falls in love with her, and, not wanting to disappoint his true love, then realises he needs to find a way to get the funds for it…
Ginny is confident and ambitious, yet slightly idealistic and naive – or is she just pretending? She’s very dedicated to her dream and her passion for acting … so much so, that she refuses to even kiss Burke before opening night.
• Isla was in the early stages of pregnancy with Elula whilst filming this movie.
• The costumes were designed by Oscar winning costume designer Deborah Nadoolman (who is married to John Landis), and Isla said it was “amazing” working with her. Isla didn’t tell her that she would secretly unlace her corset soon after being sewn into it, though!
• Admits she had to hide her head sometimes when watching the film, because she’s “not good with the gruesome stuff”!
• Isla loves Ronnie Corbett, who played Captain McLintock in this movie!
• The poster of Isla’s character Ginny as Macbeth is very close to a famous photograph of Eva Le Galliennne as Hamlet (also a woman playing an eponymous Shakespearian character who is originally a male). They share the same stance – full body shot, face on, legs planted firmly in the ground – as well as a similar costume in the trousers, boots and cape.
– Isla Fisher: “That was difficult because I was pregnant during the making of the movie, so I didn’t really squeeze into it. I used to pretend I was wearing a corset and then not wear it, just wear a push up bra – don’t tell the director that.”
– Isla Fisher: “In real life? Oh I’m not sure, I’m sure they didn’t have the CSI forensic teams they have today so I’m sure they were able to get away. And I think they preyed on people who were hidden away form the community that no one would notice.” (on why she thinks Burke & Hare got away with their crimes for so long.)
– Isla Fisher: “I was always secretly unlacing my corset and trying to not puke in front of everyone. But Simon Pegg has no observational skills at all because I had the worst morning sickness, I was totally ill and I think he just thought I was some bulimic actress from Hollywood and he just ignored it. He never asked!”
– Isla Fisher: “It’s so funny because every one always says to me ‘You’ve come such a long way from Home And Away’ and that’s one of those few times when you think ‘Oh I wish I was back on Home And Away – on the beach, not in this freezing castle.'”
– Isla Fisher: “For Burke and Hare [Ginny] was completely fictional because there wasn’t much to go on from that period, I think Ginny was completely invented actually. My father has a very thick Scottish accent so I just did my dad’s accent. And actually everyone felt it wasn’t, y’know… I just copied my dad completely.”
– Isla Fisher: “Some people thought it wasn’t authentic. But my father has a very thick Scottish accent, so that was just me copying my dad completely.”
– Isla Fisher: “I play Ginny, I’m effectively the love interest of Simon Pegg. I am, well, a showgirl slash maybe ‘lady of the night’, and I seduce Simon, and I’m sort of the motivation for him going on this killing spree. And my ultimate goal is to put on an all-female version of Macbeth. Which in itself is amusing, and it does involve a scene in which I have ginger hair, like a ginger wolf, and I am wearing a beard, and I do some Shakespeare which is quite funny.”
– Isla Fisher: “I guess we were treading that fine line, it’s a dark comedy and there’s lots of physical gags with corpses in unusual positions. But it’s quite a smart comedy too, it’s about the origins of medicines and so hopefully there’s a plot in there that will get the audience interested.”
– Isla Fisher: “It’s tough, I tell you, I don’t know how those ladies breath!” (on wearing a corset)
– Isla Fisher: “It’s unconsumated, but we basically both fancy each other, although my motives are a little dodgy – I’m trying to get together an all-female play of Macbeth – and he’s just trying to shag me!”
– Simon Pegg: “I didn’t know what was going on. She didn’t look pregnant until the last minute. I saw her a couple of months later and she was like a balloon. None of us knew, not even John knew. She hid it well.”
– Simon Pegg: Deborah the costume designer had been quietly letting her costumes out so she could fit into them. It might explain one of the days why she was a bit up and down but generally speaking you would never guess.”
– Ginny: “I played Agnes, in Moliere’s ‘School For Wives’ at the Garrick Theatre in London, and after that, times got tough and I branched out into … physical theatre.”
– Burke: “Ah! Like acrobatics?”
– Ginny: “Sometimes! But I became a dancer and a showgirl, and now I’m trying to produce my first play.”
– Burke: “”
– Ginny: “It’s inconceivable that the height of culture in Edinbugh is this bloody dive. Which is why I’m proposing – and don’t laugh at me – that we put on … Macbeth! It’s got everything – sex, murder, magic, betrayal.”
– Ginny’s friend: “I think it’s a great idea, Ginny…”
– Ginny: “You do?!”
– Ginny’s friend: “I really do. There’s just one problem – wasn’t Macbeth a king? Wouldn’t that make him a man?”
– Ginny: “I’m talking about the first all-female production of a Shakespeare play!”
– Ginny’s friend: “It costs money to put on a play, Ginny. None of us want to go back on the game.”
– Ginny: “Nobody’s going back on the game. All we need is for a wealthy and discerning patron to take the bait!”
[Ginny and Burke are sharing champagne together in the pub]
– Burke: [toasts] “To good news!”
– Ginny: “To good news! … What good news?”
– Burke: “I have decided to finance your play.”
– Ginny: [spits out champagne] “Noooo! AHHHHHHH! AAHHHHH! Mr Burke!”
– Ginny: “I just don’t know if we’re ever going to find a convincing Macbeth.”
– Burke: “Well, uhh, I think you should play the role!”
– Ginny: “What makes you think I could star and direct?”
– Burke: “Your talent, and your vision.”
– Ginny: “I have been blessed with a lot of talent … and I have a vision, do you think?!”
– Burke: “I know.”
• Variety: “Pegg and Fisher, just about holding up their end of the bargain by delivering the film’s portion of sweet romance, are hardly given anything funny to say.”
• The Telegraph: “The usually appealing Isla Fisher, as a feisty bar wench with her hand in Pegg’s pockets, proves that you can be born in Scotland and still comprehensively forget what a Scottish accent sounds like. If you like fog and slop, you do get your money’s worth, but it’s a long time since John Landis has directed anything that isn’t an out-and-out misfire, and this doesn’t end the run.”
• UrbanCinefile.com.au: “Fisher is the best thing in the film and comes off relatively unscathed. The idea of juxtaposing Ginny’s all-female production of Macbeth with the murderous activities being conducted elsewhere is fine but badly executed.”
• NPR.org: “To call it a black comedy is probably misleading: It’s grey at best, and apart from a few scattered chuckles, it dies as quickly and gracelessly as Burke and Hare’s victims.”
• FutureMovies.co.uk: “But Pegg and Fisher (awful accent notwithstanding) are both so charming and likeable that we believe in their romance, in spite of the lame dialogue.”
• TotalFilm.com: “Sadly, Landis gets it wrong at every conceivable level. The gags aren’t funny. The gore’s too graphic. The performances are so broad and cartoony it’s like we’re watching Carry On Graverobbing. Scenes drag on interminably, then peter out without a punchline.”
• Boston Globe: “What’s Isla Fisher doing here as a pub tart aching to stage an all-female version of “Macbeth’’? Beats me, although Jessica Hynes gets some dark laughs as Hare’s profit-minded common-law wife, the movie’s equivalent of Mrs. Lovett.”
Isla plays a supporting role in this movie, and is in it a fair amount throughout. When she is in it, though, she is hilarious! This film really gives her the chance to go over-the-top and show off her unique brand of physical comedy, and I thought she was brilliant as Ginny. I loved her scenes and her performance, and would watch the film again several times just for her. The film itself is adequate – it’s very British, and has a few semi-clever jokes, but it’s definitely not for everyone. This film won’t be remembered as one of Isla’s greatest, but I think it’s definitely worth a watch for her.
Isla did a small amount of promotion for the film in the UK in October 2010 – just a couple of months after the birth of her second daughter! She attended a premiere for the film in London, looking ravishing in a figure hugging red dress and black jacket, and also appeared on BBC Breakfast to talk about the movie.
• Isla Fisher Web‘s Press page (related: 2010 interviews)
• Isla Fisher Web‘s 2010 Appearances Gallery
• Isla Fisher Web‘s 2011 Magazine Scans Gallery (some magazine clipping reviews)
• Isla Fisher Web‘s 2010 video interviews
• Isla Fisher Web‘s 2010 talk show video interviews
• News & Updates for Burke & Hare at Isla Fisher Web