Screen legend Sir Sean Connery makes a return to the silver screen this week in a film charting the history of Scotland’s oldest University.
On Wednesday 16 May 2012 Sir Sean Connery, producer Hamid Shams, film director Murray Grigor OBE, and Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews Professor Louise Richardson will be in New York for the US premiere of “Ever to Excel” – the first ever cinematic account of the foundation and development of Scotland’s first University.
Hosted at one of New York’s premiere cultural venues, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), the event will be of not only historical significance; but will also mark Sir Sean Connery’s return to the silver screen – having been coaxed out of retirement to help tell the story of the University of St Andrews.
The University is currently celebrating its 600th Anniversary spanning three calendar years from 2011 to 2013. The Anniversary marks the formal charter granted by Bishop Henry Wardlaw in February 1411 and the achievement of full university status conferred by Pope Benedict XIII by Papal Bull in 1413.
Sir Sean Connery initially agreed to be the unseen narrator for the St Andrews film, but during the project was persuaded to step in front of the lens once again. He said:
“When Louise Richardson invited me to collaborate on a film to mark our 600 years, as a key part of the scholarship endowment campaign, I readily agreed.
“As our film Ever to Excel began to take shape, I soon came to realise how central St Andrews is to Scotland. And how, in a very real sense, it is to America too.
“Three signers of the Declaration of Independence passed through St Andrews. James Wilson, born close to St Andrews, was also one of the six original justices appointed to the Supreme Court.
“He was also a major force in drafting the United States Constitution. Wilson struck out the opening words ‘We the States’ and wrote in ‘We the People.’
“For me that’s even more important today, than it ever was, away back in the eighteenth century.
“I’m proud to be an honorary graduate of a place where good is never good enough. Ever to excel. Happy Birthday St Andrews.
“Lang may your lum reek.”
Directed by Murray Grigor OBE, Sir Sean’s long-time collaborator and co-writer of his memoirs, the historical documentary “Ever to Excel” celebrates discovery, learning, traditions and new beginnings, with intertwining stories told amidst the pulse and promise of St Andrews over its 600 year history.
Talented graduates who star in the film include: Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, novelist Fay Weldon, poet Jay Parini, psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison, the writer Alastair Reid, as well as Executive Director at The Foundation for Tomorrow Meghann Gunderman, and businessman Oliver Sarkozy.
Together with Sir Sean’s narrative their memories and recollections help to tell the remarkable story of how a University came to be founded on the east coast of Scotland in the 15th century and of those who have since left St Andrews to change the world – including some of the greatest poets of the Scottish Renaissance, James Wilson who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, James Gregory who invented the reflecting telescope, and Sir James Black, the pharmacological pioneer who discovered beta blockers.
The film also includes revealing interviews with staff who taught Prince William of Wales, who is a graduate of the University; as is the Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton. Both attended the official launch of the University’s 600th Anniversary Campaign of which Prince William is patron.
Looking back on the results of a year’s research and work, and a 90-day shooting schedule, Murray Grigor said:
“Our film should encourage all good alumni to come to the aid of their Alma Mater to help fund the next 600 years.”
The US premiere will be a private fundraising event, with a Scottish premiere to follow in St Andrews on 24 May and a screening in Edinburgh on 14 June.
Notes to News Editors
A trailer for the film has been released ahead of the premiere and is available to view.University news