Scottish Daily Mail
Cumming stars in movie of imposter schoolboy, age 30
It is hard to believe that a 30-year-old man could pass himself off as a teenager.
But that is exactly what Brian MacKinnon managed to do as he tried to get his medical career back on track.
MacKinnon caused an international storm when he duped staff and pupils by going back to the school he had left 13 years earlier.
Now the story of deceit has been given the Hollywood treatment in a documentary film starring Scots actor Alan Cumming.
Failed medical student MacKinnon posed as a 16-year-old by the name of Brandon Lee in order to get back into university by resitting his Highers.
Despite returning to his former East Dunbartonshire school, Bearsden Academy, teachers failed to recognise him when he enrolled again.
told from Mr MacKinnon’s perspective, My Old School – written and directed by former classmate Jono McLeod – includes an interview with Mr MacKinnon himself, lip-synched by Cumming, and reminiscences from school friends and teachers. the film will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.
Yesterday, Mr McLeod said: ‘Brandon wanted to tell his story and grant me an interview but, for his own reasons, he didn’t want to be seen on camera.’
A line spoken by Cumming gives a sense of MacKinnon’s world view: ‘the thing you have to do if you really want to prevail is do the unimaginable.’
Mr MacKinnon, now 59, attended Bearsden Academy for the first time in the 1970s, later gaining a place to study medicine at Glasgow University. However, after a lengthy illness and repeatedly failing exams, he was expelled from the course. At 30, still desperate to become a doctor, he permed his hair and shaved his eyebrows, enrolling once more in 1993 as a fifth-year student.
His cover story was accepted without question despite his older appearance and a near slipup when he remarked he could remember Elvis Presley’s death in 1977. Mr MacKinnon claimed he had been travelling in Canada with his mother, an opera singer, when she died in a road accident. He said his father had then sent him to Bearsden.
Mr McLeod, who was 16 when he met MacKinnon posing as Brandon, recalled: ‘When he arrived he was a bit of a geek but, over the course of two years, he managed to become pretty popular.’
MacKinnon even starred in the school musical, gained six Highers and was offered a place at Dundee University’s medical school. But a tip-off about his true identity caused his fake life to unravel spectacularly. His unmasking in 1995 was widely reported by the media.
the Sundance programme describes the film as ‘the astonishing true story of Scotland’s most notorious imposter’. the festival opens on January 20.