Dundee actor Gordon Morris took to the book shelves to swot up on a dream role in the first-ever Dutch film produced by Netflix.
Gordon’s role in The Forgotten Battle ticked all the boxes for the self-confessed history buff who also happens to be a huge fan of war movies.
With a budget of a whopping 14 million euros, The Forgotten Battle is the biggest Dutch film of the last 10 years, and the second most expensive Dutch movie ever made, after the 2006 war film Zwartboek.
The Dutch epic is set in 1944 during the Second World War and centres on the Battle of the Scheldt which was a key period in the liberation of Holland from Nazi Germany.
Huge history buff
Gordon said: “My agent asked my availability for the movie while I was in Budapest filming a new TV show but he didn’t need to ask twice because I’m a huge history buff.
“I’ve always loved anything war-related which I could watch on TV or the big screen and Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers are two of my favourite movies.
“The chance to play a part in this movie was really exciting and it gave me the chance to read about the battle and find out some interesting information.
“By coincidence when I was researching the part I found a book in Dundee Central Library called The Forgotten Battle which was a mine of information and really helped me understand what was going on during that time in Holland.
“It was also great working in Zeeland during filming as I was able to see the places that I had read about and pictured during my research.”
The heavy battle for the Scheldt Estuary claimed many more lives than D-Day and enormous damage was done to the province by floods and fierce fighting.
The movie follows the lives of a young Dutchman fighting for the Germans, a stray English glider pilot and a local girl who is part of the resistance movement.
Gordon, from Douglas, is best known for his role in the supernatural drama The Terror which was based on the lost expedition of Arctic explorer John Franklin.
Gordon played John Weekes, a carpenter on board HMS Erebus, and featured alongside Mad Men actor Jared Harris and Game of Thrones star Tobias Menzies.
Appearing in the 10-part thriller was Gordon’s biggest role to date after previously featuring in Taggart, Bob Servant, Armchair Detectives and Schemers.
Gordon said: “The film revolves around characters from both sides of the battle.
“It shows you the struggles they all go through as they try to survive these last moments of World War Two as Holland tries to loosen the chains of its occupation.
“My character Mackay is working with the officers of the joint Canadian/British task force but I can’t say any more than that unfortunately!
“Filming this was a real thrill as I was surrounded by fantastic people, and tanks!
“I felt like a big kid when I encountered my first tank and I made sure I got lots of photos standing next to it.”
The film features a number of Dutch and international stars, with Gijs Blom, Jamie Flatters, and Susan Radder in the lead roles.
Harry Potter star Tom Felton and Theo Barklem-Biggs also feature in the international cast.
“The director, Matthijas van Heijningen was really good fun to work with and he kept everyone on their toes,” said Gordon.
“Sometimes he would send an extra to randomly hand you a document as you did a take, then for the next take he would ask you to change your dialogue – this definitely helped to keep you focused!
“The other actors were all really friendly and we shared the same hotel and hung out together which helped to build a bond when it came to filming.
“The village we were based in was a beautiful wee place but very quiet as it was the middle of December and there were no tourists around.
“It’s very exciting to be a part of this movie but I’m so disappointed I won’t be able to go to Holland to see it at the cinema due to travel restrictions.
“It’s great to see Netflix setting up in Amsterdam and hopefully there will be loads more fantastic content coming soon.
“There were lots of Scottish regiments and Scots Canadian regiments involved in this battle so I think it will be of great interest to people locally.”
The pandemic has been tough on actors, who often move from job to job and aren’t employed on a permanent basis.
“As for my career, it’s basically been on hold since lockdown started,” said Gordon.
“It’s been a tough year for work but I’ve made the most of my free time by getting out and enjoying the fresh air.
“I’ve never walked so far in all my life.
“Hopefully next year will be a big year as there will be lots of new filming projects beginning, plus all the filming that was halted this year will be starting up again.”
Gordon held down a number of jobs before he got into acting in 1998 and a few years later he was taking up his first role since he tread the boards in a school play.
“I got into acting in quite a strange way,” he said.
“I had never acted since I was in a play at Powrie Primary School when I was in primary six.
“I had always enjoyed English at school, and we had a fantastic English teacher at Craigie High called Mr Campbell who would read books out loud while doing voices and the accents of all the different characters in the book.
“I used to love his classes and I think he may well have subconsciously influenced my future career choice.
“After leaving school I worked as a sign fitter, a postman, a driver, I worked offshore, I worked with Tayside Region roads department, I worked in the NCR and I also trained as a bricklayer at Dundee Skills Centre where I worked alongside a guy called Steve Martin.
“I never saw Steve for a few years after leaving the skills centre, then one day in 1998 when I was walking along the Murrygate, I met him and asked him what he was up to.
He told me he was doing a theatre arts course at Dundee College, and I thought that sounded brilliant!
“He introduced me to the team at Dundee Rep community theatre and I auditioned for Dundee College.
“I was accepted on the course and I loved every second of it.
“I then auditioned for the RSAMD (now RCS) BA Acting course and I was accepted on to that course as well, and again I loved every second of it.
“I graduated in 2002.
“Every time I meet Steve, I always tell him he’s the reason I’m an actor!
“He’s someone I look up to and he’s a fantastic actor who deserves wider recognition.”
The Forgotten Battle will premiere this week in Dutch cinemas and on Netflix in the rest of the world in 2021.