At first, chuckles Charlie Reid, he and his twin brother, Craig, thought it was a prank. But the phone call the Scottish duo — also known as folk rockers The Proclaimers — received in 2002 from playwright Stephen Greenhorn was on the level.
The writer told them he had a concept for a musical using The Proclaimers’ songs, including the enduring hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).”
“As he began building up the first 30 minutes, 45 minutes, then an hour’s worth of material, experimenting with our song, it became obvious that he wasn’t joking. It was a real enterprise, with a real purpose,” says Charlie Reid, who plays a Proclaimers acoustic show in The City this week.
Even when the musical, called “Sunshine on Leith” (named after a band classic), premiered in a Dundee theater, then expanded throughout the U.K., then began winning awards, The Proclaimers still were skeptical.
Then Greenhorn adapted his play, about two Scottish soldiers returning from Afghanistan to their hometown of Leith, for the screen. The movie version, directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Peter Mullen and Jane Horrocks, just wrapped. The Reids appeared in cameos.
Now Charlie Reid can admit it: “We were delighted when they chose to film it. It’s just a story that’s grown and grown.”
The best part about the project — which some have aptly dubbed the “Mamma Mia” of Scotland — is that The Proclaimers hail from a hardscrabble background in Leith, just like the protagonists.
“Most of the characters in ‘Sunshine,’ and most of its actors, have working-class backgrounds,” Reid says. “So the nature of this film, the dialogue, the subject matter, the community it’s based in — it’s about real people.”
So is The Proclaimers’ great new disc, “Like Comedy,” in which the thick-burred Reids chime in on great everyman anthems such as “Simple Things,” “Whatever You’ve Got” and “I Think That’s What I Believe.”
The duo’s comeback has been given added oomph by the recent Laura Marling- and Mumford & Sons-sparked British folk revival, not to mention the resurgence of “I’m Gonna Be” in films including “Pitch Perfect” and “Tonight You’re Mine.”
The Proclaimers are a red-hot property again.
For much of the 1990s, the siblings simply weren’t pleased with their material.
“Plus, we were both married, and our wives were having kids,” says Charlie Reid, 51, who now has three children, while his brother has four. “So we were distracted for a number of years.”
The Reids have put in some appearances to plug “Sunshine on Leith” and will do more when the film premieres.
How was it, hanging with the snooty theater crowd? “You kind of feel like some of that class may rub off on us,” Charlie Reid answers. “But I don’t think so. Not yet.”