Brian MacKinney in his desparate attempt to get into medical school felt he had only one option left to him after flunking his first attempt at University, he decided to return back to his old school and as a 5th Former. The only problem was that he was now 30 years of age.
When new Scottish/Canadian student ‘Brandon Lee’ starred as Lieutenant Cable in the school’s musical production of Rogers and Hammerstein classic musical South Pacific, he was a success, so much so that after the curtain closed, the headmaster singled Brandon out especially for his performance. What his headmaster hadn’t realised is he was congratulating a former student, except this student decided to do what most only daydream of, to go back and live our life again. You see ‘Brandon Lee’ who claimed to be just 16 years old, had in fact been to Bearsden Academy in Glasgow before – many years before.
The documentary My Old School looks at how he pulled off his hoax. Director Jono McLeod who was a classmate and fellow student when Brandon entered the school explains that this film is a warm, funny, but also a sad high school movie.
The film is about something that most of us would either fear or even daydream over, and that is the opportunity to return to our school years, but as an adult. Brian McKinney decided to do exactly that and as a 30 year old man, he re-invented himself as Brandon Lee to return to his old school, Bearsden Academy in an attempt to get an opportunity to re-enter university again to study to become a doctor.
Brian did not want his face to be featured in the film, so his testimony is lip-synced by award-winning Scottish actor, Alan Cumming. He lost three stone in weight and plucked his eyebrows to give him a fresh-faced and artless look.
Brian McKinney created his alter ego’s life-history to fool classmates and teachers, who might have suspected that he looked older for his years. In trying to age himself as a child, the back-history was that as ‘Brandon Lee’, he explained that his mother had been a famous opera singer who died in a car accident, and his Diplomat father died soon after and that he now lived with his grandmother in Bearsden.
Brandon’s entry into Bearsden Academy was not easy, with some younger students naming him as ‘Thirty-something’. Brian says he didn’t really notice the kids, and just wanted to get to his destination. Brandon’s unpopularity was short-lived, as he struck up a friendship with Stefen Haddon, who had been victim to a string of racist bullying.
Whilst in school, Brandon started to climb the social ladder of school, establishing himself as the class brainbox and asking tough and complicated questions that often left his teachers baffled. His commitment to English Literature earmarked him for the lead in the school play, South Pacific.
Brandon’s ability to drive made him a firm favourite amongst his peers, and he impressed them with his intricate knowledge on how to make cocktails. Brandon’s time on holiday with three girls in his class was short-lived, as he returned home to break the news that his beloved grandmother had died.
When the plan to return to his old school evolved…..
Brian’s McKinney’s first run at Bearsden Academy was truly unremarkable. He chose to lurk in the shadows because he wasn’t one of the pretty kids that anyone wanted to go out with or hang around much. Brian made it into the highly prestigious Glasgow University medical school, but failed his first year exams and was exited from his course. He said he had been ill, and unable to pass due to this.
After failing to get into university, Brian found himself working as a janitor in a health club. He decided to put his somewhat bizarre and intricate plan into place. Brian managed to convince the school to admit him a second time, without any proof or evidence of his age, using his unique charm and special social abilities.
How he was discovered, remains a bit of a mystery and one theory is that Brian’s mother was involved in his downfall, perhaps boasting to friends that he was a doctor. However, Brian insists his mother was not involved at all.
Brian initially avoided the roaming press, but enjoyed a brief stint of celebrity upon his return. The students of Bearsden Academy also lapped up the attention Brian, a graduate of Bearsden’s class of 1993, is still living in Bearsden, applying to medical universities at the age of 59.
Some of his former classmates still refer to him under his assumed name, Brandon Lee, while others are left questioning his decisions and motive in returning to his old school. Perhaps Brian fell down the rabbit hole and figured out how to ace high school, help people and be a nice person in the process. But the greatest success was actually perhaps in getting away with one of Scotland’s most bizarre and hilariously fun hoax.