The Last King of Scotland (film)
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Produced by Charles SteelLisa BryerAndrea Calderwood
Screenplay by Peter Morgan Jeremy Brock
Based on The Last King of Scotland byGiles Foden
Starring Forest WhitakerJames McAvoyKerry WashingtonSimon McBurneyGillian Anderson
Music by Alex Heffes
Cinematography Anthony Dod Mantle
Editing by Justine Wright
Studio DNA FilmsFilm 4
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date(s) 27 September 2006 (2006-09-27) (United States) 12 January 2007 (2007-01-12) (United Kingdom)
Running time 123 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom Germany
Language English Swahili
Budget US$6 million
Gross revenue US$48,362,207


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The Last King of Scotland (film)

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UK Theatrical release poster

The Last King of Scotland is a 2006 British drama film based on Giles Foden's novel of the same name. It was adapted by screenwriters Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock and directed by Kevin Macdonald. The film was a co-production between companies from the United Kingdom and the United States, including Fox Searchlight Pictures and Film4.The Last King of Scotland tells the fictional story of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a young Scottish doctor who travels to Uganda and becomes the personal physician to the dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). The film is based on factual events of Amin's rule.The title comes from a reporter in a press conference who wishes to verify whether Amin declared himself the King of Scotland. Amin was known to invent fancy imperial-sounding titles for himself.


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The film opens in Scotland in 1970 as Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) graduates from medical school. Faced with the dull prospect of joining his father in the family's village practice, he decides instead to seek adventure abroad by taking up a position in a Ugandan missionary clinic run by Dr. David Merrit (Adam Kotz) and his wife, Sarah (Gillian Anderson). Garrigan quickly becomes attracted to Sarah, who enjoys his attention but refuses to engage in an extramarital affair with him.

Coinciding with Garrigan's arrival in Uganda, General Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) is concluding a successful coup d’état to overthrow incumbent president Milton Obote. The two men meet at the scene of a minor car accident, where Garrigan treats Amin's injured hand. Amin, who admires Scotland for its long resilience under English rule, is delighted to discover the doctor's nationality. Garrigan is impressed by Amin's charisma and affability, and by his vision of an egalitarian golden age for Uganda. Their friendship is cemented when Amin exchanges his military shirt for Garrigan's "Scotland" T-shirt. Some days later, Amin invites Garrigan to become his personal physician and to take charge of modernising the country's health care system.

Garrigan soon becomes the president's trusted confidant. Amin comes to rely on him for much more than medical care, even consulting him on matters of state. Although Garrigan is aware of the shootings and executions going on around Kampala, he accepts Amin's explanation that cracking down on Obote's remaining supporters will bring a lasting peace to the country. However, Garrigan's privileged lifestyle, obviously funded through the economic exploitation of the impoverished Ugandan people, belies the rectitude of Amin's government.

Garrigan discovers that the polygamous leader has ostracised the youngest of his three wives, Kay (Kerry Washington), because she has given birth to an epileptic son, Mackenzie (Apollo Okwenje Omamo). In the course of treating Mackenzie's condition, Garrigan falls for Kay, and the two become lovers.

Garrigan increasingly loses faith in Amin as he witnesses the president's increasing paranoia, brutality and xenophobia. Amin, who trusts no one, replaces the doctor's British passport with a Ugandan one to prevent him from escaping. The discovery of the Ugandan passport leads Garrigan to a frantic visit for help to the local British Foreign Office representative; he is told that, due to his complicity with the regime's atrocities, the British will help him to leave Uganda only on one condition: Garrigan must use his role as Amin's personal physician to assassinate the dictator. Garrigan is unwilling.

His situation worsens when Kay informs him that she has become pregnant with his child. Naturally if her pregnancy becomes known to Amin, she will be murdered for her infidelity, so she begs Garrigan to carry out a secret abortion. Delayed by Amin's command that he attend a press conference for Western journalists, Garrigan fails to meet Kay at the appointed time; she concludes that she has been abandoned to her fate, and seeks out a primitive abortion in a nearby village, where she is apprehended by Amin's forces. When Garrigan searches for her, he finds only her savagely mutilated corpse. As he falls retching to his knees, Garrigan finally confronts the palpable inhumanity of Amin's regime, and decides that killing him is the only way to put a stop to it all.

Shortly thereafter, a hijacked aircraft is flown to Entebbe by pro-Palestinian hijackers seeking asylum from agents of international law. Amin, intending to help the "Palestinian brothers", rushes to the scene, taking Garrigan along. At the airport, one of Amin's bodyguards discovers Garrigan's plot to poison Amin, under the ruse of giving him pills for a headache. His treachery revealed, Garrigan is beaten by Amin's henchmen. Amin himself arrives and discloses that he is aware of the doctor's relationship with Kay. He has his henchmen pierce Garrigan's chest with meat hooks and thus hang him by the skin.

While Amin arranges the release of all hostages except Israelis, Garrigan's torturers temporarily leave him broken and bleeding on the floor while they relax and drink in another room. Garrigan's medical colleague, Dr. Junju (David Oyelowo), takes advantage of the opportunity to rescue him, at the same time urging him to tell the world the truth about Amin's brutal regime, wryly asserting that as Garrigan is a white man, the world nations will believe him and investigate Amin's rule. Junju gives Garrigan his own jacket and wipes the blood from his face, enabling him to mingle unnoticed with the crowd of freed hostages and board the plane that will carry them out of Uganda. When the torturers return and discover Garrigan's absence, Junju is summarily executed by one of them. The plane departs with Garrigan on board; Amin is informed too late to prevent it. The film closes by showing actual footage of the real Idi Amin, whilst a caption reveals that over 300,000 Ugandan citizens were killed under Amin's dictatorship.


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  • Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin
  • James McAvoy as Nicholas Garrigan
  • Kerry Washington as Kay Amin
  • Simon McBurney as Stone
  • Gillian Anderson as Sarah Merrit
  • Apollo Okwenje Omamo as Mackenzie
  • David Oyelowo as Dr. Junju


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The Last King of Scotland received a limited release in the United States on 27 September 2006, with a UK release on 12 January 2007, a French release on 14 February 2007 and a German release on 15 March 2007. In the United States the film was rated "R" by the MPAA for strong violence, gruesome images, nudity and strong language.

In the United States and Canada, the film earned $17,606,684 at the box office. In the United Kingdom, the film took $11,131,918. Its combined worldwide gross was $48,362,207.

The film was released on DVD in North America on 17 April 2007.


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Whitaker received outstanding critical acclaim for his performance as dictator Idi Amin in the film. He won the Best Leading Actor award at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors' Guild and the BAFTAs, in addition to awards from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics' Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics' Association, the National Board of Review and many other critics awards, for a total of at least 23 major awards, with at least one more nomination. The movie currently holds a "fresh" 87% on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

The film was received well in Uganda, where it premiered two days before Whitaker won the Best Actor award.

The film received a 2007 BAFTA Award for Best British Film and the BAFTA award for Best Adapted Screenplay, in addition to receiving nominations for Best Film. James McAvoy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

The film was also considered a financial success, grossing more than eight times its budget.

Historical accuracy

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While the character of Idi Amin and the events surrounding him in the movie are mostly factual, Garrigan is a fictional character. His story is loosely based on events in the life of English-born Bob Astles. Like the novel on which it is based, the film mixes fiction with real events in Ugandan history to give an impression of Amin and Uganda under his authoritarian rule. While the basic events of Amin's life are followed, the film often departs from actual history in the details of particular events.

In real life and in the book, Kay Amin was made pregnant by her lover Dr. Mbalu Mukasa. She died during a botched abortion operation by Mukasa, who subsequently committed suicide. Bob Astles, upon whom the character of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan is based, believes that her body was mutilated not on Amin's orders, but by Mukasa while attempting to hide it. Amin never had a son named Campbell.

Although the film gave the impression that hostages were allowed to leave based upon whether they were Israeli, in truth the decision was made based upon whether individual hostages were of Jewish heritage; hostages forced to remain included Jews from France, for instance.[citation needed] Furthermore, contrary to the wording of the film's coda, three hostages died during Operation Entebbe. The body of a fourth hostage, 75-year-old Dora Bloch, who was killed by Ugandan Army officers at a nearby hospital, was eventually returned to Israel. A small historical error regards the flags shown flying at Entebbe Airport: The green-and-white flag of the Republic of Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe) is clearly shown flying alongside the flags of the other African nations, despite its non-recognition by Uganda and the international community.

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