HE first watched it in his local fleapit when he was meant to be at school.
It seemed a long way from the Barrhead Pavilion but the flickering film telling the story of an unlikely friendship on the wild side of the Big Apple transfixed the young Gregor Fisher.
Now the Rab C Nesbitt star will introduce Midnight Cowboy at the Cromarty My Favourite Film Festival.
Starring Jon Voight as Joe Buck, a naive dishwasher turned rent boy, and Dustin Hoffman as conman “Ratso” Rizzo, the gritty 1969 buddy movie film became the first and only X certificate movie to win an Oscar.
It regularly features in lists of all-time great movies while Hoffman’s reportedly ad-libbed line “Hey, I’m walkin’ here” also features in the most famous movie quotes.
And Gregor, 63, who will be seen next month in the BBC’s big festive Poirot adaptation The ABC Murders starring John Malkovich, has told how he has never forgotten the impact it had on him.
He said: “It was the Pavilion cinema in Barrhead. Glasgow was a bus fare away and we didn’t have the money for that.
“I was so keen to see Midnight Cowboy that I think I used a couple of days’ lunch money to pay for it. Two or three of us trumped off school and went to see a matinee.
“I’d have been 14 or 15 and I don’t think we were supposed to be in the cinema as it was an X. It was the first film I ever saw that was based on any sort of reality.
“You’d go and see Swiss Family Robinson and there’d be people riding ostriches or building treehouse. It’s not real.
“That was the kind of film I’d seen up until then, but Midnight Cowboy was very different. “It had an effect on me and I remember being really moved at the end. It shocked me and I’d never seen a film that stayed with me for days afterwards.
“Usually you’d just go and get on with your life and never think about it.”
The Pavilion, which became the George before finally closing in 1977, was a weekly mecca for Gregor, walking down from Neilston on a Saturday to catch the latest offering.
“I was a total addict,” recalls Gregor. “And when you were in a cinema full of kids, you’d stamp your feet and clap when the goodies beat the baddies.
“But they’d show films like Swallows and Amazons that had nothing to do with life in the industrial belt of Scotland.
“It was posh kids messing about in boats.”
Gregor’s Barrhead days helped instil a love of movies. But while he was transported to other worlds, he insists there was no light bulb moment as he sat in the darkness.
“I didn’t sit there saying ‘I want to be doing what’s happening on screen’,” says Gregor. “I really wasn’t thinking that my little life could be transformed into anything akin to being an actor.
“It wasn’t until I was leaving school and faced with doing something I didn’t want to do that I told the careers teacher, totally out the blue, that I might want to go to drama school.
“I don’t think he was used to that. He looked at me as if I’d just grown another head. Anyway, God bless him, the poor wee man. He shuffled through his stuff, wrote something on a piece of paper and off it went.”
Gregor and actress wife Vicky Burton now live in France and a couple of French films, Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, were on his initial shortlist to the Cromarty festival.
Based on the two-volume novel Marcel Pagnol, Jean de Florette, set in post First World War rural Provence, was the most expensive French film ever made when shot back-to-back with Manon des Sources in 1986.
“They are French cinema at its very best,” said Gregor. “Vicky and I went to see Jean de Florette at a little London cinema and were blown away by it.
“And then we went back the following week to see the second one.
“I much prefer French cinema. I’m sick of watching the White House get blown up or somebody flying about being a superhero. I don’t give a stuff.
“There are some good Hollywood pictures, but you have to look hard to find them.
“I still think the only place to see a film is the cinema and there are quite a few ones around us. Small towns here all have their cinemas, holding maybe just 50 or 60 people.”
This is the 12th annual My Favourite Film Festival and it will run from Friday November 30 to Sunday December 2.
Makar Jackie Kay will introduce 1940s film noir classic Double Indemnity and Oscar-nominated director Mike Radford will introduce his top pick, the Brazilian drama City of God.
The festival will provide an opportunity for a reunion between Gregor and Mike who have worked together several times over the years.
“I actually made a film in Cromarty 30-odd years ago, directed by Mike, called Another Time Another Place,” recalled Gregor.
“But the last time I caught up with Mike was another picture of his called Merchant of Venice. Al Pacino was playing the lead and we were in New York, which all sounds very grand.
“I think Pacino was in court at the time as he was getting divorced.
“He was very nice but I think there were millions of dollars involved in the settlement, so he was a bit distracted as well you might be.
“It’s been a while so I’ll probably have a couple of lemonades with Mike and reminisce.”
Cromarty goes movie mad over the three days, with the lighthouse turning into an outdoor cinema screen on opening night.
There will be contemporary animation selected by Glasgow Short Film Festival and other pop-up movie houses will host screenings of comedies Local Hero and The Dish.
The film-loving Highland town is looking forward to movie-viewing on a more regular basis.
It’s celebrating receiving planning permission and initial funding to build a 35-seater permanent cinema. Building work begins in January.