Archive for the ‘Film interviews / features’ Category
From current issue of Clash.
Terri Hooley has lived a life less ordinary. Driven by a lifelong passion for music, Hooley launched the Good Vibrations record store in Belfast at the height of the Troubles which became a focal point for the city’s punk scene, and his label of the same name issued The Undertones’ iconic single Teenage Kicks which was famously played twice in a row by John Peel and landed the band a deal with Sire Records. Last November, Belfast City Council marked his contribution to the city by unveiling a plaque dedicated to him at the former site of the Harp Bar, where he organised gigs for a generation of new bands.
“A lot of the bands I loved never really had records out, so I thought it would be a good idea to put something down, to capture all of the energy and to let the world know that something else was going on in Belfast other than bombs and bullets,” he says.
Now his story has been told in the comedy drama Good Vibrations in which he’s played by Game of Thrones actor Richard Dormer. “We were only out together for a day and it was pretty freaky because he kept watching everything I did and all my mannerisms and it was doing my head in,” he laughs. “But he was absolutely brilliant. It was as scary as anything. People were going, ‘It’s pretty freaky, he’s got you down to a tee.’”
Now in his Sixties, Hooley’s lust for life is clearly undiminished as he ambles through a succession of tales covering his love for early American garage rock, drinking with Pete Doherty and numerous choice quotes including: “I had offers to go to America, but I’d rather be down and out and penniless in Belfast,” “It’s twelve years since anyone seriously tried to kill me” and “I didn’t realise that I drank so much until I saw the movie.”
Virtually indistinguishable as he is in person from Dormer’s portrayal, it’s hard to imagine Hooley ever changing. He still runs a record store albeit “more or less by appointment only” and hosts the Alternative Ulster walking tour: “You don’t see any sectarian murals. In fact, last year we put up a mural for John Peel,” he says proudly. “It’s funny because the tourist board ignored me for years. It’s the only tour in Belfast that doesn’t mention the bloody Troubles or the fecking Titanic. It’s about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in Northern Ireland.”
From the current issue of Clash.
Penny Woolcock’s 2009 fictional film 1 Day examined postcode gang wars in Birmingham. During her research for the film, Woolcock met Shabba, a young man who was affiliated to the Johnson Crew (from the B6 area), who later asked for the director’s help in introducing him to the film’s lead actor Dylan who was part of the rival gang The Burger Bar Boys (B21).
After a tense initial meeting, the two men agreed to attempt to bring the longstanding violence between their gangs to an end. Woolcock documented the process in the new documentary One Mile Away. “Neither of them is that high up in the hierarchy, so it was very brave for them to take that stand,” she explains. “All of these conflicts follow a similar pattern and it really takes a brave person to stand up and stop it.”
Many of the people featured in the film state that they can’t explain what they’re fighting for. The impression is that the violence perpetuated is pointless. “It’s only the older ones that remember what the original altercation was,” she continues. “Once blood has been split it’s very easy from the outside to say forgive and forget, but if it was your brother or child you might find it a lot more difficult to rise above it. Things gather their own momentum.”
The film shows that the nation’s 2011 riots prompted many of the gang members to finally agree with Shabba and Dylan’s argument that their rivalry was unnecessary. As Woolcock agrees, gang violence is a symptom of divisions within society: “It’s something that people do when they feel oppressed or excluded, they just turn on the person closest to them. It’s very easy for politicians to say that the riots were about criminality but I don’t think that’s true.”
Members of both gangs united to form the One Mile Away social enterprise which seeks to inspire young people to follow a more productive route away from the negativity of gangs. Their work, which includes sharing the experiences of former gang members and using mentoring schemes, has already made a statistical difference to crime rates in the areas in which they work.
The film features performances from several rappers and Woolcock particularly credits Zimbo (also a co-founder of the social enterprise) for changing his lyrical content to provide a positive message which counters the “bullshit” image of mainstream names such as 50 Cent: “It’s all about changing the culture.”
“Anvil was a movie that I self-financed and that I edited in my kitchen,” says Sacha Gervasi of his enduring rockumentary and directorial debut. “I had no idea that a) it would really be released or that b) it would have the impact that all these years later it still seems to have. Little did I know that the producers of Hitchcock would become fans of it.”
Placed in contention alongside a series of far more established names, Gervasi thought he had little chance of landing the role yet his ideas and passion for the project saw him triumph. His background also gave him an unlikely head start with his cast.
“I met Anthony Hopkins for lunch at an Italian restaurant and the first thing he said was that he loved Anvil,” he continues, still slightly awestruck. “I never thought for a million years that he’d be a fan of Anvil, but he was – as was Helen Mirren.”
Hopkins and Mirren deliver dazzling performances as Hitchcock and Alma Reville, the director’s wife and great creative companion. The film focuses on two largely unknown stories – Reville’s substantial input into Hitchcock’s filmmaking career, and the struggles that he endured in getting his classic movie Psycho made.
“I knew all about Hitchcock’s genius and the way that he’d invented new techniques in filmmaking and his tremendously complicated relationship with actors, but what I didn’t know was that his greatest collaborator was his wife,” admits Gervasi. “It was the untold story. I knew it was provocative and it would elicit a strong feeling from people because a lot of people are invested in Hitchcock being a certain kind of auteur.”
The resistance to Psycho being made resulted in Hitchcock investing $850,000 of his own money in the project – a phenomenal personal investment now, let alone in 1959. Circumstances dictated that Hitchcock was effectively an unlikely underdog. As Gervasi continues: “It’s the story of a great artist, who’s sixty years old, young directors are nipping at his heels and he wants to feel young and alive again so he takes this crazy risk against the advice of everyone in his life. It was this idea of yearning to be alive that that I was really drawn to.”
Gervasi argues that the film isn’t intended to be a searing docu-drama about the mechanics of making Psycho – it’s intended to entertain an audience. Provocative, entertaining and amusing, it achieves precisely that.
From the current issue of Clash.
“WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.”
So read an advert in the American survivalist magazine Backwoods Home which became an online phenomenon before staff member John Silveira admitted to writing it as a joke. But that small advert inspired Safety Not Guaranteed, the debut film from Colin Trevorrow which holds a 94% fresh rating Rotten Tomatoes and has seen the director become an unlikely candidate to direct the next Star Wars movie.
The film sees magazine journalist Jeff and interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau dispatched out of the city to discover the true story behind the ad. While Jeff is busy chasing an old girlfriend and Arnua is just plain scared of life, Darius befriends the man behind the message – Kenneth (Mark Duplass), an outsider scientist who claims to have invented a time machine.
“We wanted to make a movie that was about time travel, but that was really about why we need time travel, why we’re so fascinated by it, and how that connects to us as people,” explains Trevvorow. “So we really made a movie about people needing to go back to fix personal mistakes that they made.”
With elements of sci-fi, comedy, romance and thriller (see the world’s slowest car chase), Safety Not Guaranteed is, as Trevorrow laughs, “a kitchen sink” of influences. Each character embarks upon their own individual journey, with the connection between Plaza and indie-comedy icon Duplass being key. But why has this modest, if impressively inventive and extremely funny comedy achieved such an immediate connection to its audience?
“Our movie going experience has become so corporate that it’s refreshing to see something with an independent spirit that dealt with some of the same imagery and subject matter as the bigger films,” says Trevvorow, admitting that the $700,000 budget means that some people might be cutting him some slack.
As for Star Wars, if Trevvorow knows any more, he’s keeping it under his hat: “I’ve been able to have some really cool conversations,” he states, adding that his next film is likely to be another sci-fi film with more drama in place of Safety Not Guaranteed’s comedic leanings. “I found my little corner of the sandbox that I like playing in, so I think I’m gonna play here a little longer.”
From the new issue of Clash.
Thomas Vinterberg kickstarted the Dogme 95 movement with his 1998 breakthrough film Festen. His subsequent career hasn’t quite fulfilled his initial promise, despite work with Lars von Trier, music videos for Blur and Metallica and the brilliant Submarino which never received a full UK release.
His new film The Hunt finds him back on track with a brilliantly absorbing drama that tells the story of Lucas (Bond baddie Mads Mikkelsen), a teacher who is falsely accused of abusing his pupil Clara. The village turns against him en masse as a few speculative rumours suddenly escalate dramatically; he loses his job, his girlfriend and his oldest friends.
“Lucas is a good Christian, and a very humble man. He very stubbornly tests his surroundings and waits for the good to reappear,” says Vinterberg. “And when that doesn’t work for him, he starts headbutting people.”
It is of course entirely logical that a community would act to protect a vulnerable child. What isn’t so logical is that they inadvertently make these accusations seem real to the one person that they’re trying to defend.
“It becomes a false memory,” he agrees. “They create a complete illusion that she was physically assaulted and she’ll grow up to believe it, with similar problems to people who have actually experienced it. Yet the assault came from the authorities. That’s scary.”
Vinterberg and co-writer Tobias Lindholm researched numerous real life stories when creating the story. A key scene in which Clara is interrogated as to the nature of the alleged abuse is transcribed from a real case. The combination of her discomfort and Lucas’s assumed guilt makes for uncomfortable viewing: “They’re trying to behave rationally and they’re trying to protect the children, which I find right. That’s what’s so complicated with these cases – they’re right with what they’re doing, it just spins out of control.”
The film’s strongest attribute could well be Mikkelsen’s performance. Before filming, he spoke with Vinterberg to move Lucas away from a tough De Niro-type character to someone altogether more sensitive. This change in approach makes the film’s two most intense scenes – an ill-fated shopping trip and an equally ill-fated Christmas church service – all the more compelling.
“The spoken word can’t be taken back. This guy is marked,” concludes Vinterberg. “Real life is always much more horrifying than any film you could imagine. According to the cases I’ve read, there’s definitely a chance that this happens all the time.”