Latest from Catherine Bray

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Q&A: George MacKay

For Those in Peril George MacKay

Film4.com editor Catherine Bray catches up with George MacKay, star of Kevin Macdonald’s highly anticipated How I Live Now, and Paul Wright’s For Those In Peril, which premiered in Critics Week at Cannes 2013…

For Those in Peril George MacKay

George MacKay in For Those in Peril

I arrived to interview George MacKay feeling like a half-drowned shipwreck victim, having run through a mighty deluge along the Croisette from the Palais, where I’ve just caught the underwhelming Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian) at the 8.30am screening. Fortunately, there’s nothing underwhelming about For Those In Peril, Paul Wright’s debut feature and the reason George is in town. Selected for the Critics’ Week strand, which focuses on new voices, the Scotland-set drama tells the tale of the sole survivor of a fishing boat accident that killed everyone aboard but a young man named Aaron (McKay), including Aaron’s brother Billy. It has already been described by the Telegraph critic Robbie Collin as the “flipside of last year’s Cannes hit Beasts Of The Southern Wild; a film that reassured us that all we seek can be found bobbing somewhere on the waves. For Those In Peril makes some very similar assurances, although they sound less like a promise than a threat.”

As we begin our beach-side interview with the rain beating down on the roof of the temporary marquee, the waves crashing in the background and my boots half-full of water, the setting is in some ways the perfect backdrop to chat about a film in which the sea is a brooding presence that preys on Aaron’s grief-addled mind.

So apart from bringing the British weather with you, how has your Cannes been so far?

It’s been fantastic, although I haven’t been here long. Me and Paul got in yesterday and had a bit of an explore, met up with a few friends for a drink – the DoP Benny [Kracun], the editor Michael [Aaglund], we’re all here together now.

Can we start with how you approached playing Aaron in For Those In Peril – how did you shape him?

Paul’s such a wonderful writer; there’s so much there already in the script. And then the thing that was so wonderful about the whole process was it was an exploration with Paul, discovering things – we talked a lot. I’ve never had such a close relationship with a director before. So we established the reasons behind everything, the purpose and rationale to what Aaron was doing. Which gave me a really strong backbone around which we could improvise and explore when we began shooting.

And how did you relate to the rest of the cast – you’ve got Kate Dickie as your mum, and Nichola Burley as the girlfriend of Aaron’s recently deceased brother -  did you improvise with them, or keep it more structured?

Well, firstly Kate was just wonderful, she’s so lovely. We really felt, without wanting to sound too silly, that we clicked, and understood each other, and had this emotional attachment to the project, which brought us very close together. So working with her in rehearsals really brought that backbone of understanding to playing Aaron. She brought a perspective on him which really changed how I saw him – working with her defined Aaron. That need to be with her is the crux of Aaron, really. And Nichola [Burley] was just so wonderful to work with. We got two days to rehearse together up in Scotland and with Nichola we explored the scenes more and explored how far you can push that relationship.

Aaron’s quite a dark character – did you ever catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and think ‘who’s this guy?’

Yeah, there’s the one scene where he’s got the red make-up on, and I forgot I had it on and went to the toilet and caught sight of myself! It’s like, yep, there he is! It was really invigorating doing it, it wasn’t an unpleasant experience going to those dark places; it was exciting.

And how did that contrast with Kevin Macdonald’s How I Live Now – was it a very different experience?

Well, in For Those In Peril, Aaron is so much on his own, whereas on How I Live Now, Eddie’s very much part of a family. And on How I Live Now, we kind of became a family on set – I felt like a big brother to Harley, Danny and Tom. It was about being together, and so it was much more about being a group, and my role in the group was looking after people. It was just a joy – that feeling of being a family is my strongest memory of How I Live Now. It was different – because of the nature of the part – with For Those In Peril. Me and Paul spoke for ages about the part of Aaron. I spoke with Kevin [Macdonald] before I got the part of Eddie and before filming and up until shooting in Wales, but with Paul, because Aaron’s on his own so much, we had a closeness all the time, because I was in all day, every day, all the time. I just physically spent more time with Paul. With How I Live Now, the best way of understanding the relationships was to hang out with the cast, whereas the best way of understanding Aaron in For Those In Peril was to spend time with the director, because the part in the story is so isolated. I learned so much from watching both of them.

And did you read How I Live Now before filming?

Absolutely, yeah. I think what’s great about the film is it’s true to the book in that it feels like the book, you know? The only way I can describe it to you is charged. There’s emotional intensity, and there’s love, and I’m so glad that came across in the script as well as the book. In the book Eddie is younger, but I think they are very similar.

And both Film4 films, of course…

Yes, I’m flying the flag for Film4!

 Will you have time to see anything here at Cannes?

No, unfortunately not, which is a real shame because it’s so exciting being somewhere where the focus is so entirely on film, and everyone’s here to show new work. It’s obviously amazing just to get your film into the festival but then there’s the big sense of nervousness over whether it will work out…

How I Live Now is out Autumn 2013, For Those In Peril premiered at Cannes in Critics Week on 18th May 2013

Cannes 2013: Our 5 must-see films

15 May, 2013 Posted in: Cannes, Cannes, Festivals
only-god-forgives-1024

Film4.com editor Catherine Bray rounds up five Cannes Competition films we’re looking forward to…

Greetings from the Croisette! The Great Gatsby screened to critics this morning, to mixed response, and will have its glitzy premiere tonight. Tomorrow, the festival kicks off in earnest, with 20 contenders vying for the Palme d’Or in the main competition and a plethora of other treats to be found in accompanying strands. Sticking to the Competition for now, here are the five I’m most looking forward to…

1. Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive played at Cannes in 2011, firmly establishing Ryan Gosling as the ultimate leading man, perfectly positioned at the nexus between mainstream icon and cherished indie hero. This Bangkok-based re-teaming of auteur and star sees Gosling play Thai boxing club manager Julian, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Gosling’s mother, who, following the death of her son Billy, urges Julian to take revenge on his brother’s killers. And with a score from Cliff Martinez – the genius behind Drive’s addictive sound – it should be as much a treat for the ears as the eyes.

Sample dialogue: “When I was pregnant with you, you were strange, you were different. They wanted me to terminate.”
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Vithaya Pansringarm, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Burke
Could be: Drive meets Enter The Void with a dash of Oldboy
UK release: 2nd August 2013
Runtime: 90 minutes

2. Wara no Tate, directed by Takashi Miike

Based on the debut novel by Kiuchi Kazuhiro, best known for his manga Be-Bop High School, and starring Japanese horror stalwarts Tatsuya Fujiwara (Battle Royale, Battle Royale II: Requiem, the Death Note franchise) and Nanako Matsushima (Ring, Ring 2), Shield Of Straw is already out in Japan, where it garnered mixed reviews. Nevertheless, I’m always a sucker for a new Takashi Miike film – anyone who might one day make something as good as Audition or Ichi The Killer again will always be a one-to-watch for me.

Cast: Nanako Matsushima, Tatsuya Fujiwara
Could be: 16 Blocks: Tokyo Drift, with added violence
Runtime: 124 minutes

3. Behind The Candelabra, directed by Steven Soderbergh

Based on the autobiographical novel by Scott Thorson, HBO’s Behind The Candelabra is Steven Soderbergh’s made for TV take on the relationship between Liberace and his much younger lover. With Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in the lead roles, and more fabulous feathers, sequins, cocktails, martinis, plastic surgery and drugs than you can shake a diamond-encrusted stick at, this is the film set to out-Gatsby Gatsby. Having read the book, I can’t wait to see what Soderbergh has cooked up. Expect to hear words like “fearless”, “bold” and “brave” feature heavily in the reviews.

Sample dialogue: “Why would a grown man want to adopt another grown man?”
Cast: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Debbie Reynolds
Could be: Better than Gatsby.
UK release: 14th June 2013
Runtime: 118 minutes

4. Jeune et Jolie, directed by François Ozon

Having commented on voyeurism so recently with In The House, François Ozon turns his playful talents to the issue of selling sex, as a 17 year old girl decides to turn some tricks in a film surely guaranteed to gee up some moral outrage from somebody. It’s a potentially star-making role for former model on the rise Marine Vacth (who turned 23 only a few days ago), but she should be in good hands with a supporting cast including Ozon alum Charlotte Rampling (Swimming Pool, Under the Sand) and Géraldine Pailhas (5×2). Ozon was last at Cannes in 2003 with Swimming Pool, but didn’t win anything – if the film is good, this could finally be his year.

Sample dialogue: “I didn’t feel much during it.”
Cast: Marine Vacth, Charlotte Rampling, Frederic Pierrot
Could be: Lolita meets Belle de Jour
Runtime: 95 minutes

5. Inside Llewyn Davis, directed by The Coen Brothers

Oscar Isaac’s big break sees him step out from the shadows of playing a hideous pimp in Sucker Punch and a Russian immigrant in W.E. and into the spotlight as the man of the title, a 1960s singer looking to strike it big in New York’s nascent folk-rock scene. Loosely based on a posthumously published memoir – The Mayor of MacDougal Street – by Dave van Ronk, it looks to be a project residing up the more sombre end of the Coens spectrum. When you consider that’s ground occupied by some of their best work, this shouldn’t be any cause for concern – just don’t expect the likes of the Dude to show up.

Sample dialogue: “You have not heard one nice thing about me from Jean.”
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
Could be: Walk The Line, Coens style.
UK release: 24th January 2014
Runtime: 105 minutes

Author Q&A: Joe Dunthorne on Submarine

02 Oct, 2010 Posted in: Writers

Author Joe Dunthorne’s first novel has been adapted into the acclaimed movie Submarine by Richard Ayoade. Here, he tells Catherine Bray about borrowing from his own life, changes to the novel, and Richard Ayoade’s bedroom.

Noah Taylor in Submarine

Do you remember the first germ of an idea for Submarine?
I didn’t really write it like that. I was studying creative writing and I was just experimenting really, writing in lots of different voices and perspectives, just trying to find something that worked, and I wrote a short story which was more or less the first chapter in the novel, in Oliver’s voice. That chapter is about him going to see a physiotherapist and that was just something I’d happened to do recently when I was a student – I had a bad back and I went to see the physio.
The voice felt natural to me, and more than anything I’d written before like it was coming out fully formed, so then I just ploughed on. I don’t want to say the book wrote itself, that’s a bit of a cliché, but as much as a book has ever written itself, it was pretty natural. I say this at the end of the second novel, which has been absolute murder, so this really was a different experience.

 

How personal was the novel of Submarine – and did that cause any concerns when adapting it into a film?
It’s interesting. Lots of writers, including me, use their own life for their first novel. The novel of Submarine is a substantially altered version of my own growing up – there are various things that are real from my childhood and various things that are made up – so after that one remove you’ve already lost like, 50% of your real life. And then you get the second refraction in the film. But there are a few things that are still quite true to my growing up. My father is the father in the book, essentially, and if you put my dad and Noah Taylor side by side, they’re not that different, at least in terms of their facial hair.
And Richard obviously brings things from his own life and childhood into it, like the bedroom in the film, Oliver’s bedroom in the film, is a kind of mix of what Richard would have loved his own childhood bedroom to be like, with all the obscure film posters, and a mix of things that he actually did have in his room.
The plot is largely made up. Certainly the over-arching plot: the love story and the family, is all made up, which is slightly disappointing to some people when you tell them that your parents never almost divorced or whatever.

How did your Dad react to reading the book?
My Dad has been extremely good humoured the whole way through, which I think you get some of through the book. I hope in the book it’s a kind of loving portrait. It’s not a character assassination; it’s a warm thing and he seems to have taken it with good humour. Maybe you get a bit more of a lighter touch in the book, he’s got more jokes, anyway – I suppose there’s just more time to develop someone in a book. I think actually he enjoys his mini-celebrity as a film and book character.

What did you imagine would change when it was adapted into a film?

My expectation was that, for it to be turned into a film, it would have to be radically altered, simply because of the internal quality of the book. It was hard to imagine how you could make something that’s a 300 page monologue into drama. I was very much warned by people, my agent and publishers, that if it were to be made into a film I should brace myself for emotional trauma as my story got torn apart, so I never felt any pangs really. Plus I just love film so much, so that helps.

Was Richard Ayoade’s a name that was there from the very beginning as a possible director?
Yeah, it was. The whole thing was blessed with this very smooth development. Richard was the first idea that Mary Burke the producer had for a director. We met, we got on really well, we started watching loads of films in his attic. Then we went down to Swansea for a few days and I showed him all the places that I thought he’d use and he used none of them. And then when we found Craig it made total sense, and the same with Yasmin.
The whole thing just barreled along on a lot of momentum. I guess that’s the kind of freshness thing, it just never got stagnant. It happened really quickly. I hope it carried that freshness with it.

Submarine stars Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige: Q&A

Film4.com editor Catherine Bray talks to Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige about their starring roles in Richard Ayoade’s debut feature film, Submarine
 

Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige in Submarine

 

Catherine: So, how was the experience of working with Richard Ayoade?

Craig: Richard’s awesome, the guy’s incredibly talented, he’s the nicest guy. And he knows what he wants and how to get it.

Yasmin: Richard is the best person. He had such affection for the film and for the characters. He’s wonderful. He loves films and he introduced us to all these that films we’d never seen before. Lots of French cinema, New Wave, Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, and told us about all these films. He’s a human catalogue of film. He knows everything.

Craig: He gave me 8 Mile. No, he didn’t. No, I got the Graduate, Harold & Maude, Rushmore, The Squid And The Whale, those sort of films, with that dry, deadpan style of acting.

 

Catherine: Would you say that’s rubbed off on your interview technique?

Craig: Yes, I can’t stop doing it.

 

Catherine: Can you tell us about some of your favourite films?

Yasmin: Dog Day Afternoon. No shadow of a doubt. Dog Day Afternoon and also Jules Et Jim.

Craig: I Know Who Killed Me, the Lindsay Lohan pole-dancing film.

Yasmin: Is that a pole dancing film?

Craig: She pole-dances in it. That’s the best thing about it. And also probably any sort of Alex Pettyfer films. I’m a huge Alex Pettyfer fan. Anything with Alex Pettyfer in. And obviously 8 Mile. I have this huge thing for Eminem. Before my second Submarine audition, I was late, because I had to listen to Lose Yourself all the way through before I could start the audition. It was pretty intense. In the last two years I probably haven’t gone a day without listening to one of his songs.

 

 

Catherine: It clearly paid off. We spoke to Joe Dunthorne, the author of the book, and he said it was almost eerie seeing how well you’d embodied the characters, who aren’t really described physically in the book.

Craig: I wonder if he’d imagined it this deadpan.

Yasmin: I didn’t imagine us looking like us. Like, when I read the script, I didn’t think I would look how Jordana would look – she seemed more attractive than me in the book! I thought, damnit, I’m out. Even her height, I thought she seemed probably at least 5′ 5″.

 

Catherine: How was the experience of seeing the film screen to audiences at different film festivals?

Craig: The worst is when Richard’s doing an audience Q&A and he’s so funny and then you have to follow him.

Yasmin: They don’t really ask me anything anyway, but I can’t do Q&As, there’s nothing more terrifying than sitting up there in front of 800 people. We walked out onto this huge stage at Toronto with these lights and I was just like ‘please, god, don’t ask me anything,’ and then Craig handed me the microphone, and it wasn’t even a question to me! I was so mad at you, Craig. I was speechless. It was mortifying. Someone asked us about kissing and playing out “our love” and I had no idea what to say.

 

Catherine: Who would be your dream director to work with?

Yasmin: Richard Ayoade.

Craig: Richard Ayoade.

 

Catherine: Who would be your dream director to work with, apart from Richard Ayoade?

Craig: I’d love to work with Judd Apatow or Shane Meadows. I know they’re completely different.

Yasmin: I think Martin Scorsese. If I really can’t say Richard. But Scorsese doesn’t really make any Mean Streets any more. But a Mean Streets or a Taxi Driver, I would literally give my arm to do. But Richard, I just want to work with Richard. I was saying the other day, I was wondering if I could be one of those people, like Mike Leigh uses, where they’re in all of his films, even if it’s just a small role. I hope I could be one of those for Richard. Even if it’s just a one-line shopkeeper or something.

Craig: I think that happens with a lot of things. The same people work together over and over. It can be quite cliquey.

 

 

Catherine: How true to life do you think Submarine’s sense of cliques and school politics are?

Yasmin: Very true.

Craig: True. Next question. No, do you mean is it true to the coming of age experience? Yes, I think so. In school, I was never bullied that much because I was with the cool kids, who were like ‘you’re an actor, welcome.’ I was like, ‘brilliant, now I’m with the hard crew.’ Now I’ve got Lee or Liam or whatever his name was, I can say, ‘they were mean to me, can you go beat them up?’

 

Catherine: I loved reading the script – what specific scenes did you most look forward to filming on the basis of the reading?

Craig: The classroom stuff has some of the funniest bits. Obviously the stuff with Yasmin, I have to say that, she’s sitting right here… I liked the scenes with Sally Hawkins, as my mum, they were cool. Looking at the script I never imagined it being how it was, the music, the way it looks. The only thing I could picture was Michael Cera playing the lead.

Yasmin: I’m not in them, but all the scenes with Craig and his family, they’re just the best. Noah Taylor’s advice as the dad – “I once tore my vest off in front of a woman. It produced a very atavistic response,” that made me laugh so much. “So, your mother informs me you’ve got a girlfriend… that’s quite an achievement.” He’s brilliant.

Craig: Noah takes dry to another level. He’s one of those actors I admire who fly under the radar but get so much done. He wouldn’t really get noticed in the streets, but he does great work.

 

Catherine: What are you working on next?

Yasmin: I’m working in a pub.

Craig: I’m playing on my X-Box. I’m also doing Red Lights, directed by Rodrigo Cortés who directed Buried. It’s filming in Barcelona with Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro. It should be good.

 

Catherine: Finally, can you tell our readers in one sentence why they should go and see Submarine?

Yasmin: Go and see it because then you can say you were there – you saw Richard Ayoade’s first feature film.

Craig: Go and see it because it’s good.

 

by Catherine Bray

Catherine is a film journalist and Editorial Director of Film4 Online. She is also the producer of feature documentaries Beyond Clueless and Fear Itself and short film Blackout.

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