My interview with The Angels’ Share’s Screenwriter Paul Laverty – on Ken Loach, inhabiting the characters of his films, Eric Cantona, and more!

The Scottish indie The Angels’ Share kicked off the MSPIFF last Thursday, the latest from acclaimed British director, Ken Loach. Loach’s award-winning long-time screenwriting partner, Paul Laverty, was in attendance for the film festival’s opening night.

PaulLavertyI was fortunate enough to get a sit down interview with Mr. Laverty the afternoon before the film premiere. Bummer that I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of Paul, so the photo to the right I found from Google.

I was planning on having the entire taping of the interview here, alas I forgot to turn my phone on airplane mode so when my friend called me two minutes into the interview and I didn’t realize that it stopped the recording until five minutes later, so I lost a great deal of our conversation where I asked Mr. Laverty about working with Ken Loach and with the actors in The Angels’ Share, so I’ll try my best to write down his answer based on memory, so a lot of the first few answers here is paraphrasing [note to self: get it in writing in case technology snafu happens!]. But the last three questions were on tape, so you can listen to his answers below.

Anyhoo, here’s the interview:

Q: This is your 12th collaboration with Mr. Ken Loach and together you’ve won numerous awards for your work. What’s the secret of such a successful collaboration?

A: Ah yes, well ehm, it’s hard to be objective about it, hard to put my finger on it exactly, well I think the big thing is that we believe the same things, we care about the same things and want to see the same things being explored cinematicaly. Another thing is, it’s fun working with Ken, obviously. But he’s also a radical man, he has a strong opinion about things so it’s could be a challenge, he challenges me sometimes when we work together. But he’s also a very funny man, which makes it enjoyable to work with.

Q: I like stories about second chances and how a small gesture of kindness can turn someone’s life around. The character of Harry, played brilliantly by John Henswaw, is such a wonderful, inspiring character, is he based on anyone you know?

TheAngelsShare_HenshawBrannigan
John Henshaw and Paul Brannigan

A: Glad you mentioned him. John Henshaw is such a wonderful actor and he played his role beautifully. I don’t think [Harry] was based on a single person, but more of a compilation of several people I knew who devoted their lives to rehabilitating the kids who are cast out from society, who can’t get out of their life situation even if they want to because nobody wants to take a chance on them, nobody’s willing to give them a job. That’s why I wanted to tell a story that perhaps would illustrate that part of society, that part of life, and maybe that’d get people to see how tough it is.

Q: The characters in this film are portrayed in such convincing ways by the actors. How did you find them, as I learned that most of the actors didn’t have any acting experience?

A: Yes, the lead Paul Brannigan who played Robbie has never acted before this. His real life story is actually very similar to Robbie, he’s also been to prison. But he was more than up for it. He obviously identified with his character and what he went through. There’s a lot of improvisation and as filming progressed, his confidence [as an actor] just grew and grew. Plus he’s not afraid to take a chance.

LoachBranniganLaverty_Cannes
Ken Loach, Paul Brannigan and Paul Laverty in Cannes

In relation to Laverty’s answer, this is what Ken Loach said about working with Brannigan, per The Guardian:

Says Loach: “He had real emotional truth. He knew this part implicitly. He’s also very astute. Some young actors have talent but you can’t really read them. With Paul, you can, and that’s quite unusual. He’s very centred and focused and economical.”

Q: The dialog in this movie is just wonderful. There’s a profound moment where Robbie’s wife said to him in the hospital as they’re holding their newborn baby, “You just get one shot of being a wee baby, Robbie. Just one shot… You know what that means don’t you?”

TheAngelsShare_Scene

“… I think it’s about trying to see the world from the point of view of that character… and that’s always the great challenge to do that well and not to turn it into a stereotype.”

Q: My friend Mark who lives in Glasgow is a big fan of yours and he’s wondering whether you’re a Celtics or Rangers fan?

A: I’m a Celtics fan, you have to tell him… all the film fans are Celtics fans… as for Ranger fans, I don’t think they see films. Now don’t put that it in print, ahah.

Q: Now, Mark also asked me to pass this question to you… it’s about the situation in Glasgow. He said that the city doesn’t entirely function on sport [football] but its more to do with the religious divide that comes with the sport. It’s hard to describe but it permeates through the city and plays a big part of the cultural divide. It seems like it’s a topic that hasn’t been explored in films hardly at all.

“The ugliest part of Glasgow is the sectarian divide… you know, which is a great shame. It’s a great curse to the city. I think your friend is right. I think there could be a great story told about it…”

Mr. Laverty then said that Mark should write that story. He asked me to say hello to him, so Mark, perhaps one day you would collaborate with Mr. Laverty and Ken Loach on this Scottish football drama! 😉

Q: Why Eric Cantona, of all the other famous football players in Europe?

EricCantona_LookingForEric
Eric Cantona in ‘Looking for Eric’

“Because Eric Cantona came to us and was very keen on collaborating with us. And he came with another idea, which you know, didn’t really work for us. But I was very fascinated by the figure of Eric Cantona, and Ken loves football as well.”

Mr. Laverty also recommended a football-themed film he did with Ken Loach, Italian director Ermanno Olmi and Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami called Tickets. I definitely will be renting that!


Off the record:

At the end of the interview, Mr. Laverty asked which publication I worked for, and when I told him I run a movie blog, he asked if I work on it full time and that he’s always fascinated by how these things came about. Then I replied that I have a full time job elsewhere and that I run my blog after work, and he said how it must take incredible energy.

He was very encouraging when I said I’d love to write for films one day, saying “Well you should do it, I mean if you have that much energy… you stop interviewing people like me and write your own script,”… to which I replied that I’m constantly inspired by creative people like him. But in any case, maybe one day I take up on his advice 😀

THANK YOU Mr. Laverty for your time and for being such so friendly and gracious. Now I really need to do a Ken Loach marathon, starting with Looking For Eric [read Mark’s review of it here]


Hope you enjoy the interview. Now, what’s your favorite film(s) from Ken Loach & Paul Laverty?

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41 thoughts on “My interview with The Angels’ Share’s Screenwriter Paul Laverty – on Ken Loach, inhabiting the characters of his films, Eric Cantona, and more!

  1. ninvoid99

    I’ve seen a few films of Ken Loach including the ones with Paul Laverty as the screenwriter. Kes from 1969 is one of Loach’s best films while the films w/ Laverty that I do recommend are Looking for Eric, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, the short film they did for 11’9’0’01, and Sweet Sixteen.

  2. Great interview Ruth. Unfortunately I’m not that familiar with his work buddy sounds like a swell guy. It was nice of him to take the time with you. I thought it was funny that he called Loach “a radical guy”. Again, not real familiar with his films but I have heard several of his opinions and radical fits the bill. LOL.

    Again, great stuff Ruth. Now get to work on that screenplay! I love his encouragement when it came to that.

    1. He’s a great guy and has made some excellent films worth checking out Keith. I may not share his opinion on things but I respect people who have strong convictions about something and his movies certainly speak a lot about social issues.

      Yeah, I thought it was very sweet of him to encourage a wee blogger like me 😀

        1. Yeah and that’s what so wonderful about talking to filmmakers and writers, they seem to be more about the work than the fame/money that comes with it.

  3. Marvellous stuff Ruth. I’m living vicariously through your achievement here. So happy to get a metion but even more happy that you found yourself in this excellent position. Well done! It looks like (we both) should get working on our screenplays. 😉

    1. Hi there Mark! Glad you enjoyed this. You got more than a mention, I think Mr. Laverty was serious that you should write about the story about Glasgow’s sectarian divide. THANK YOU for the great questions, I’m glad I got a chance to ask him that. Ahah yeah, I guess I should start taking screenwriting classes then 😀

  4. Ted S.

    Nice interview Ruth, I’ve never seen any of Ken Loach’s films so I don’t have any opinion on them.

    But you should take Paul’s advice and start writing screenplays based on your ideas! Who knows once I actually makes it big in Hollywerd, I’ll turn your scripts into films. 🙂

    1. Ahah, well I don’t know if I have screenwriting abilities, but I sure will try to do at least one. I’d love it if you’d turn one of my movie pitches into movies, Ted 😀

  5. Fro those who haven’t seen any Loach films, I’ve sometimes wondered how well they transfer over the pond to the US. They have a lot of British regional dialects in them. But that’s the real UK you’re getting, and not some fantasy version with Hugh Grant in it. I did hear that Sweet Sixteen ran with subtitles in America, but not sure how true that it is.

    1. That’s an interesting question. I was wondering about that too, but as someone living in the US (though I wasn’t born here), I was fine with the dialects as there’s subtitles. Ultimately I care about the story and his films are definitely intriguing and makes me learn about different cultures, so I enjoy that aspect. He’s such a witty writer as well, I think humor is a universal language 😀

  6. Brilliant stuff Ruth, great interview. Sounds like a really nice guy and really encouraging. Looking for Eric is a great film, a little bizarre, but great! I also really like Kes, that’s really quite something, although not a Paul Laverty collaboration I don’t think.

    1. Why thanks Chris!! I really appreciate you checking out the post. He really is a very affable fellow, nice to see a talented guy who’s passionate about his work, no pretense at all. I need to check out those films you mentioned.

  7. awesome interview Ruth!
    How nice of him to do that with you.
    I am really fascinated with the fact that they have worked 12 times…wow. Talk about trust and friendship.

    I have never heard of Eric, except from you. I will try to find it as I really like The Barley.

    I like his encouragement for you to write

    1. Hi Nov! I was fortunate that the PR company offered the interview opportunity, I just couldn’t pass that up!

      I’m not familiar w/ Eric either until I started reading about Mr. Laverty’s work a few weeks ago. But my friend at work had recommended that to me a while back. Yes, I think it’s very thoughtful of him to encourage me, I probably need to give up my blog if I were to pursue screenwriting though 😀

    1. Thank you Chris!! I’m sure you’ll do an even better job than me if you had given the chance. It really helps that Mr. Laverty was so welcoming.

    1. Thanks Eric! It’s perhaps one of my fave interviews so far. Granted I haven’t done too many but he’s just so gracious and had a lot of interesting things to say.

      The Angels’ Share is highly recommended, it’s just so funny and yet poignant, I’d think a lot of his work are worth seeing. If you like soccer or sports drama, I’d give Looking for Eric and Tickets a shot, too!

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  10. Great stuff Ruth! Loved listening to his Scottish accent and glad he recognises the hard work and ebergy that goes into Flixchatter. I’m sick of interviewing someone and them thinking we all get paid for this stuff!

    1. THANKS Pete!! His Scottish accent is adorable, I guess I have a penchant for that, ahah. Yeah, he was very gracious and genuinely surprised that blogging was a hobby. True that people automatically assume we all get paid for this but I told him film is my passion and it’s a perk to get to meet people like him!!

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