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.

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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?

Five For The Fifth – February 2012 Edition

Hello folks, welcome to the February 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?

1. Well today’s the biggest night of football, I know my hubby will park himself on the sofa and watch Giants and Patriots battle it out at the Superbowl XLVI. You can’t say that I’m a fan of team sporting events nor sport movies for that matter, I can count with my hands how many sports-related or specifically American football movies that I enjoyed. I did like Rudy when I saw it in high school with my brother, but not so much because of the football part, but I just love the underdog story. I also like Jerry Maguire more for the relationship of Tom Cruise’s title role with his client and his loyal assistant-turned-girlfriend.

Another fun one I remember is The Replacements... no I’m not saying it’s the greatest football movies ever, in fact it’s kind of a screwball but pretty enjoyable. Keanu Reeves plays a washed-up quarterback who’s recruited as part of the replacement team during a pro football strike. It even got Gene Hackman as the coach who believe in the unlikely if not preposterous players that include a Welsh former soccer player called ‘The Leg’ (Rhys Ifans) and a crazy defense lineman played by Jon Favreau. This dance scene done to the Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive is a hoot, always puts a smile on my face every time I watched it.


So what’s your favorite football movie(s)? 


2. The box office results hasn’t been posted yet but as of last Friday, Daniel Radcliffe’s horror flick The Woman in Black and the superhero-themed sci-fi Chronicle are on a tight race. Chronicle tells the story of three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. It’s done in a low budget, shaky cam movie ala Paranormal Activity, which also has mostly unknown cast. From what I’ve been reading lately, it sounds like an interesting entry into the whole superhero genre, some even call it a deconstruction of the conventional superhero mythology.

My matey Scott @ Front Room Cinema made up a top 10 list of alternative superhero movies last Thursday, and my favorite of all of them remains to be Unbreakable, which is also my favorite M. Night Shyamalan’s work. It’s one of those rare films that despite the ‘whoa’ ending, it’s still rewarding to watch it several times over as there’s always something new you discover and appreciate. I might give Chronicle a rent, I always like a fresh new take of the oft-told plot of ordinary folks acquiring extraordinary superpowers.

So what’s your favorite alternative superhero movie? Or if you happen to see Chronicle already, what did you think? 


3.  Ok time for some casting news. Last week, they announced a couple of duo casting I like. One of them is Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana in an untitled thriller by John Crowley (Boy A, Is Anybody There). I quite like Boy A, it’s an understated indie drama that shows the would-be Spider-man Andrew Garfield that he’s got some serious acting chops.

The plot for this upcoming project is quite intriguing… Hall and Bana will play former lovers who must work together on the defense team during a terrorist trial (per THR). I certainly like the cast, both aren’t A-listers yet, not sure why as they’re both not only gorgeous but massively talented.

So which casting news that you’re thrilled about from the past week?


4. Now, another two duo casting I like feature two actors whose stars are quickly rising: Jessica Chastain and Joel Edgerton. Edgerton is another Aussie on my watch-list after his terrific performance in Warrior, and you already know from this post that I adore Chastain.

Now the projects are quite peculiar, they’re signing on to a double feature films called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: His and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Hersa New York-based couple going through a rough patch in their marriage. His will follow the events from the perspective of the husband, a restaurant owner; Hers will tell the tale from the wife’s point of view as she heads back to college. According to SlashFilm, these two films are intended as standalone features based on a script by Ned Benson (In Defiance of Gravity).

So what do you think about this project? Would you watch a double feature like this one?


5.The Oscars is taking place in a couple of weeks, and since 1991, the Academy Awards ceremonies has made the Kodak Theater its permanent home. But soon that won’t be the case as the company has since filed bankruptcy and won’t be able to make the $4 million annual payment to retain that name on the building.

Per Reuters, last Wednesday the 131-year company asked a U.S. bankruptcy court judge to allow it to get out of its $75 million naming rights deal with the real estate company behind the complex. THR also reported last December that the Oscar ceremonies might actually move to another spot entirely after 2013. It’s kind of sad what’s happening to Kodak, given their crucial role in the entertainment industry and long-standing relationship with film makers for decades.

So what do you think about the Kodak predicament… and what sponsor do you think would replace the theater name? 


Well, that’s it for the February edition of Five for the Fifth. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all!

DVD Picks: Football Edition – by guest blogger Marcus Anderson

Special thanks to avid sports fan Marcus A. for his generous contribution in honor of Superbowl Sunday. I’ve never seen a more passionate Vikings and Twins fan, check out his extensive blogs Vikingstailgate.com and Twinnin.com blogs for your enjoyment. Here are his picks of football flicks for each genre.

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Want to start a new Super Bowl tradition? Why not make a special night out of Super Bowl Eve and rent a football movie? So “get your popcorn ready” a day early, head to the rental store (does anybody still do that?) or queue up a tale from the gridiron.  There are so many movies about football, that hard-charging American pastime, that you might not know which one to pick?

Kid-friendly:

The Game Plan (2007)
My choice for a nice wholesome parent kid football movie would have to be “The Game Plan” starring Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson.   The Rock is hilarious in this one, playing the Joe Kingman. the Big Macho QB for a championship contending football team in Boston. He loves the nightlife, fame, glory and money,  that is bestowed to him.

But then, Peyton unexpectedly steps into his life. No, it’s not the Colts QB, Peyton Manning, it’s his 8-year old daughter, who teaches what being a real leader is all about.

I like everything about this flick. It’s hilarious, unique (sans the predictable clichés at times) and pretty well acted. The Rock shows a comedic side that is really endearing, entertaining and fun. I could watch this movie several times over and still laugh. It has Elvis impersonations, locker room hi jinx, ballet, decent football scenes, lugs, oafs, and very enjoyable moments.  Even the soundtrack good, featuring a memorable father-daughter-football team montage to ELO’s  “Mr. Blue Sky.”

Comedy:

The Best of Times (1986)
I have never been a big fan of Robin Williams, but this is fun role for him. Jack Dundee was that kid in high school who dropped the pass that lost the game, and only chance for a small town to ever win a championship.  Years later, that poor schlep still agonizes over that “butterfingers”moment and decides to do something about it.  Reno Hightower (Kurt Russell) plays the long forgotten High School QB who succumbs to the pressure and returns to help Taft High School reclaim its dignity.

There are many fun scenes in this movie, including breaking up with their wives, challenging the bully to a fight, mascot antics, mud, and a Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Falcons.  The old saying, those that don’t know history are bound to repeat it applies in a unique way to this comedy.

Drama:

Friday Night Lights (2004)
I first heard about this “project” from a fellow classmate of mine at Macalester College back in 1983-84.  His name was Peter Berg, and when he told me of his cousin’s (H.G. Bissinger’s) project, writing a book about High School football in Texas,  I thought, “That sounds interesting,  maybe I’ll read it someday.” Years later, the book was made into a movie,  AND WHAT a movie it is.

This is the best movie about football I have ever seen. It’s bullet to the bone real, and captures the essence of football as a religion with all the tragedies intertwined within.  It captures the highs of winning and lows of losing that life can offer. It’s pressure in ecstasy as family traditions, bias, and stubbornness leak into the world of high school football.

Tim McGraw deserves recognition for this role as an overbearing father, force feeding a son to play out his lost dreams. Billy Bob Thornton is the head coach of the team, delivering the best locker room speech I have ever heard in a movie. This movie is in my collection, as are all of the first 3 seasons of the NBC TV series.

The state of Texas is the most-represented state in this week’s Super Bowl with  a total of 16 players from the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints hailing from the Lone star state. Most notable of these is Drew Brees, the starting at QB for the Saints.   Back in 1996, Brees lived the Friday Night Lights, leading  Westlake (Austin) to a 16-0 and being named the Texas Class 5A MVP.

Biopic:

Jim Thorpe: All American (1951)
My all-time favorite historical athlete who I never saw play live sports, was Jim Thorpe.  He was Bo Jackson before Bo Knew anything.  A professional football and baseball player, Thorpe  also won Olympic Gold Medals  in 1912. He was called the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th Century.

This movie stars Burt Lancaster (who  later played Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham in the baseball movie “Field of Dreams”). If I could pick any sports character for Hollywood to write a new epic movie about,  it would be for the story of Jim Thorpe.  A runaway of child from an Oklahoma Indian Reservation, who became the greatest athlete in history,  (and an NFL Hall of Famer)  is a story that deserves more attention. Somebody write the script for this please!

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There are so many more football movies to recommend, but like the Super Bowl, only  a select few can make it to the finals.  If you have a Facebook account,  and want to find  out which Hollywood Football movie character you would select with a first round pick for your team, try this fun quiz.