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Some Mike It Hot
Acclaimed director Mike Leigh talks to Roe McDermott about his new film Another Year, thick actors and his stand against the Israeli government.
Roe McDermott, 08 Nov 2010
When I was four, my darling older brother was left to mind me one evening as my parents threw a dinner party. He, in his infinite 11 year old wisdom, decided to show me his new favorite film; Stephen King’s It. To this day, the mere mention of clowns rattles me.
On route to interview Mike Leigh, I started to feel the familiar nausea and fidgety nerves usually reserved for when I drive by a circus: I was scared. At the Cannes Film Festival in May, Leigh publically eviscerated Sunday Times arts editor Richard Brooks at a press conference for his new film, Another Year. As Brooks, who admitted that he and Leigh have “had our differences in the past”, expressed his admiration for the film, Leigh immediately cut him off, snarling ““I refuse to answer a question from you. On to the next question. I don’t want to answer any questions from you, and you know why.”
Luckily, the warmth and patience possessed by the characters of Another Year seems to have rubbed off on the director, who was happy to talk about his critically acclaimed new film. Addressing the love, loneliness and desperation of a group of middle-aged characters, Another Year is a complex and often heartbreaking reflection on aging, marking a clear departure from the celebration of youthful exuberance seen in Leigh’s last film, Happy-Go-Lucky.
“This is a film that I decided to start from where we are, people who were born in the 1940s,” he says. “But it wasn’t necessarily easier to write than my films about younger generations such as Happy-Go-Lucky. Actually, it was a hard film to make, because it’s about so many things and there are a lot of elements to juggle.”
And due to Leigh’s trademark approach to directing, which involves months of improvisation workshops and rehearsals, the age of the characters in Another Year served to create a highly intense schedule for Leigh and the actors. “If a character is 30, it takes half the length of time to work out the character than if they are 60, like here. But with this film we actually had less time to rehearse than Happy-Go-Lucky because the budget was smaller. We only had five months, so it was a very demanding process for the cast. These actors are very intelligent, very creative, serious people who are utterly committed to putting real life on the screen and playing characters that exist out there on the street, and have a great sophistication.