Richard Holmes is that reassuring thing: a successful UK film producer who, on the evidence of our interview, is apparently an affable, centred human being. Such a disposition probably benefited the on-set atmosphere during production of the bloodcurdling EDEN LAKE (2008), his most recent success. His forthcoming film RESISTANCE (2011) is based on the celebrated novel by Owen Sheers and stars Michael Sheen and Andrea Riseborough. Turning to the past, his first feature SOFT TOP HARD SHOULDER (1993) starred a young Peter Capaldi and has attracted a cult following, whilst SHOOTING FISH (1997) and WAKING NED (1998) were popular at the UK and international box office. Other credits include SOLITAIRE FOR 2 (1995) and DEAD BABIES (2000).

Back in 2011, Richard spoke to us with entertaining frankness about the delights and agonies of being an independent UK film producer. Richard is currently Senior Film Executive – Production at Creative England.

Going back to the beginning, how did your career in film start?

I got started at university working with a man called Stefan Schwartz and we did a comedy double act called The Gruber brothers. The Gruber Brothers was in that era of alternative comedy or New British comedy but we were very unfashionable in that we didn’t do any stand up or interaction. What we tended to do was film sketches, so we did things STAR WARS in two minutes or the horror movie genre in three minutes. It was very physical stuff and it was very condensed, we abbreviated the genres into a few visual gags. It was all about film, really. We did that for two and a half years professionally and did OK but then got bored of condensing stuff and decided to write a short film, inspired by having seen Aliens. It was terrible and making it was a mistake but it was a very interesting mistake in that we shot it on 35mm and we got to see how effects were created. And weirdly the film got sold to the BBC for half what it cost to make it – wouldn’t happen anymore. It was called BONDED, it was in the Sci-Fi/Horror genre and it was awful. But it was a very good educational experience and we finished that and thought “actually we should try and make a good short” and we wrote a kind of Tales of the Unexpected short which was a thriller and we made that and it was pretty good. By this point we were both doing a bit of writing, a bit of acting and a bit of comedy. We gave up the comedy and we went hell for leather and we made this short film which turned out well. It had a decent cast, including Frances Barber, people helped us out and it gained a sort of profile which led directly to a man giving us £181,000 to make our first feature film. It’s called SOFT TOP HARD SHOULDER and we made it over a long hot summer of love in 1992 and the film did pretty well. It was a road movie between London and Glasgow and it starred Peter Capaldi. That film was again a fantastic educational experience for me because it was a proper feature film, Henry Braham shot it and he later went on to shoot various things including THE GOLDEN COMPASS. And Stefan, Peter and me put it together creatively and financially. It won the London Film Festival audience award and it won a Scottish BAFTA for best film and best actor for Peter. And it returned its investment. It was fantastic to be able to give the investor back their money and to make a little bit of profit – which we’re all still benefitting from. I felt for the first time when I went to the barbers I could say “I’m a film producer”.

The late 90s witnessed something of a boom in UK film production as a result of new public funding and tax regulations. How do you feel about the period, especially in relation to the current culture of austerity? Is there an element of rose-tinted spectacles?

I can talk about two aspects: production and development. I think that era will be looked back on as a golden age, I really do. There was enormous amount of money, too much really, washing about but a lot of people got to be professional writers upfront. In other words they didn’t need to have two or three day jobs so they could write. It went from British Screen having £2 million a year to put into British film – almost all into production – to there being £2 million a year going into development. It was just an astonishing amount of money. And inevitably there was waste and fat that needed to be trimmed but it will be looked back on as an amazing time for many writers; although maybe not for five, ten, fifteen years. So I’m very positive about that. I benefited: I had the first feature film that was funded by the lottery, a film called SHOOTING FISH which got money from the Arts Council all those year ago. And it was the first or second film to benefit from the Isle of Man’s fund. So I’m very grateful. Weirdly I never got a penny from the Film Council in terms of production although I did get a very healthy chunk of development money to give to writers. So positive on the public funding side. On the tax-driven sale and leaseback side it was actually a disaster…

On account of the films that didn’t get a release?

Yeah I mean there was very famously PLOP. We did an analysis of films which were unreleased and the one which hugely amused us was PLOP. But a lot of films don’t get released and it’s extremely difficult to persuade a distributor to put up the money required to make a release worthwhile. That’s not the point. The point is about running costs. For instance with my most recent film, RESISTANCE, which was funded in a large part through our own company, structured with EIS incentives, our entire finance fee for that film, which included lawyers, accountants, presentations, printing – everything associated with raising nearly a £1 million in private equity – cost no more than £20,000. Contrast that with a production I was associated with on the other side of the table as a financier. I went to one two and a half hour meeting – a closing meeting – at which with there were 15 lawyers present. My lawyer calculated at the end of it that the meeting cost £15,000. You look at a film like THE KING’S SPEECH, actually quite a modestly budgeted production with an enormous amount of financing fees on top – and that’s where I’m very cynical about tax-driven financing. It’s much cleaner under EIS and UK tax credit. Under sale and leaseback it became outlandishly inefficient because people could offer 20-30% of a budget and then charge literally whatever they wanted. One of the things I love about having made RESISTANCE is I can look the investors in the eye and say “We spent 2% of your money on making sure the fund was properly administered, legally accountable and added up correctly.” But that’s all. No one got a fee; it wasn’t a fee-driven production. So I think it is much cleaner now and I’m very glad that that side of the easy money equation is gone.

Sticking with finance but looking more internationally how do you feel about UK co-productions with European countries? Do you think the financial opportunities are offset by the inevitable culture test box-ticking and the potentially ‘Europudding’ result?

I think on a very low budget production it can be extremely difficult to knit together a co-production. If you put yourself in the foreign co-producer’s shoes, the foreign producer comes to me and says “I’ve got a story, a third of it happens in the UK and I would like you to be our UK co-producer.” Now I didn’t develop the story, I think it is ok but I’m not passionate about it, and so therefore where’s the incentive? I’m doing it as a job, I’m doing it for a fee and when you get into very modestly budgeted productions the production really can’t sustain that fee. So that’s one reason why I don’t think it works very well. Turning to the Europudding aspect, as the budget goes up and the money becomes more available inevitably you think “Can we cram this story into another culture in order to benefit from the local tax credit?” That is a danger and the benefit is very often largely or completely discounted by the costs of going in. I’ve made one film as a co-production – Abduction Club, not a bad movie but it didn’t work – which we made as an Irish co-production. At the end of filming Neil Peploe, the main producer, did a back of the envelope calculation and the cost of doing the co-production, of going to Ireland – and frankly some of the abuses we suffered there – more than outweighed the benefit.

It’s no secret UK films often struggle to draw the home crowd: we lack a unique language and we’re unable to match American production budgets unless they’re underwriting the cost. How could UK cinema best carve an identity for itself? It’s the question that’s always asked but where do you see UK cinema going?

No idea. I’ve been doing this for twenty years now; there are good years and bad years, you can point to some fantastic films – or we can talk about PLOP. There’s always going to be a wide spectrum in any film culture. The French films we see in this country are the creme de la creme of French films, believe me there’s lots of films we wouldn’t look at twice. Similarly in America there’s a lot of complete and utter tosh. The import market tends to be the very special old pale (VSOP) films because that’s what’s worth importing. So it was ever thus, it’s not changed really, there’ll be good years and bad years and we’ve just got to make the best films we can. I don’t think the British audience is cynical about British films although I think the British press can be. It’s cyclical: the coterie of key British reviewers does change as time goes on and sometimes we get a rough crowd who seem to hunt in packs. There’s a very rational explanation: a lot of the national reviewers are watching films from 9:00 am on Wednesday to 7pm on Thursday. If you get them on Thursday afternoon after a heavy lunch and they don’t like your film they will sit there and bray at the screen. And then they’ll compete for the best bon mot to destroy the film.

We’ve touched on the import market, moving over to exporting, which foreign territories have you found responded best to your films and which the worst? Has it been heavy going with the United States?  

Well I’ve had one fantastic experience in America and one pretty pants experience in America and I learnt nothing from either to be blunt. Those two films were SHOOTING FISH and WAKING NED. We made them for exactly the same amount of money and we sold them both, weirdly, to exactly the same distributor one year after the other. So we sold SHOOTING FISH in ’97 and Fox Searchlight bought it – good money, put the film into profit – and they did their level best to market. It was the era of BritCom, the film starred a young Kate Beckinsale and it only took $250,000. I thought that was it when it came to my chances of exporting to America. We then made WAKING NED which I thought was a really good little film but way too soft to sell to America, but Fox bought it, paid fantastic money, worked their nuts off and got great results. It was confusing to me but I think what probably worked there was the Irish diaspora who embraced it as being truly Irish – even though we filmed it on the Isle of Man – and felt they were buying something authentic. So in terms of lessons learnt: make something which has an authenticity to it. I’ve sold films all over the world to Japan, Australia, Spain, Italy, France. These were films bought upfront and they did enough business to get their money back, and more, but it’s very difficult to predict. Firstly, what will work culturally and secondly what is the market like in that territory that year – it’s a crapshoot, and very scary when you’re introducing a new film to the market.

Moving away from the industrial to the more personal: has there been a moment during film production so wonderful that it crystallised in your mind exactly why you do this job?

On the last film there was one. It’s a film called RESISTANCE and, as is probably clear from when I last mentioned it, it was made on a very modest budget. I think it has turned out fantastically well. It also featured a lot of animals and there’s a moment in which a horse is shot and falls down in front of one of the characters, so we had to find a horse that could die believably in front of an actress. We had a very modest budget indeed so we went on the internet and typed in ‘horses that fall over’ and up came Scooby Doo and for a very reasonable fee, Scooby Doo, two trainers and a trailer turned up overnight. The trainers walked Scooby Doo onto the field where, as instructed, we’d put down some peat moss – which was all he wanted, as well as some hay – and they asked if we’d like a rehearsal, which we appreciated. The owner walked Scooby Doo onto the peat, tugged his halter and Scooby Doo just fell down and lay there like a rock. And he did that seven times in an hour, working for almost minimum wage. It was one of those shots which in the script everyone looked at and assumed we’d do in the edit but it’s all an in-camera effect and when it happens – hope this isn’t a spoiler – it is an astonishing moment because it’s so real.

Conversely have there been any experiences that made you want to throw in the towel?

On the same film we had two dogs, continuity sheepdogs, which we had at the beginning of the film and hoped against hope they wouldn’t die before the five weeks of shooting had finished. Fortunately they didn’t die on set but we had difficulty getting them to simulate dying in the course of the film, where they get poisoned by their owner. The dogs were very biddable but they didn’t know each other very well so when we set up the shot of them lying down together as if they’d been poisoned they were so rigid with tension that the editor sent the shot back the very next day to be done again. It wasn’t in the schedule and so it had to be a second unit shot, put together by me and the gaffer. So we set-up a locked-off camera, we brought these two dogs in and decided to build the scene in elements: shot of the kennel, shot of the poisoned meat, shot of the dog vomit. Then we decided to position each of the dogs one at a time around these elements. We got the old dog to lie down and look convincingly dead but the younger, much friskier bitch, although she lay down immediately, would only look dead if I was stroking her. Unusually for a low budget production we were shooting on 35mm, which is expensive stuff and we wanted to conserve as much as possible. We were trying to get nine frames of this dog and the gaffer suddenly went “It’s perfect, what are you doing?” and I realised I was stroking this dog’s nipples, at which point it would look not simply relaxed but completely inanimate. It ended up with me, this dog’s nipples between my thumbs and fingers squeezing them as hard as I could until the dog went completely dead to the world and I could say “Right, turn-over!” We got the nine frames and I thought to myself “this is filmmaking: doing something you don’t want to do and for which you will probably be punished by God!”

You’ve mentioned you got started in writing, on SHOOTING FISH you actually share a writing credit. How did you find the combination of the producing and writing roles?

I took my name off the film during the financing because I realised that financiers, distributors and sales agents needed to have a buffer between them and the writer-director. They needed to be able to turn to me and say “I’m not sure about the third act, could you talk to Stefan…” they didn’t feel comfortable bashing the table with him and therefore they needed to talk to me, the producer, who could talk to the writer-director on their behalf. And that was very useful, it freed people up and it allowed them to have their pound of flesh. Had I said “I’m a writer-producer, he’s the writer-director” a lot of people would have frozen up and rather not gotten involved for fear of having awkward conversations about script development. So I made it very clear to Stefan that I was going to put my name back on but only when the film was fully financed and ready to go. I don’t think the roles are very compatible, to be honest. There are very successful television producer-writers and there are honourable exceptions in filmmaking but I think it can be difficult in the independent world to wear too many hats.

Let’s talk about EDEN LAKE – how did you come to be involved?

I was a producer for hire. In other words I had a defined contractual relationship with the film, I boarded it at prep and I saw it through until it was finished. Now Christian Coulson, the film’s producer and a very nice man, got me involved in other aspects of the production but he and his company partners own the film. He was developing SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – he was actually in India for part of the EDEN LAKE shoot – so he had other stuff going on. So for business reasons they needed another producer. So I did have that BOWFINGER moment of being rung at home and told a script was being biked over. So I read it although it wasn’t my genre, which as you can probably tell is comedy. I like to be able to hear the response and with horror you get the occasional gasp but you don’t if people are getting it until the very end. But I thought “well if they need a producer, Christian’s a nice guy and I know the line producer really well so…” but I actually sweated as I read it, it’s an incredibly visceral piece of writing. I live in South London and there are moments on the street as an older gent when you see some kids doing something and you think “I’m the grown-up here I should really do something about this.” And you don’t because you worry you’ll get stabbed. The script encapsulated that adult-child conundrum really brilliantly and had an incredible sweat-inducing climax. I rang back immediately and said I like to meet to talk about it. I met James, the writer-director, who was slightly freaked out that his producing was sort of vanishing and he’d never met me at all. But he was a very nice bloke and we went straight into prep and made a modestly budgeted British horror film. And it was great fun – we got to set people alight, we got to crash vehicles, we got to use prosthetic dummies; all things I’d never done before. Plus I knew from other people who were on the set that script was top notch. That what James had delivered, apart from being a great narrative, really hit the beats for the horror fans. So it was a really positive experience.

Another question about a producer’s role: historically there’s been a lot of ambivalence towards actors by directors. As a producer how much of a role do you have in looking after the actors and have you ever had to mediate a dispute between an actor and a director?

Yes, I did a while ago. Actors are just the most important thing; some actors drive reviews; some actors drive audiences into the cinema. In the end if they don’t get it right then what’s the point in having gone through all that agony? Some of them abuse that power balance but very few do. I’m married to a jobbing actress, someone who’s worked all her working life and who’s a good indication. I’ve never hired her, because I think that’s an uncomfortable relationship on set, but she works exceptionally hard whether it’s three lines or a lead part. A lot of actors work exceptionally hard and if they come to set and it’s not right they get anxious: “All that work, I had such a clear vision how this character would be within this scene and I’m not going to be able to do it.” Sometimes it ends up with them looking like they’re kicking off about something irrelevant and often it is, it’s tangential to their underlying anxiety that they’re not going to be able to deliver which both means something for them personally but also something for their careers because they thought this could be the role. So I’m empathetic to their needs. I’ve never paid an actor especially well; I’ve never had a budget which could afford a star’s fee. I think it’s the absolute responsibility of the producer, and therefore the production, within the confines of the budget, to do everything they can to make the actors feel comfortable, respected and safe. The only time I’ve had to mediate, and failed to mediate, an actor’s problem was on SHOOTING FISH. Stuart Townsend who at that point was 23 and a very beautiful young man decided ­– I don’t think he’ll mind me saying this now – that in one of the costumes he looked fat. Of course, he couldn’t look fat if he tried. It was a scene where he had to wear a big white bunny rabbit suit and he wouldn’t come out of his caravan. He became very anxious that he was going to look ridiculous – which he had to, that was the whole point – and it wasn’t going to be good for him. So the second assistant director tried to get him out of the caravan, and that didn’t work, and then the first assistant turned up and finally I was called in to mediate – and I couldn’t persuade him out of the caravan either. It was Stefan – whose now very friendly with Stuart, they get on very well – who went in and rather than going “Oh please, please get on set!” instead said “Oh yeah it does make you look really fat has anyone tried a belt on you?” and he grabbed a utility belt off a spark. We lost three and half minutes, it wasn’t a big deal, and Stuart was absolutely fine. What do you learn from that? You need to pick your battles, you need to choose the right person to fight the battle and you need to acknowledge the fact that actors are necessarily anxious creatures. They have 120 seconds to perform and to get it right and then it’s locked forever. That’s why it’s so very tense for them.

One of the big discussions in the UK Independent film is the whole area of paying or not paying writers. Where do you sit in that whole discussion?

I’ll answer that by talking my feelings about taking stuff on. When I take stuff on I look for three things. One is getting the tingle. You find out about the story or you read the book or hear the pitch; whatever it might be you think “Gosh that’s a really good story” and you’re thinking about it the next day and you’re telling your wife and kids about it and it creates that kind of energy in you. Then you have to look towards the other end of production and think to yourself, “If I make a good film version there’ll be an audience for it.” Finally you look at the middle bit of the equation and wonder “can I get the script developed and the production financed?” I thought with RESISTANCE, “it has Germans in Wales so I can get a German co-producer and I can get the Welsh involved because of Film Agency Wales and there’s a way of putting this together”, even though in the end it didn’t quite work out this way. So to answer your question specifically, not paying writers is all very well but if there isn’t any real financial imperative for either the producer or the writer then the script will never be finished, as so many aren’t. I raised the development money for Resistance with Film Agency Wales and a German Distributor. I got the funds to buy the rights to the novel and pay the writers a modest but fair fee for the delivery of a script within a clearly defined timescale. I backloaded the payments so they got some money upfront to start but they had to deliver to get the rest.

Do you think that’s quite an unusual deal?

Not particularly. I think it might be unusual insofar as I’m an independent producer who was actually able to raise proper development money but I’m sure that’s how Working Title or Pathe would work. When you’re starting as a producer and the writer turns up and says “can I have another couple of weeks” you immediately think “of course, I don’t know when I’m going to make this film” but you only realise how catastrophic a missed deadline is one or two or three years later. You see that those two weeks of delay killed the project. It’s difficult to grasp that concept: I have now and say “no, you can have three days”. All writers are whores; I know this because I’ve been a writer. You have fifteen projects because you need to get paid and you know producers are fickle – you’ve got to keep all the irons in the fire! But if you just say “no, you can’t have the time” then the writer will get it done. Obviously when you’re working with two writers, as we did with Owen and Amit on RESISTANCE, it became even more complex because they both had other assignments and obligations. But I made it clear to them, to their agents and to the financiers that we were not going to get behind. And I’m very glad I did.

Do you agree that, despite the stereotype of the producer as an evil person who grabs all the money, in reality the producer is often the poorest person on the production?  

Producers never get paid during development. On RESISTANCE, which had a £50,000 development budget, Big Rich films got £2,000. This was for hard costs: paying for the mobile phone, keeping the lights on, entertaining people and so on. None of it came into Holmes Inc it went straight into Big Rich films to cover the underlying costs. And I’m very grateful for it; it meant I could carry on trading. But for me personally I took no money out of that development process, I couldn’t. I also made Amit and Owen equal partners in the film – in the end we all got paid the same but they got a large part of their fees upfront.

Two linked questions. How many projects are you pursuing at any one time? Also, the American indie producer Christine Vachon recently said “film is the new theatre: you do it for love.” How does a UK independent film producer sustain a career?

I’ve gone through various responses to that question throughout my careers, from being a relatively young man and saying “Yeah, just do it!” to being more cynical, sceptical, practical – however you’d put it. I would say producers are generally not very happy or successful people. There are exceptions which prove the rule: I myself have been married forever, got two kids and I really do enjoy my life. There’ve been incredibly rocky moments – for instance during the middle of last year I thought “I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t put it together”. But I did and I’m still here. I think what Christine says is very true, what I’ve earned out of RESISTANCE is not an adult wage. My producing partner Amanda Faber added it up on an hourly basis and calculated we got paid less than minimum wage to make the film. I’m 48 and this isn’t a job for a grown-up. But no one asked me to do it and I’m effectively a property speculator. I’ve chosen a property – in this case Owen’s novel – I’ve developed that property into a script and I’ve finished it as a film, of which I own a chunk. If I’ve done it right it will make more money than it cost and I’ll own a bit of that; that’s the quid pro quo. I got paid a very modest fee to make it with the idea that I’ll make more money, potentially very good money, out of it if it goes very well. That said, no one is ever going to buy Big Rich Films from me and I’ve no real regrets about this. To go back to your original question, Big Rich films is a label which develops film projects. I differentiate between producing a film and executive producing a film. If I’m producing a film I own it, or I own a large part of it, and I’m proactive; I feel guilty about it all the time, I want to push it forward. It’s not financial, it’s highly speculative and it’s emotional. I’m attached to the writer and I’m attached to the story. I’ve obsessed about it. If I’m executive producing a film I don’t own it, I’m driven by the fee – if the film gets into production; occasionally I get some money upfront – and I’m reactive. I’ll sit there and if my producer rings me up and asks me “what should I do about this” then I’ll put the time and effort necessary into answering that enquiry and I’ll offer advice. But I won’t think about it when I wake up in the morning. So I can cope as a producer with probably about four to six projects whilst executive producing, if I’m honest about it, half a dozen to a dozen more. I do that speech to anyone who asks “would you executive produce my film?” and I answer that if I connect with it in some way then sure – but these are the rules. And they always forget the rules at some point and think I’m not doing my job but my role is basically reactive.

Have your thoughts ever turned to working in the American system either on a long term or short term basis?

I actually have an American passport – both my parents are American – so I am American (and English) and I have a sister who lives in LA. My career started here and at the same time I got married and had kids. I’ve thought about a move but I’ve always dismissed the idea. I’ve got a wife who, as I said, is a working actress who always gets jobs and works all the time and she’s genuinely – I’m not just saying this because I’m being recorded – but she’s a very good looking woman and a fine actress. She does a lot of theatre, which there isn’t much of in LA, and a bit of TV and a bit of film; she’s simply not going to get the work in LA. So that was a major personal reason. After SHOOTING FISH and WAKING NED were successful one year after another I felt like I was on a wave but I was also practical about it. Whilst WAKING NED remains a well-loved film in America here I became almost the unacceptable face of film capitalism for two years because I had two hits in a row. Over there I was still an indie producer. WAKING NED took $25 million which is a lot of money but it’s not a $100 million tent pole movie. So no one ever rang me up and asked “why don’t you try your hand over here?” No American agent ever approached me and asked “would you like some representation here?” Fox never rang me up and asked “would you like a deal?” It wasn’t as if it was on offer, so the only way of pursuing that kind of career would have been to up sticks with the whole family to LA. So to explore that possibility, there was a period of time when I was in LA for a week a month for about eighteen months and I thought “right I’m going to do this professionally – I’m going to get to know the agents, I’m going to get to know the studio system.” I had a film which was boarded by some studio-based producers – as executive producers – who I had very good relationship with, so I tried it. I looked around at people like Jeremy Bolt and a few others and their lives were different but the same. If RESISTANCE, or one of the next couple of films, explodes in America and I get my KING’S SPEECH by that point my kids will have grown up, I’ll have another twenty years of working life and I might say to my wife “why not now?” So it’s not over!

Quickfire Round:

Your favourite film?

It is DUMB & DUMBER. Or ACE VENTURA PET DETECTIVE.

Are you being serious?

I’m being serious. ACE VENTURA is one of the cleverest, funniest comedies of all time. I saw it under fantastic circumstances, I had three hours to kill and I could either watch POLICE ACADEMY 7 or this film with a terrible poster featuring some guy no one had heard of. I was in a multiplex in Leicester Square thinking “I really don’t want to see Police Academy”. And I just howled from beginning to end. I really think it’s a great piece of comedic filmmaking.

Your favourite screenwriter?

The first book about films I ever read was Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman, so I’m old enough to have watched those films in the cinema and they are just fabulously attractive pieces of writing. The dialogue is fantastic, the characters are fantastic and you can see the plot working. He also happened to say something very nice about WAKING NED – so I’ve always felt a large debt of gratitude both educationally and in terms of marketing! I read some Shane Black scripts before they got made and they were very muscular and good to read. Tom Stoppard’s scripts are beautifully written. I like clever, well-plotted writing, something like Julian Fellowes’ GOSFORD PARK. I have to say the best script I ever read was Kirk Jones’ WAKING NED. The reason I got hold of that script was that I had a desk in a production office called Tomboy where he was a jobbing commercials director. I’d made SOFT TOP and was making SHOOTING FISH and he asked me to read his script. Which I didn’t, for six months. He was so polite about it but eventually he just “we sit next to each other every day, this is getting a bit awkward could you *please* read ten pages tonight.” Of course I still didn’t! But a week later I decided to crack it open and I ended up reading the whole thing twice in one go. I remember thinking it was an astonishing piece of writing.

Favourite director?

The Farrelly Brothers are just fantastically clever people – I do love them I have to say. I suppose Frank Oz never fails – even DEATH AT A FUNERAL, which I think actually has some really rough acting – because he’s a truly funny guy. So, Frank Oz!

Favourite performance by an actor?

It would have to be James Stewart in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Favourite TV show?

 FAMILY GUY.

Favourite movie star of all time?

James Stewart.

Michael Mann or Martin Scorsese?

Michael Mann.

Shane Meadows or Ken Loach?

Ken Loach.

Pacino or De Niro?

De Niro.

Carey Mulligan or Emma Watson?

 I’ve never seen a HARRY POTTER film, so it has to be Carey Mulligan.

Chuck Norris or Steven Segal?

Steven Segal – he has done one or two performances which rate as acting.

Last film you saw?

TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN.

Last film you loathed?

 TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN.

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?

 Generally? My wife.

Teenage movie crush?

 Linda Fiorentino.

Do you have a cinematic guilty pleasure?

 THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT. Takes itself very seriously but is quite fun.

And your dream dinner party guests? You can invite five.

 Ok, James Stewart, Jim Carrey, Farrelly Brothers. So that’s four… and then Linda Fiorentino!

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