Below is a sample of features I’ve written for print and online:
Flipside (national teen magazine)
It took 320 people five years, with 20 months of filming on 40 sets, for the Aardman animation whizzes to make their latest wickedly funny flick, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists. Out on 28 March, the film features Hugh Grant as a bumbling pirate captain desperate to beat Entourage’s Jeremy Piven and Puss in Boots star Salma Hayek to the annual Pirate of the Year award.
Andy Serkis is the prince of performance capture. He doesn’t get the coolest costumes on set (he usually wears a lycra bodysuit covered in markers), but he does get some of the best parts. Serkis is the real-life presence behind some of the screen’s biggest effects – from Gollum and King Kong to Tintin’s Captain Haddock. We spoke to him about his brilliant turn as Caesar, a chimp who develops super-intelligence in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, now out on DVD.
Think it’s easy to make a movie-doc about a man whose life was constantly caught on camera but make it feel brand-spanking new? Think again. It takes a heap of skill to make a movie that’s this exciting and jam-packed with heart-in-mouth moments even if you already know every jaw-dropping twist and turn of Senna’s story.
Every year people flock to the Isle of Man for the extreme thrills of the world-famous Tourist Trophy motorcycle race (TT for short). The bikes scream round the island, hitting speeds of 200mph on 38 miles of dangerous bends and sheer drops. Documentary TT3D: Closer to the Edge plonks you slap-bang in the middle of last year’s heart-stoppingly intense race. Loaded with action, laughs, and eye-popping 3D, the film follows the top riders on the TT trail including Guy Martin, who’s like an English version of Wolverine with his thick sideburns, wild hair, and broad northern accent.
Judging by the millions of ‘likes’ on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, the site’s founder is Mr Popular. But how many non-virtual friends does he have? Perhaps not many, according to Facebook flick The Social Network, which is just out on DVD. Designed as a friendship-maker, Facebook became a friendship-breaker for the mates who started it. So, is livin’ la vida virtually all it’s cracked up to be?
Toss a debut novel, a first-time feature film director, and a young unknown actor into the movie mixer, and you could find yourself with an acute case of big-screen gut-gripe. Not so with British film Submarine because the novel is Joe Dunthorne’s 2008 hit, the director is IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade, and the actor is star-in-the-making Craig Roberts.
This hard-bitten tale of vengeance was first filmed in 1969 with John Wayne but now the Coen brothers have given the story a 21st-century kick with a shed-load of grit and a barrelful of black humour. Life is brutal on the Coens’ American frontier. Necks snap in hangings. Rattlesnakes lie in wait. The land is bare, the sky is bleak, and the wind rages eerily through the leafless trees. You can almost taste the dust flying through the air as horses gallop through the desolate landscape.
In the movie-doc Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which hits cinemas this month, director Werner Herzog brings to life the Chauvet Cave in southern France in eye-popping 3D. Like an ancient Banksy, prehistoric man left his mark on the cave wall 35,000 years ago with hundreds of paintings including panthers, rhinos, and a half-bison, half-female figure. This funny and awe-inspiring film shows how painstaking a real archaeologist’s work is, far from the big-screen’s usual smash ‘n’ grab approach.
Interview with Julian Jarrold, director of Brideshead Revisited
So, what was it like bringing the story of middle-class undergraduate Charles Ryder and the aristocratic Marchmain family to the cinema screen? “It was very daunting,” admits Jarrold. “But when you go back to the novel, you realise how rich it is and that it does bear repeated readings. Just talking to people, everyone seems to get different aspects from the novel. And the television series was in the 80s, a very different time from now, and I think it’s ripe for a new interpretation.”
Interview with Stephan Elliott, director of Easy Virtue
Doing a film like this never appealed to me,” says Australian writer-director Stephan Elliott about his new movie Easy Virtue. “I don’t like drawing-room dramas, so initially I wondered why the producers had come to me in the first place! Then I thought, ‘How can we play with this a bit and keep it alive? How can I keep myself entertained?’ It was like making a big mess on a period carpet.”
Interview with Iain Softley, director of Inkheart
Iain Softley is one versatile director. He made his big-screen debut with the Beatles biopic Backbeat. Then came teen computer drama Hackers with Angelina Jolie, and Henry James adaptation The Wings Of The Dove starring Helena Bonham Carter. Next up was sci-fi movie K-PAX with Kevin Spacey, followed by supernatural thriller The Skeleton Key featuring Kate Hudson in a rare non-rom-com outing.
Interview with Rupert Wyatt, writer-director of The Escapist
After developing features for Miramax in New York, working in British television, and writing and directing several successful short films, Rupert Wyatt makes his feature debut with The Escapist, a prison escape drama about a life-prisoner who decides to break out of prison when he discovers his daughter is critically ill.
Interview with Andrea Arnold, writer-director of Fish Tank
For Andrea Arnold filmmaking is all about instinct. Like her decision to cast Michael Fassbender, the star of Hunger, in her new film Fish Tank. “I cast Michael after seeing him in a clip of Irvine Welsh’s Wedding Belles,” says Arnold, who at the time was unaware of the actor’s celebrated turn in Steve McQueen’s film. “I made a decision on the strength of that clip, on instinct. We didn’t even get to meet because he was in South Africa filming, but he felt absolutely right.”
The List Magazine
Interview with Mark Strong, star of The Young Victoria
‘You cannot play an “evil” character without finding the humanity in them. That’s what I find very interesting. You’re not asking for sympathy, but you’re not just painting a one-dimensional character,’ says Mark Strong. Having played his fair share of menacing men, he speaks from experience. Who can forget his performance as gangster Harry Starks in the small-screen version of Jake Arnott’s The Long Firm? Or his penchant for ripping out fingernails as the Iranian agent Mussawi in Syriana? Or even his murderous pursuit of the throne as ruthless royal Septimus in Stardust?
Interview with Brian Cox, star of The Escapist
As Brian Cox welcomes me into the interview room at London’s Gibson Guitar Studio, he points out a picture of Syd Barrett, ‘a son of Cambridge’, on the wall. It’s been just a few months since the Dundee-born actor was treading the boards on Broadway to the sounds of Pink Floyd, playing a communist Cambridge don in Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Interview with Jaume Balaguero, director of [REC]
Having studied media at university in Barcelona, Balagueró worked in radio before cutting his filmmaking teeth on several shorts. His feature film debut came in 1999 with an adaptation of British horror writer Ramsey Campbell’s The Nameless, and was followed, three years later, by box-office success Darkness.
Regional UK Press
Interview with Rainn Wilson, star of The Office and The Rocker
Sometimes being an actor means being strapped to the roof of a speeding van in the middle of the night or being hosed down repeatedly with six kinds of synthetic sweat, as Rainn Wilson found out on the set of his latest film The Rocker, a seriously funny comedy about a failed drummer who gets a second chance at the big time… in his nephew’s teen band.
Interview with Julian Fellowes, screenwriter of The Young Victoria
Screenwriter, novelist, actor, director, and producer. Is there anything Julian Fellowes can’t do? The answer is navigate, or so he tells me as we sit in a huge multiplex cinema in Milton Keynes. I’m here thanks to an invitation to a sneak preview of his latest film The Young Victoria, a wonderfully lavish drama about the turbulent early years of Queen Victoria’s reign and her romance with Prince Albert. Julian’s here thanks to a satnav.
Public speaking is not something most people relish. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld joked, ‘to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.’ So imagine the fear experienced by a man with a nervous stutter who’s tasked with speaking not just to a room full of people, but to an entire nation. That man was King George VI, who reluctantly became monarch after his brother abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
Interview with Stephen Woolley, producer of Sounds Like Teen Spirit
Leading British producer Stephen Woolley has spent a lifetime steeped in movies, from tearing cinema tickets in 1970s London to producing a string of award-winning box-office hits including The Crying Game and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. But when he’s not busy working with stars such as Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, and Simon Pegg, there’s nothing Stephen loves more than relaxing at home in Dyrham, his haven of peace and tranquility for the past thirteen years.