Film Scouts Interviews

Mike Leigh Press Conference on "All or Nothing"
at the 2002 Taormina BNL FilmFest

by Philipp Hoschka
British director Mike Leigh presented his movie "All or Nothing" in a midnight screening at the 2002 Taormina BNL FilmFest. At a press conference, he explains why making films is better than doing theatre and why he does not say anything about his new film.

Is a good novel needed for a film?

Mike Leigh: I have no interest in adapting novels. I am a storyteller myself. I have been lucky to have been born in the 20th century, since it happened to include the movies, my natural habitat. It happens that I read a novel and think that this might make a great movie, but I'm not personally interested in doing this.

Is it true that in your movie, you represent the solitude of childhood in an England that always forgot about that?

Mike Leigh: My territory is England, but the films are not about England as such. My films are about living and life, what I would call a universal dimension. "All or Nothing" is at one level about solitude - we are all alone in some way or another.

In the main family in the movie, there are four people, three of them are working, but the father still has to look for extra money. I think the family should be a little richer. Is this the situation of families in Britian now?

Mike Leigh: You're asking why the family has financial problems when three of them are working? They are not absolutely on the edge of poverty. The man, Phil, ... it's his dignity that is at stake. Whether this is a kind of metaphor for life in Britain - it is to some extent, but not exclusively. If you go to other places in Europe or other areas, people have the same issues. It's a universal condition.

What is the relationship between your theatre work and your film work? How does theatre work influence films?

Mike Leigh: If you are referring to the fact that "Topsy Turvey" is about theatre: I was making a film about what was part of my life, but also about filmmakers. My first love and passion is with film and cinema movies. Last night, I described how I had the inspiration to make movies when four guys carried a coffin down the stairs at my grandfather's death.

I trained as an actor. I also went to film school. I developed my sense of drama in theatre because it was cheap. Movies by definition cost money. They are more elusive, or used to be until invention of new technology. My film work has been influenced by my theatre work in some sense. The convention of rehearsing a film for six months which is what I do now comes from theatre. There is nothing about film making that I don't love - it is a great experience. I find theatre insular and claustrophobic. I haven't done a play in last 10 years. However, there is a major revival of one of my plays, "Abigail's party" in England right now.

What is your relationship with Timothy Spall?

Mike Leigh: Timothy Spall is a great actor. He combines sense of life and humor and irony and compassion with versatility - he can do all kinds of things. He is what I would call a star in the real sense of the concept, but he has no pretensions. He is very capable of being part of the comradeship, the ensemble. He has suffered a very serious illness a couple of years ago, and came close to dying. This turned a very good actor into a great actor. He grew up not very far away from the scene of "All or Nothing" - in South London, in a working class environment. We share great passion for work of Charles Dickens.

After "Secrets and Lies", why have you made movie such as "Career Girls" which is completely different from other movies you made?

Mike Leigh: Every film is different. I like to take the camera and look into different areas on different scales. After having done an ethnic experience with "Secrets and Lies", looking at an intimate relationship made sense. I try to vary what I do to keep my self amused and interested.

Can you tell us something about you new film?

Because of the way I make films, I cannot really talk about what I do next. I think it brings bad luck. I also don't know a lot about it until it exists - that's all I can tell you.

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