Film Scouts Interviews

Mike Leigh on "Secrets & Lies"

by Karen Jaehne

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The reception of "Secrets and Lies" by the press was so overwhelmingly positive that the press conference tended to run in the direction of "how does it feel to win the Palm d'Or," even though it was only three days into the festival.

Everybody at a Cannes press conference would also presumably kow how Mike Leigh develops his stories, namely by working with actors on improvisation sessions for months before filming.

Q: Congratulations on a great film, and if I - as a black man - may ask Miranda Richardson who so brilliantly created the character, how come Brenda could not remember having had sex with a black man? (roar of laughter)

Miranda Richardson: It was a fleeting thing, not so very important at the time - but wait! I'm betraying Brenda by telling you all this. If she didn't remain conscious of it, I certainly should not be talking about it now! Let's just agree that she had plenty of other problems to preoccupy her. That's just the way she is.

Q: You seem to be using the quest for the biological parent as a trigger for the story? Does it have any other specia meaning for you?

Mike Leigh: Well, in 1976, England passed a law that gave adopted kids the right to discover who their biological parents were. I became intimately aware of situation - which I obviously cannot discuss here for reasons of privacy - and that's the original idea for the story. But yes, it also has metaphorical implications - it's about the need to discover who we are or what we are - the who and what not necessarily being the same thing, of course. It's aso a metaphor for another kind of search into one's own being - and becoming.

And as Mike Leigh was leaving the press conference, Film Scout Karen Jaehne asked him how he felt about his likelihood of winning the Golden Palm, and he replied,

Mike Leigh: The festival has just begun. I remember a few years ago being here with "Naked," and it also played early and everybody put up a lot of fuss. In three days it was completely forgotten, because other films come along, so I don't listen to all this kind of thing now. Actually, I'm on my way back to London tomorrow, because I have to get back to work on my next film. Festivals are interesting - but I'm not sure they offer an accurate reaction to one's work. The atmosphere is a bit overheated, don't you think?

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