BLACK DOG DAYS
Star of In America, The Bourne Ultimatum and Submarine, actor Paddy Considine’s directorial feature debut marks a brutalist arrival on the British film scene. He talks to Paul Dale about art and animal cruelty
T here was a time when if a British actor got a bit of movie money, he (they were invariably male) would direct Henry V, A Bridge Too Far or Night of the Hunter. But since Gary Oldman made Nil By Mouth in 1997, a very different generation of largely working class, determined and bold thespians have been trying to tell the stories of where they are from, with all the beauty and ugliness those stories contain. Such is the case with Paddy Considine’s debut feature Tyrannosaur, a grim and bleak tale of alcoholism, grief, violent and sexual abuse and finally redemption starring Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan. Early one morning I ask an initially grumpy Considine whether he considered his film at all comparable to Oldman’s only outing as a director or indeed Tim Roth’s 1999 hardcore study of familial dysfunction The War Zone.
‘I can’t speak for anyone else, I just wanted to talk about where I’m from. I knew how I wanted it to be shot and the story I wanted to tell, and so I told it. I just knew I had to write and direct a film. It was like the compulsion to cover a canvas with paint.’ Considine’s East Midland’s accent with its long vowels and abrupt consonants adds a deeper narkiness to what he says, but he continues: ‘I admit Gary [Oldman] was a big influence. He gave me my first job on Nil by Mouth when I wasn’t even an actor. I was a photographer. He showed me that it’s not about cinema and showbiz and all that bullshit, it’s about a
calling. That if you have to make films, it’s important to make the art you are looking to make.’ Tyrannosaur may struggle to find an audience, but Considine has certainly been uncompromising in his vision. The film evolved from Considine’s Glasgow-shot 2007 short Dog Altogether in which Mullan and Colman appeared as the same characters – mentalist drunk and kind-hearted charity shop worker respectively.
‘People told me they didn’t want the short to end, so I wrote a feature,’ Considine explains.
‘I’VE LEARNT AFTER ALL THESE YEARS THAT I DON’T FIT IN’
‘I had the feature script ready but it wasn’t until the short was feted at festivals that the money people came to me and said, “OK let’s make your next movie.” In my naïve mind I thought it was all systems go, but it didn’t quite work out like that. People fell out and we lost half the budget. Naming no names, certain investors really let us down. But the thing about having only £750,000 to make a film is that you don’t have to take bollocks from anyone. You make all the decisions.’ It feels like Considine is waking up a bit, so it’s time to up the stakes. First I ask the softer of two questions: does this mean that cinema
is going to lose one of it’s finest young actors? He let’s out a perfect Staffordshire whine: ‘Maaate, I can’t afford to step away from acting, but the one thing I’ve learnt after all these years is that I don’t fit in. It’s very difficult to be at the mercy of other people’s whims and visions.’ It’s a curious thing to say for an actor who is, by all accounts, much loved within the industry, but I really want to ask him the next question and we’re running out of time.
‘Paddy, I’m a dog lover. Why does the Peter Mullan character have to kill a dog at the beginning of the film and then another one at the end?’ He seems slightly taken aback and pauses for a moment before launching his defence: ‘It’s only a film and the metaphor is so much bigger than that anyway. You know the dog is the most noble companion a man can have, and when Joseph kills the dog at the start of the film it’s the beginning of a new start, a redemption for him, but at the same time he is killing his noble steed. It is brutal because dogs are loving and loyal. And then, when Joseph does what he does at the end, that’s him saying, “If you can’t look after this animal and all you can do is abuse it, I will save it in a way that makes sense to me.”’ Double dog murder aside, Considine understands the beast in us all.
Tyrannosaur is on selected release from Fri 7 Oct. See review, page 66. 22 Sep–20 Oct 2011 THE LIST 61