‘Silly question!’ Mike Leigh interviewed by readers and famous fans


The acclaimed director answers a wide range of your questions about creative freedom, James Bond, and everything Rada didn’t teach him

Courtesy of THE GUARDIAN

Mike Leigh sits before me, in his Soho office, a man without regrets – certainly with regard to his work, but probably in most aspects of his life, one suspects. If this doesn’t make him unique in the film industry, then he’s certainly in a tiny minority. The 75-year-old British director has made 20-odd films – from his TV work in the 1970s up to his latest release, Peterloo, perhaps his most ambitious and certainly his most expensive project yet – and he has never once had his arm twisted to compromise on his creative vision. He chooses the subject, handpicks the actors and the version we see on the screen is exactly the one that Leigh intended.

“I’m open to people who are happy for me to do what I do,” he explains. “I’m not open to anybody who tries to tell me what to do. I have on many occasions walked away from a project where there’s been even the suggestion that, ‘Well, we’ll back the film so long as there’s an American star in it.’ Walk away.”

Really, he’d walk away? “Of course,” Leigh replies, clearly considering the question either idiotic or mad. “And I have done on a number of occasions. It’s like a novelist being told what the novel should have in it. Or a painter being told, ‘It must include a lighthouse.’ And that’s the polite version.”

So Leigh is no people-pleaser, and yet, of course, at the same time he has become one of our best loved film-makers. He was raised in Salford and when he started making plays, and then films, he always imagined he would focus on contemporary issues. A particular inspiration was Jack Clayton’s 1959 film Room at the Top, a story of love and class set in a Yorkshire mill town, which came out when Leigh was 16 [ . . . ]

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Family Flavours in Mike Leigh’s ‘Life is Sweet’ 

Mike Leigh's Life Is Sweet
Mike Leigh’s Life Is Sweet

Children are seldom seen in the cinema of Mike Leigh. This absence is doubtless due to the strictures of the director’s character- and story-building methods, which might make the participation of child actors in Leighland rather problematic. In fact, the only notable child protagonist in Leigh’s cinema is Charlie (Charlie Difford), Poppy’s student in Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), and even here the boy’s problems are merely used as a plot device to bring together the heroine and a social worker love interest. Though the issue is sometimes thematised in Leigh’s portraits of couples who are unable to conceive, the absence of children can seem a significant blind spot in films that clearly aspire to the presentation of full, detailed, realistically depicted social worlds.

Read Full Review at: Family Flavours in Mike Leigh’s ‘Life is Sweet’ | PopMatters

Ethel & Ernest review: Raymond Briggs honors his parents with slow-drip poignancy

The English writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs has bequeathed things, famously, to the art of animation – not just the 26 minutes of shivery joy that is Channel 4’s version of The Snowman, but the 1986 feature version of his nuclear parable Where the Wind Blows. The married couple in that, James and Hilda Bloggs, were very clearly inspired by Briggs’ own parents, who survived the bombing of Wimbledon during the war.

The full story of Briggs’ actual mum and dad – from the moment they met, in 1928, until 1971, the year they both died – was first set down by Briggs in his graphic novel Ethel & Ernest, back in 1998. The film, 98% animated, begins with a disarming scene of the real-life Briggs making himself a cup of tea, and explaining how his parents might have felt to have their unexceptional life story jostling for bestseller space with footballers’ autobiographies. Flummoxed, is probably the gist of it. […]

Read Full Review: Ethel & Ernest review: Raymond Briggs honors his parents with slow-drip poignancy