Day One of At Home With The Unthanks. Two songs by Rachel Unthank, with introduction from sister Becky.
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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 [ . . . ]
She fled Burma and made it to Delhi on foot – where she discovered her voice. The singer of the Unthanks explains why the band fell for her spellbinding songs about heartbreak, loss, fragility and fear
“Destiny, do your worst,” declared my five-year-old son the other day. It’s a line from The First Day, a Molly Drake song he has been hearing a great deal of, as we take our new album on tour. I’m confident he doesn’t understand what it means, but he’s certainly taken by its drama. The song – hopeful and defiant, melancholic and searching – captures the essence of Molly’s bittersweet poetry.
A woman came up to me after a recent Unthanks show, with tears in her eyes but smiling warmly, and said: “That was utterly devastating.” This has been the pattern of post-show exchanges: a steady flow of women deeply moved by Molly’s words. They are confused and confounded that they don’t know more about the woman whose songs and poems they have just spent two hours listening to.
Mother of singer-songwriter Nick Drake and the actor Gabrielle Drake, Molly came to public attention in her own right only in 2013, with a limited edition release of her songs and poems, 20 years after her death and almost 40 years after the suicide of her son. We had always been fans of Nick’s music – our album Cruel Sister featured my sister Becky’s interpretation of his beautiful River Man – and we developed a relationship with Gabrielle and the Drake estate. Like many Nick fans, we were eager to hear Molly’s songs, not least because of what we might we glean about her son. [ . . . ]