My article was originally published on The Hollywood News in February 2012
I was present at an exclusive screening of Tyrannosaur last week alongside writer and director Paddy Considine, who joined us for a Q&A after the film. It has been an impressive journey for the actor, now filmmaker, who came to prominence in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Last Resort in 2000, since then he also starred in 24 Hour Party People, In America, Hot Fuzz, The Bourne Ultimatum and there was also another impressive performance – for him and his hair – in Richard Ayoade‘s Submarine.
Tyrannosaur is a deeply honest and brutal film that developed from the BAFTA-winning short Dog Altogether and focuses on the life of Joseph (Peter Mullan), a man plagued by violence and a rage that is driving him to self-destruction. After hiding out in a charity shop, he meets Hannah (Olivia Colman) and earns a chance of redemption. It won 12 awards including this year’s BAFTA for Outstanding British Debut, Colman also won Best Actress on four occasions for her part.
Tonight he spoke about the journey of making his first feature, the desire for it to be an honest portrayal and most importantly, doing it the right way:
Why did you want to make Tyrannosaur?
Dog Altogether felt like a bigger movie when I wrote it, after that came out I set myself an exercise where I could see if I could write a narrative from that initial frame work. The short won a BAFTA but we were naive to think people would give us money, eventually we made it for £750,000 but, you know, that’s the Starbucks bill for one day on Transformers 3. But these things are relative and so I sat down and continued from where Peter [Mullen’s character] is outside the charity shop, I remembering sitting there and thinking ‘Let’s see if I’m right’ about his assumptions about Olivia’s life.
What about the name of the film, Tyrannosaur…
In the film you will know the context but for me, the title refers to a lot of things. In one respect it’s a fearsome creature, it equates to fear, fear is something that can manifest in you. If you’re not careful it can control you and the smallest thing that’s bothering your soul can grow to big proportions. It became a metaphor for the fear these people are living with, that Hannah is living with and even Sammy. But before we started rolling, I thought I’d have to change the name and kept thinking people would look at it and go ‘Where are the dinosaurs?!’ and although this has happened in a way, I assume everyone is dead smart. I was going to change it but I my wife said, ’Why, you’re crazy if you change it!’ and I’m glad I didn’t
Submarine, we loved it, would you consider directing a comedy?
The problem is whether I can genre hop or not? As a director you have to live with a film with a long time, it’s not like being an actor. I couldn’t just for the sake of it because I’ve done that as an actor and it doesn’t make any odds, nobody gives a shit really *laughs* I’ve found it just confuses people, like, what does he do? Does he kill people or seduce people with his Wisconsin waterfall, like in a Submarine? As a director you’ve got to do what you feel compelled to do but I know I’m not walking down these streets again [Tyrannosaur]. I’ve told that story; my next film is a book adaption, set in the southern states of America. If a comedy came along, I might but I wouldn’t do it just for the sake of it, it’s dangerous ground.
There are strong and disturbing scenes in Tyrannosaur, where you worried about having to tone it down?
Yeah but you don’t see everything, you don’t see Olivia’s body exposed, everything is out of shot and the great thing about film is you ‘fill in the blanks’ yourself. I felt more stressed than the actors in those instances. I didn’t push them into stressful situations and I’m aware that people are fragile, everyone here is safe but it’s a tough day’s work and so I limited it to a couple of takes.
A lot of people have spoken about the scenes with animal cruelty, what about the logistics?
The dogs were great, fantastic, Joseph (Mullan) kicks a dog but it was sandbag really, if he kicked a dog for real on film, we’d be in fucking jail! It’s the illusion and it is only there because it’s a context of the film. This guy is so out of lost and out of control that his rage turns instinctively towards his, effectively, last friend in the world. The last thing he loves. Joseph is having an awakening in the movie rather than becoming a total menace, he cries for what he’s done, he’s regretful. There’s a scene where the camera is tracking in on the dog and he starts to cower and suddenly I’m worried, thinking the dog is reacting to circumstances. I yell ‘Cut!’ and talk to the trainer and say ‘We’re going to have to find another way to do this’ but the trainer says ‘He’s being a little sod, he’s not scared, he just doesn’t like a rain under his feet!’ That’s all it was!
Not much researching, I think you have an instinct about certain circumstances. If you write a truth with intention, experience and characterisation, it does help. It’s just something I’ve picked up through doorways as a kid. However, Olivia did go to ‘Shelter’ (Housing and Homeless Charity, click here for details) and I took her to my hometown to meet a Christian woman who works at a charity shop, like Hannah, and she used to tell me stories of when drunk people how come in and verbally abuse her. They’d come in the next day and apologise, crying and she would lock the door and pray for them.
And was the process of being a first-time feature film maker?
When I first showed the script, everyone thought it would be hand-held but I wanted to convince people, this is serious, this is a movie with a script and so I chose the widescreen format. Some were worried about the religious aspect, I think there’s no religion in the film, so what if she’s a Christian? I’m not turning it upside down, splashing blood around, it’s not about that. It’s more spiritual, whereas how bleak does it get within you until you break and start to breathe again and is there a road back from there? I’ve always said we’re making a love story. I remember saying to the crew, we’ve making cinema, and we’re making a movie. It’s considered, it’s got little moves. I’ve worked on movies where people are clock watching but I was lucky enough to be blessed with a brilliant crew. Nobody could do enough, they were invested and involved, they had the freedom to be creative. My only thing was this, we’re not apologising with this film, we’re going to take it and go around the world with it. Be proud of what you’ve done. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved.
Tyrannosaur was written and directed by Paddy Considine, produced by Diarmid Scrimshaw and stars Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsden. It’s available to rent or buy now: http://amzn.to/2GFtCxJ
Journeyman is Paddy’s second film is out in the UK this Friday, check out Matt’s 5-star review: criticalpopcorn.com/JourneymanReview
My article was originally featured on The Hollywood News