Interviews

Interview: Andrew Haigh, director of ‘Weekend’

CineVue were recently granted a half-hour interview with the Andrew Haigh, Tom Cullen and Chris New, the director and two stars of British film Weekend (2011), which received its UK premiere at the 55th BFI London Film Festival. When you meet filmmakers – or hear of other reviewers having met filmmakers – you often only hear the horror stories: the director who is far too opinionated or does not want to be found out if they mention a certain film as an influence. Which makes it so refreshing to meet three young men who have together made a film that is both original and entertaining.

Jamie Garwood: What has been the response to the film in America:
Andrew Haigh: It is all about timing. We weren’t ready in time for Sundance, yet we were for South by Southwest [SXSW in Austin, Texas – where the film won the Audience Award], and yes it was positive out there but there is sometimes a willingness for the praise to end. But then we get picked up by a distributor in America, and then we open in New York and we get fully booked houses, so you become aware that maybe we have not just got a gay niche film but something for a wider audience, especially one who pays to go see it already.

JG: The shoot took 17 days in Nottingham, how did that go?


Tom Cullen: It was the most pleasurable experience I can remember having in a working environment, because of the journey all three of us took together helped.

Chris New: I’ve had experiences when you suggest something to a director, who will say no thanks. And then 10 minutes later will come back and suggest what you just told him.

TC: And the script helped but it was an ongoing thing, because there was room to improvise such as I said a line about Russell kissing my chest and then my hand. I got the script and then saw that was in there’.

AH: So we were always adding to the script throughout, but the most important thing was to keep this film honest and not make it about aesthetics.

 
JG: Andrew your experience has been in Hollywood editing for Ridley Scott in Gladiator (1998) and Black Hawk Down (2001), was that a deliberate act to not be over aesthetic on this occasion.

AH: I think people are liable to over-edit to death, on this occasion it was always my intention to let the film unfold in the moment, allow there to be a freedom for the audience as well to engage and invest their time more with a natural flow and create their own relationship as well.

//widgets.distrify.com/widget.html#404-5257

JG: When you were reading the script, where you aware that is was a relationship movie and not just an addition to queer cinema.

TC: As I was reading the script it became less important what their sexuality was, and it read like two men talking and arguing and it was more a character study.

CN: I liked the fact that it was romantic and dramatic at the same time, and that you could relate to these two characters as men, not just gay men.

JG: Do you feel that homosexuality in British film is still a taboo subject, seeing as Weekend has been granted a 18 certificate by the BBFC.

AH: The rating does not bother me, because that was always the plan to aim for that and with this subject matter it was expected. However what bothers me is the writing afterwards, where in the box it says “Hard sex, hard drug use” which I think is a false representation of the film itself. The drug use is in one scene and the sex scenes.

JG: Don’t you worry that people may think you are making a political statement?

CN: When you are gay, the politics of the age overshadows your life and becomes part of your life. It is a shame because I thought we were living in a post-censorship age when clearly we are not.

With that, our time was up. To clarify, there are two sex scenes in the film between the two central characters – neither is graphic, they are shot realistically and with affection and care for the characters. Weekend is not truly groundbreaking in its portrayal of gay men, but you will have to go a long way to find a film that is both intellectually mature and ultimately entertaining.

Weekend is released on Friday 4 November, 2011 from Peccadillo Pictures. You can read our full review here.

For more BFI London Film Festival 2011 coverage, simply follow this link.

Jamie Garwood