Monday, March 09, 2009

Leigh's process

You're an actor about to go into a meeting with Mike Leigh. What can you expect? (The Believer/Kottke)

We’re sitting in a room and there’s nobody else there but the actor and I. We talk about their life. Then if I feel the relationship’s going to move forward, I call them back in and we do some work for a while. It’s basically a process of getting a sense of people. The actors I collaborate with tend to be confident in the best sense of the word. They’re not overwhelmingly confident but relaxed, cool, together, focused, open, intelligent, and have a sense of humor.

My job apart from anything else is to build an ensemble composed of actors who all come from a secure place so that they can all work together to make the film. So on the whole, frankly, trust is not much of an issue. What I don’t do, as you know, is throw actors instantly into a dangerous situation. The actors I select for my projects sit and chew the fat with me for ages before we gradually get the characters on the go. So by the time they get to the bit that’s dangerous, they’ve spent a lot of time sorting things out without any pressure. Nobody’s watching them but me. We’re careful and slow. The reason my films work is because every actor on set is very secure. They’re able to fly.

I saw Happy-Go-Lucky last week and was a little disappointed despite the good performances by Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan. This really isn't a movie about characters but more about the worldview of Poppy, the teacher played by Hawkins. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but Poppy's sunny disposition is never put to the test in any real way, so the film feels aimless as a result. Maybe Leigh's films need a natural hook (daughter and mother reconnect) or a built in structure (Gilbert and Sullivan produce a musical) in order to fully succeed,

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