Celebrity Interview: PRIDE Director Matthew Warchus Talks on Honoring the Real Life Events Behind the Feel Good Film of the Season

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"Pride" from CBS Films, BBC and Pathe, brings to the screen a triumphant feel good film highlighting the 1980's British Miner's Strike and the Gay lifeline that rescued them from the squeeze the government had planned.

 

Matthew Warchus, a well know theater director, with limited films under his belt gathered the most well known British film and television talent and created a victorious, conquering, triumph of the human spirit that has brought audiences and critics alike, on both sides of the pond, to their feet cheering.

Having the opportunity to speak with Matthew the following is an excerpt of our interview. I found him charming, highly articulate, intelligent, and engaging. Speaking, with a soft British accent, and his passion for the project was contagious.

Janet Walker: Congratulations on the film.

Matthew Warchus: Thank you. Did you see it?

JW: Actually, I saw it over the weekend. They sent me a screening link and I was able to see it twice. I really enjoyed it. I'll watch it again now that I've talked to everyone.

JW: So what were some of the challenges you faced during the making of the film?

MW: Probably like most films the biggest challenges were time and money and money equaling time. And because in this particular case there are so many characters in this film.

There was a lot of conversation in preproduction about how we should reduce the number of characters, that the audience wouldn't be able to follow, that we wouldn't have time to do coverage and do the close up's and everything on all these characters.

But I believed really strongly, as did the writer, that one of the things that is unusually refreshing and kind of thematically crucial about this story is that it is about large groups of people.

It would be cheating to distill it down to heroes or significant individuals and I think that the theme is groups coming together, finding common ground, hands joining together.

So I made a commitment in pre-production I was going to keep the number of characters as is that I would find a way to doing it.

I used my kind of theater background and I think that helped. I had good rehearsal period, a couple of weeks of rehearsal, and I explained to the actors they shouldn't wait for their close up to give their performance because I might shoot some of it wider, than what is normal, and they should be ready like in a play, when the actors go on stage and do the scene given to them, it is the situation they are in and they are all acting and you can look where you want and it is all there.

And that's not always the case in films and we staged it like that. I created a situation. Sometimes I said 'the shot is this' or 'the shot is that.' Often I said 'the situation is this' and the camera or multiple cameras we stole [the perfromances] from the situation as quickly as we could; just taking stuff. So technically that's how I got around the scale in the amount of time we had.

JW: How did you become attached to the film?

MW: The writer had heard the story twenty years ago, have you spoken to him already?  All of that happened before I came on board. Then there was a draft of the script finally and they sent it to me. That was about a year, nearly two years ago. I immediately, well, thought it was one the best script I had ever read. The best script I had been offered.

Much of what you see in the movie is on the page. I wanted to honor the writing and honor the real life events that gave rise to the writing. I knew the directing needed to be low profile, even though it had to be strong directing and directing the characters needed to be from the center.

The characters needed to be from the center. So I said yes straight away. I understood what type of directing it would be.

We started the casting process. Because without the Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton or Dominic West type characters it wasn't going to be financed. And they came on board very quickly, the read it, they loved it right way. Everyone who read it loved it and wanted to be a part of it even it meant playing a smaller part.

I started traveling to Wales and educating myself on Gay history in London in the 1980's. I worked with Stephen the writer. We started shooting last October, eight weeks of shooting straight into editing, two days after I finished editing we were at the Cannes Film Festival.

JW: How did you make the jump?

MW: Yea. Um. Fifteen years ago I made a film of which I made because I had co-written and co-produced it. I scavenged around with some people that I knew and it haphazardly got made.

And on that job I learned how to direct film. It was like film school and a movie. But it wasn't commercially successful at all whereas my theater career was. And so while I got offered other films, I was always choosing the most exciting and important story to me, at any one time.

And for years after that it was theater project and then another theater project and then another theater project. And I'd get a film that was kind of interesting and then I would get sent this massively interesting theater show. So I just gravitated to the most exciting sort of quality thing.

Occasionally, I would find a movie that I thought could be really great but it couldn't get its money or they didn't trust me as the director as my last film had flopped or they did all the things and I was unavailable by the time it got greenlite.

So it just happened, then I realized that it had ten years had gone by then fifteen and I realized I had to make room for a film and so I cleared my diary of theater after "Matilda" in New York and then this script turned up.  And it is really about them trusting me.

I think I was type of the director they wanted because as I was experienced with actors and that was needed in this film and it totally fit a lot of the stuff I do in that it is funny without betraying the depth and seriousness which is something. I'm always interested in that combination.

The second part of our interview, which will also feature my review, will highlight his memorable moments of the filming process, screening the film at Cannes Film Festival two days after completion, and the expectation of making the film.

"Pride" is four stars! A must see film!

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