CATEGORIES Celebrity InterviewsWith the Brit comedy, The Boat That Rocked, currently doing a storm in the DVD charts we thought it only right and proper to have an exclusive chin-wag with the film's director, Richard Curtis, and one of its stars, Kenneth Branagh.
The film, a 60s-set comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea, is literally awash with British acting talent including Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Rhys Ifans, Gemma Arterton (and one lone American, Philip Seymour Hoffman) and, from the outside, looked a blast to work on. So who better to ask than the head honcho of the project.
Click through for the interviews... Richard Curtis' CV makes pretty impressive reading: As a scriptwriter he's had hits that range from Notting Hill to Four Weddings And A Funeral and Bridget Jones Diary, and then as a director, Love, Actually.
On television he is famous for writing for top comedies like Blackadder, Mr Bean and Spitting Image and, of course he invented Comic Relief. And now, we have The Boat That Rocked...
The unsung star of The Boat That Rocked is the ship. How did you get it?
It was a long search. It was a complex piece of auditioning to find the boat. And it was quite hilarious. We sent someone right round the coast of Britain. We had 15 boats and they'd say...look at this one and I would say...no, it looks a bit too much like a steamer...or it would be too clean...ort it would be too big or too small. Then finally we found the one that we loved. It was up in Scotland, in dry dock, I think. They sailed it nervously round to Southampton. But, as you say, it was one of the big characters in the movie, and such a pleasure to shoot on.
With your vast knowledge of pop music hoe difficult was it to prune down to the number of songs that you feature in The Boat That Rocked?
It is very interesting the way that songs interact with finished film footage. We would have a scene and I would have 10 songs that I thought were suitable. Then you would on the first one – and it would not work at all, even though it is the one you most love, because it is ages until you reach the chorus. Then you try the next one and you realise that the interesting bit comes over just when you want people talking. So it is sort of like self-editing, you finally find the only song that actually fits with that scene.
From all the songs that are in The Boat That Rocked, what are your favourites?
There is a Francois Hardy song called All Over The World, which I particularly enjoy. I am surprised by the fact that I love those two songs from The Turtles so much. I particularly love Elenore with its fabulous line...'You're my pride and joy etc"...
And what is your favourite scene in The Boat That Rocked?
Gosh, that's a very tricky question! I think that my favourite scene in the movie is the one where Tom is sleeping with Tallulah for the first time and the camera drifts round and then we cut to Felicity, the lesbian cook, at the moment where she finds love and there is the astonishingly beautiful shot of a girl called Olivia. I love that scene.
What extra material is on DVD of The Boat That Rocked?
We were just doing it and the DVD does seem to contain all the funniest scenes in the movie. There is a great section, which is a raid on Radio Sunshine – which is when they find out that there is a rival station and they go there and blitz it and sabotage it. It has got James Corden and Rich Fulcher from The Mighty Boosh, that's quite funny. We find out the real name of Kenneth Branagh's secretary, in quite a funny scene. I am hoping that there is a dance sequence, featuring Rhys Ifans and the most attractive woman in the world, dancing to Get Off My Cloud. There are a lot of funny scenes. There is a scene which we called Eggs. It is where Nick Frost breaks three raw eggs over Tom Sturridge's head. It is quite funny and certainly it was ghastly to film.
Surely the duel scene on the ship when Rhys Ifans and Philip Seymour Hoffman were climbing up the masts was very tricky to film?
Yeah, the scene with the masts was one of the toughest scenes. We actually shot it in all sorts of places. Some of it was shot on the boat itself, some of it was shot on a cliff, so that they could climb up masts and we would only have sea in the background, and some of it was shot in the studio. So that was one of the most complicated things. That scene was broken down into all its elements for the DVD, so that you can see how we eventually made it relatively convincing.
Did the tug that you used for filming cause most of the sea sickness in The Boat That Rocked?
The real sea sickness moments were when you got these lovely, glamorous shots of girls arriving. January Jones arrives, looking like an angel, but she was feeling sick as a dog. Emma Thompson looks very happy but if there was a smile on her face it was only her trying to hide the sorrow.
What was the first pop record that you bought?
Reach Out I'll Be There by The Four Tops. It was the song's opening that grabbed me.
And what was one of the most recent records that you bought?
Love Story by Taylor Swift.
What would be your top three pop discs?
And I Love Her by The Beatles...Whole Of The Moon by The Waterboys....Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. I once paid 200 pounds to a charity to hear that Fleetwood Mac song and I was only earning about 350 pounds a year at the time.
What is the record that you might most like to smash?
I've never been fond of I'm Henry The Eighth by Herman's Hermits.
Belfast born star Kenneth Branagh is one of the country's finest actors. Before making his mark in movies, he built up an impressive reputation on stage, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he took on starring roles in Henry V and Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare was the source of several of his films. Branagh directed and starred in the film version of Henry V, earning him Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nominations. His other move adaptations of Shakespeare include Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. Branagh's movies have also ranged from Frankenstein – with Robert De Niro – the western comic romp Wild Wild West and the animated feature The Road To Eldorado.
In The Boat That Rocked he plays Sir Alastair Dormandy, the government minister determined to sink pirate radio.
Do you think that Tony Benn should have The Boat That Rocked in his DVD collection?
I hope that Tony Benn will find it a fun way of remembering what must have been a pretty extraordinary moment. Perhaps it didn't seem so at the time, in 1967, when he charged with the idea of dealing with pirate radio and what it appeared to mean for the British government, was caught up in a pretty extraordinary time. And Richard Curtis has captured it, comically and warmly, in The Boat That Rocked. But I get to play a fictionalised, Richard Curtis version of a government minister. This character is called Dormandy and I think that Tony Benn can sleep safe in his bed at night.
Your character in The Boat That Rocked doesn't seem to like pop music very much. What place does pop music have in your heart?
It is the understatement of the century to say that my character, Sir Alastair doesn't like pop music very much. I love music and when I say pop I really do mean popular music. I cannot pretend to be a devotee of jazz or hard rock or any number of the myriad of the great sections of the possibility of music. But I do love pop songs and so this particular period produced so many classics that immediately have you moving and feeling happy. So I love the soundtrack of The Boat That Rocked.
What are your favourite pop songs in The Boat That Rocked?
Eleanor by The Turtles. I love Let's Spend The Night Together [by The Rolling Stones] and frankly I was so amazed – I said to Richard after a screening....How could you afford all of these songs because everyone is a classic. Whether it is A Whiter Shade Of Pale [Procul Harum] or The Troggs...all of it brought back memories. As with all classics you understand when you hear them, see them or read them again, why they last. It's because they do something instantly, and the music in this film has that punch. When we did readings of the film, in preparation for it, he played all the music all the time. The music had been absolutely the starting point for it all and you felt that, in a really positive way.
You are a relative youngster but what are your memories of the days of pirate radio?
I am a slip of a boy so I have few real memories of pirate radio. I tell a lie! In terms of this particular period, 1967, I was a bit too young to have known much more than there was a big dramatic thing going on, which was that pirate radio was a symbol of everything that revolutionary and dangerous about what was going on in our country that needed to be stopped. I found pirate radio with Radio Luxemburg a few years later and that was definitely one when trying to find the terrible signal strength was a pre-sleep moment. The light had gone out, my parents that I was going to bed, it was a school night, and I would try and listen to what my granddad called 'the Devil's music.' And I have fond memories of that.
What is your favourite moment in The Boat That Rocked?
I liked the moment in the film where Dormandy, my character, lays out to his assistant, Twat, the reason why they need to do this. They need to stop people having fun because 'the bottom bashing fornicators of this once great country need to be sorted out'. The ridiculousness of his ferocious passion to stop rock music, pirate radio and everything it stands for, is something that I found delicious in that scene.
If you had not become an actor could you have been a disc jockey?
I think that everybody has a fantasy about being a disc jockey. I remember seeing an early 1970s film by Don Segal that starred Clint Eastwood – Play Misty For Me – and Clint was the epitome of cool. It all went terribly wrong – it was the forerunner of a film like Fatal Attraction – be careful who your call-in listener is and whether or not you meet them. But the DJ's relationship with music is so passionate and personal that they love to share it with people and so I think that everybody has a DJ fantasy. It didn't happen in this picture but I am still open to offers.