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netribution > features > interview with christopher ecclestone > page two

You didn’t have much time with the script though, did you?
That doesn't matter, I had a gut reaction to the script and that's all I need anyway. I'm not really a preparation junkie, you know a lot of what you do on film and television and the theatre is about collaboration and listening to other peoples' ideas. Having a strong idea yourself, but also having a certain amount of flexibility and trust in the people you are collaborating with.

What stage did you get to with Don Quixote?
I never actually got out there, you know a lot of people were going to work on that film and had put a lot of preparation and effort into it and were also going to earn their living and it fell through. Gilliam is such a brilliant filmmaker and I'm sure it must be heart breaking for him because a director is involved on every level, especially considering the story is all about trying to do the impossible. I would imagine that Terry will remount that horse.

And would you be involved?
I don't know, you can't ever predict that. It doesn't matter whether I'm involved, what matters is that Terry Gilliam makes that film.

I suppose it was nice for you to be shooting with someone from your part of town?
Yeah it was. You know, there's a lot of talent and ability in the north of Britain, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool. I've been fortunate to shoot in all them cities and it was fantastic for me to be able to do something which was about my own town.

That's a problem in film and television and theatre, it’s a move away from ideas and towards style and it was quite disturbing that Jim wasn't asked more questions at the press conference because without Jim, none of us would have been there.

What's important is that Danny chose to shoot on DV in direct response to Jim's scripts and Jim is not a conventional writer, he's not a conventional theatre writer either. If you look at Road, it wasn't people on stage and people in the audience, it was mingling and there's a very interesting connection there. I think Danny felt the best way to capture Jim's world and Jim's writing and Jim's characters was with the new technology. I think that's interesting in itself, you know the energy and spontaneity to Jim's writing.

The thing is, I would imagine that Jim didn't go to the theatre a lot, I would imagine that Jim watched an awful lot of 70s and 80s drama which was writer-centric, if that s the right phrase. That was what probably formed Jim, writer led television rather than theatre.

Do you still do theatre?
I did a play last year.

What was that?
It was called Miss Julie. The more you do television and film, the more you realise it's predominately, in a way, a director's medium. If you want to learn about acting I think you're better off doing theatre training. I think I'd be a much better actor if I'd done more theatre, but you know, being an actor you have to take what comes along.

Where did you study?
Central school of Speech and drama

What made you realise that you wanted to do this?
It was all the stuff I'd grown up with on British television, a big thing for me was Boys From The Blackstuff for television and a big film for me was Kes. A big television thing for me was a thing called Sponges, which was written by a guy called Jim Allen who has now sadly died.

You said earlier that you read a script and then you take it, but is there an element of, its Jim Cartwright so I'm going to do it?
Partly, from a certain… you know actors are always looking for work, actors want a job. But the fact that is written by Jim Cartwright is massive for me. I think Jim's a brilliant writer and it was important to me because Jim's from where I'm from and I have a similar world view in a funny way, and Danny's from that area. Danny's from a place called Radcliffe, I think, and Jim is from Bolton and I was born in Salford but I was brought up in a place called Little Olton and they are very close to each other.

Did you feel you had to coach Jenna Gee at all?
Not at all, no. Jenna Gee is a very talented musician. The best thing about working with someone who hasn’t acted before is that they make you re-address how you're working and whether you're becoming too technical and too finished.

Jenna coached me, especially in the music, in her confidence and in her commitment and the way she did it. She was very naturalistic, and that brought me down, she taught me more than I taught her.

Would you ever think about directing anything yourself?
I would think about it but I think it's a very difficult thing to do. It's a very trendy thing for actors to say, but I would be very grateful of the opportunity to have a go at directing. I don't know how good I'd be, but it's certainly something I would like to have a go at. The reason I would like to have a go at it is because I would like to put the writer back at the centre of the work.

Do you write?
No I don’t, too lazy, too undisciplined.

What are you up to now?
I've just finished a film with Alex Cox called Revengers Tragedy and I'm just about to start work on a film with Danny Boyle called 28 Days Later.

Who do you play in that?
I play the part of an army captain, It’s a very interesting part and a very interesting project.

The Beeb have shrewdly picked up both films.
Vaccuuming (equally brilliant performance from Tim Spall), on Sunday 29th September at 10pm and Strumpet a week later, same time, both on BBC1

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