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netribution > features > interview with michael winterbottom > page two


The snowbound setting reminded me of Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs Miller while the scene where horses pull a house across the snow seems inspired by Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.
For some reason quite early on we knew it should be a snowy vision of the West and so the collision of that and the coming of the railroad meant you were into McCabe and Mrs Miller territory no matter what. And to be honest, it was only when we started pre-production that I re-watched McCabe and Mrs Miller and realised that we were close. But I love the film, so I wasn't bothered. With Herzog it was more conscious and overt - more so after we cast Nastassja Kinski (her father, Klaus, was Herzog’s alter ego). I kept trying to insist to our art department that we should do the house pulling in exactly the same way as he did the ship pulling and just do it. ‘Let’s not f*** around and do anything tricksy,’ I said. ‘Let’s just pull it.'

I’ve read that you originally approached Madonna to play the Milla Jojovich role. Was this an attempt to attract a broader audience?
I thought the character of Lucetta, a saloon singer who's tough and strong and ends up building a town herself, was very Madonna-like and that she would be great in the part. But it was not an idea to sell tickets. Because as all the financiers said, Madonna doesn't sell tickets.

You're notorious for the darkness of your vision and The Claim is no exception. Why do you choose these stories?
I don’t see it as being light or dark. You choose a story because it interests you and then as you work on it, it just generates its own emotions. Butterfly Kiss is a dark film because those characters are in a dark place, and equally 24 Hour Party People will be quite a light film because everyone was having a f****** good time. But certainly when I watch supposedly feel-good films, they don’t make me feel very good.

What is 24 Hour Party People about?
I was really interested in the music of bands like New Order, Joy Division and Happy Mondays who were on the Factory Record label, and this is the story of Factory Records as seen through the eyes of its founder, Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan). The music is a big part but it’s not a rock ‘n’ roll film. Nor is it like a Velvet Goldmine where you cut up everything and have a band that’s kind of like another band, because then the music is bullshit. We wanted the real music and that meant you had to name people as real people rather than having a band a little bit like Joy Division.

Someone like Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division who committed suicide, must be a sensitive subject because I presume his wife is still alive.
Absolutely. We tried sending the script to everyone that’s named in the film, and his wife is happy about what we've done. We're hoping his daughter might come in and do something on the film. Obviously he’s such an important character that you have to show what happened to him, but at the same time it’s not about why Ian Curtis killed himself but more to do with how it effects Tony Wilson.

How will the film work?
It starts in ’76, goes to ’92, Tony Wilson’s the central character, and then everything else is like a series of short stories and quite separate. What was attractive about making a film about Factory was the way that it was so chaotic, it gradually spun out of control. We want the film to have the same feel as Factory itself. Which is worrying a lot of people right now.


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