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netribution > features > interview with name > page two

(the phone rings, an ansaphone clicks on but Ben turns the volume down)

Are you going to make another London movie?
I'd love to do more about London. I think London is an amazing city. I think there's room to do more stuff like Tomas Katz about London i.e. turning London into a mystic place.

And tearing it all down in the end?
Yeah. (laughter)

I wanted you to stay with the pirate who comes out of the sewer in the beginning….I found him darker, I found him more powerful than his other characters.
You call him a pirate, that's interesting, I've never heard him called before. That's fine, that's cool. There's a line where he did explain who he was but it was cut.

He was a dream surgeon. He does actually say what he does. He cuts people open. He's meant to be a strange Russian mystic who somehow ended up in a war or something like that. It doesn't really matter what he is anyway. If we stayed as 'the pirate' - we wouldn't have had much of a film. We'd call it the One Life Tomas Katz.

What about the Happy Eater scene? That was pretty intense and yet I nearly wet myself when throughout.
The Happy Eater is of course a terrifying symbol of consumption. It's very 80's and it is is total naked consumption. All it is is just a mouth with the fingers pointing into the mouth. There's something scary about it. It's like, every now and again you see something on an advert on TV, like the butter man in the "Lurpak' advert, and you think to yourself - 'if I saw one of those fuckers on my table, I would tie myself up and asked to be sectioned instantly. How scary is that?

The whole piece is pretty apocalyptic. Is that something you particularly enjoy. Definitely the sort of imminent doom you'd associate with George Romero or John Carpenter.

It's about the end of the world. The world is full of stuff. And most of the stuff that the world is full of is bollocks and Tomas Katz obviously removes all the stuff and makes it into a pure state - which is nothing. It's quite a beautiful thing that he's doing. The apocalypse is rendered here as an act of just closing down and making things more simple.

A good and evil thing?
No, not at all. It's a nothingness of being…Most apocalypses are rendered as a fight between good and evil and the end is regarded as something terrifying but this is more, the end is something, an act of peace. Removing the world of mobile phones, removing the world of stupid restaurants, removing the world of all this…all this idiocy that goes on, people talking shit on television, all being closed down and shut up, being made into a beautiful black screen.

(the phone rings again, Ben gets up to screen the call - doesn't take it)

Why did you pick the CCTV security guard to carry out your purification?
Well it's obviously fun but the role of God was traditionally to watch over us and the idea of His surveillance has now been replaced by CCTV. God may still be watching over us but certainly we are being watched every day by a bunch of security guards.

Does it bother you?
No, it doesn't bother me at all actually. It's that metaphor of God as the security guard that I found entertaining and I've come to a conclusion God is now a stupid, chewing gum chewing, junk food eating twat from Walthamstow who stares at CCTV screens. Quite scary I think.

I'm interested in where you can go from here?
Well I'd love to do Tomas Katz part two. I've got an idea of what happens but the film hasn't even been spawned. Katz has done quite well in Germany but it has to turn a profit which it's not done yet for the producers who want to finance another one. I've got plenty of projects but it’s just that most of them don't fit in with what people want to finance these days, especially in Britain, so you move elsewhere.

Would you go to Hollywood?
Personally I don't think I'd have much of a future in Hollywood. No, I signed up with the German producers and I shall be doing work for Germany.

Are you going where the money is or where you have an audience?

It comes across as a strong festival film, where has it been?
Everywhere really, all around world. But unfortunately it's only been released in Britain and Germany so far. The Sales Agents were United Artists and just as the film started gaining momentum, United Artists were closed down by MGM who own them. So for a while it didn't have a home. That kind of killed the film, it's all kind of unfortunate for us.

You've just got to push on, I suppose.
Yes. It's now a bit too old to sell it anywhere. People will be suspicious about buying it because it's been around since 1999.

What have you been doing since, apart from trying to drum up publicity for this?
I've been doing the usual thing, I've been signing on every now and again, working on and writing scripts. Yeah, just trying to get a project made in this God forsaken country. I had a project which nearly went ahead and was cancelled at the last minute and at that point I decided 'fuck it' I'm going to sign up with the Germans and go and work over there.

(the phone rings once more.)

This is what it's like trying to publicise your own film.

(Ben gets up to screen yet another call - only to be met with 20 seconds of silence on the end of the line)

Well speak then!


You are really thick aren't you? Come on, fucking speak!


If we listen hard enough maybe they will?


(finally a foreign voice mumbles something before hanging up. Ben sighs…)

My number is almost the same as a Greek solicitor's so I get a lot of odd calls. The best was a guy calling from Athens airport saying (mimics Zorba)
"I am at the airport, my wife has not sent my daughter to meet me - I WANT YOU TO SEND HER TO FUCKING HELL!"

(Much laughter)

Editing obviously played a key role in the film, it was pretty experimental, have you thought of working in commercials or music video to subsidise your work as a film director?
Football commercials. Maybe MTV? No one I've bumped into seems to want to work with me on commercials or pop promos. I've been with the same company for years. - maybe it's me, maybe it's the company but I think it's mainly me. Our producer does sense that people are somewhat, sounds really wanky, but people seem to find my reputation somewhat…formidable I think is the word. I think they put me above doing a soap commercial but I'm not. I live in the gutter daily and I’m happy to do a soap powder commercial if they pay me. I need money like anyone else.

Do you have any regrets from making such a thoroughly uncommercial film?
I don't have any regrets. It's one of the most frustrating, fucking irritating and problematic jobs around - especially working in Britain at this time. And one is constantly dispirited and crushed by the system in trying to get your film forward and struggling for the available funds. But there's always that possibility you will actually get to make your film. And once you're actually there standing in a field and the cameras turning over and the actors are just doing what they're doing, there's nothing more exciting in the world and then it's all worth it. It's both the best job in the world and the worst. We're all in the same boat. There's plenty of people you can moan with, producers, directors and writers.

I don't know how you do it anymore because things have changed. If you want to do romantic comedies or you want to do the kind of very limited, mainstream kind of stuff, then you might get your first film, but it's got to change, it can't remain like this forever. It's the worst it's been for, I don't know, fifteen years or whatever. It seems to be going in a cycle but at the moment the British film financing market is incredibly conservative, that's why I'm leaving.

Yeah, why not? Will you be making English language films?
I speak German. They could be English, they could be German, they could be whatever. I've got a project in Bengali, I've got a project in Turkish, you know whatever.

Where did the original idea come from?
The idea was developed with the actor from a series of improvisations. The original idea was simply, I want to do a film with Tom called The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz in which he plays nine different characters and we had no idea what the characters were.

You had no idea about shooting in London or…
No, absolutely no idea. For a couple of years we didn't really know what to do with it even though we knew what some of the characters were. Eventually, it took it present shape.

It's quite unique to develop a film around an actor.
The Usual Suspects was based on a poster idea. It shows you can start with anything really. What certainly doesn't work I think - and you see this too often - is where someone's had a really good idea for a film, and if they've had a really good idea it normally means it was a boring idea for a film. It's a love triangle - but hey! The three of them are transsexuals, or something. If you know and if you can write down what you're film is about and what it means on a sheet of A4 then you're fucked because when people leave the cinema at the end of your film, then that's all they've got - they've got a sheet of A4. In a film like Tomas Katz or "Simon Magus there's plenty to think about. There's lots of complexity and lots of interest, you can watch this film many times and find new things and that's the way it should be.

The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz opens on Friday 20 July at the National Film Theatre, South Bank (020 7928 3232), and the Metro Cinema, Rupert St. (020 7734 1506). Phone for times or check them in Time Out where there is an interview with the star of the film, Thomas Fisher.

As the movie provided such amusement and fear on lonely evenings for first myself and then Nic, it's only fair to allow Ben a few words to you…

Here is the first clutch of reviews for KATZ. Please pass them on in mass
e-mails of great seduction, persuading as many people as possible to see the

film. Also check out , and encourage others to do so. Many thanks; reviews follow:...



…a thrilling piece of absurdity... Hopkins' film is a great mad adventure in the tradition of the Pythons, Fritz Lang, MTV, Euripides and German Expressionism. It's a genuine curio... I've never seen anything like it.
James Christopher, The Times

.... this hilarious mutant brainchild of writer-director Ben Hopkins... a monochrome surrealist farce that has "cult" written all over it. Unhinged, unrepentant, and stark, raving mad.
Tim Robey, The Daily Telegraph

loopy, diverting surrealism. Hopkins' film is an essay on the occult ethnography of London... Nothing so obvious as a plot is allowed to cramp this movie's style as it swoops weirdly across the dream landscape of London like a demented, dishevelled bird.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

...surreal, freewheeling and frankly bizarre... TOMAS KATZ is a band apart from the current crop of British films...
Dave Calhoun, Dazed and Confused

....a creative, idiosyncratic talent. It's a wacky, fun, febrile concoction, full of verbal and visual styles, jibes, jokes and puns, po-faced prognostications and gnomic utterances, with wildly eclectic scoring,

surreal asides and occasional sublime cinematic coups...
Wally Hammond, Time Out

…a wellspring of innovation... heading for enduring cult status.
Mark Johnson, Screen International


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