JOHN HURT and STEPHEN REA - Explosive filmmaking in V for Vendetta

 JH: I think, probably, the most interesting area of V for Vendetta is taking a fresh look at what terrorism is and what it stands for. We have been kind of led to believe, in the present situation, that terrorism is utterly disgusting and certainly I’m not arguing for a minute that it’s the right way forward, but then I wouldn’t say that any kind of warfare is the right way forward, personally. I don’t think that war has ever led us into anything that is a positive conclusion. But what it does suggest is to at least take a look at the reasons for terrorism, and that it’s usually not without reason. I think the film is probably suggesting that we look at it more seriously, that we address it more seriously, that it is the only effective way that certain areas of modern society can make their voice known, whether we like it or don’t like it. That has to be treated seriously it seems to me.  

 

How was it for you guys to take part in this project? It has been raising some serious questions. 

JH: “It has raised some serious questions. That’s a good this is it not?” 

SR: “It’s nice to be doing a film that’s actually addressing something that might impinge on our lives and might have some effect and might drive some people mad. It’s actually seldom, although there are some good movies out at the moment that are trying to address what’s going on now, so maybe we have turned a corner. Syriana, and even Munich, I think, is a very good movie. You know, it’s actually addressing what terrorism is and how it can come about. The government has this responsibility that it does sometimes drive its citizens crazy.” 

Do you as actors feel an obligation to been in films like this at this particular time in history? 

JH: “I’ve never been an actor that has particular ambitions to play a particular part in a particular type of film, and I’m always intrigued with what somebody throws at me. And I thought, ‘This is absolutely fascinating.’ It’s extremely unusual that an American company should choose to make a film in which America is a leper colony and England is a fascist state and use it as a premise to say, ‘Take these things as a possibility and what then?’ and try to argue a thesis through that. It’s things we are all trying to talk about. It’s just breaking it down and saying, ‘Have another look. Have a look at it this way.’” 

Would you agree that cinema nowadays reflects a lot of political consciousness as it did in the 70s? 

JH: “Anything that can help us to break it down and look at it all over again is a good thing. I think, probably, the most interesting area of the film is taking a fresh look at what terrorism is and what it stands for. We have been kind of led to believe, in the present situation, that terrorism is utterly disgusting and certainly I’m not arguing for a minute that it’s the right way forward, but then I wouldn’t say that any kind of warfare is the right way forward, personally. I don’t think that war has ever led us into anything that is a positive conclusion. But what it does suggest is to at least take a look at the reasons for terrorism, and that it’s usually not without reason. I think the film is probably suggesting that we look at it more seriously, that we address it more seriously, that it is the only effective way that certain areas of modern society can make their voice known, whether we like it or don’t like it. That has to be treated seriously it seems to me.” 

Do you think a subversive approach like this is the only way to get the questions into the mainstream at the moment? 

JH: “I think that’s what is interesting, this is a mainstream film.”

But a subversive approach seems like the only way at the moment to get questions about terrorism and the humanisation of terrorists, to accept that they are human beings and not just some evil entity, into the mainstream, because these are things which are currently taboo. 

JH: “Exactly. That’s exactly what it is trying to do. And probably by using the kind of ethics, or different, or lack of ethics, whatever you want to call it, of the graphic novel, there’s a very different look at it. It’s a very different use of constructing an imaginative world from which you can make an argument. It isn’t, in a sense, an intellectual approach as one would normally consider it.” 

SR: “It’s interesting to see English people as terrorists rather than balaclava-clad Irish folk. That’s subversive in itself, to say, ‘You may need to do this yourselves, eventually.’ And actually you did have a guy called Guy Fawkes who did it, for reasons of civil liberty, way back then.” 

Is the film a warning to audiences that we’re sleep-walking into this kind of fascistic situation? 

SR: “It’s a warning to government, isn’t it? Not that they’re going to pay any attention. There’s an anger. The Wachowskis have an anger about what’s going on in America, a real anger, and they want to contribute to a debate.” 

JH: “Yes, and it’s not only the Wachowskis. It’s the only time I can remember in my life where I don’t have a single friend, a single friend, who could be regarded to be pro the present administration. Every other president or administration that I can think of always had friends that would defend it, to a certain degree. They defended Nixon, they defended Reagan, even Ford had his defendants, you know? This is the only administration I can think of that’s like that.” 

Do you think a lot of Americans feel disenfranchised to an extent because of the way the last two elections were gerrymandered?  

JH: “Hugely. It’s a massive embarrassment apart from anything else. Yeah, I do. And I think it’s out of that the Wachowski’s anger comes. And they feel they can do something about it. They feel that they are doing something about it. You know, it’s going to put the cat among the pigeons, and that’s not a bad thing it seems to me.”  

Was there any nervousness amongst the team involved in the film after the London bombings? 

SR: “You know, when the London bombings happened, I thought, ‘My God, this movie won’t come out.’ Then I got a phone call that we were going to do some re-shoots and I thought, ‘Maybe we’re going to change the end.’ It never even occurred to them. That’s why I think they’re so courageous. They just said, ‘Let’s go on.’ I don’t think they were nervous at all. And it certainly was not the reason for postponing the opening. I think it made it more important to do it, really.” 

JH: “Probably.”


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