One of Britain’s most intriguing filmmakers has to be 67-year-old Mike Leigh, whose character-driven slice of life dramas have been the toast of critics and film buffs on both sides of the Atlantic for over two decades. Having written and directed dramatic favorites like Vera Drake, Secrets & Lies and his most recent film Happy-Go-Lucky, Leigh has been nominated for six Oscars for his writing and direction, having established a unique system of developing his films and characters that creates a realism few other filmmakers have been able to replicate.
His new movie Another Year takes a look at the relationship of three seemingly ordinary individuals and how it evolves, mostly for the worst, over the course of a year. Jim Broadbent, working with Leigh for the seventh time, and Ruth Sheen, a five-time Leigh player, play a loving couple, Tom and Gerri, whose lives are constantly disrupted over the course of that year by Tom’s friend Ken (Peter Wight) and Gerri’s coworker Mary (Lesley Manville). The two of them are emotional wrecks who turn up at their doorstep whenever things aren’t going well, and start drinking, Mary compounding the situation by flirting awkwardly with their handsome younger son, Joe.
Back in October, when the film had its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival, ComingSoon.net had a chance to sit down with Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville for exclusive interviews where we got to talk in-depth about Mike Leigh’s process, both actors having worked with him quite extensively over the years.
Jim Broadbent is clearly the best-known member of Leigh’s latest cast, having made just as many movies for Hollywood studios as he has in England, being most recognizable for his role in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! and his recent entry into the world of Harry Potter as Professor Horace Slughorn. Broadbent has also won an Oscar and two Golden Globes for his performances, which has added to his familiarity to American movielovers.
Here are some of the things we spoke to the actor about:
* How Mike Leigh lets him know that he had a new project for him
* How he tends to go into these projects having no idea what they’re about
* How hard is it to get financing and a cast when there isn’t a script
* We talk fairly extensively about his process in making the movie
* We talk about working with Lesley and Ruth and developing those relationships
* How hard it is to jump in and out of “Mike Leigh World” and how that informs other jobs
* He mentions playing Dennis Thatcher opposite Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”
* He mentions briefly being back for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”
A few moments later, we had a chance to talk with Lesley Manville, the actress who has been getting rave reviews for her performance in Leigh’s latest, turning Mary into one of the most well-rounded screen characters we’ve seen in some time.
She was quite wonderful to talk to even if she seemed to be getting somewhat cross with how clueless we must have sounded as we tried to understand the process involved with making the film. Either way, she’s a wonderful actress and most people who see the movie walk away with a newfound respect for the actress who has never had such a striking role before this film.
Even so, we ended up talking to her about:
* How Mike Leigh contacted her to be in his movie
* We go on a bit about the awesomeness of Mike Leigh and his system of working with actors
* How Leigh picks the actors for his movies
* Whether it’s easier working with Leigh now
* Talking a bit more about the process of finding the characters and their relationships (and seriously, it’s kind of like trying to explain the plot of “Inception”!)
* Talking specifically about creating the character of Mary and establishing her backstory
* The differences of working with Mike vs. doing other projects
* How it’s nice being “discovered” in America for her work in “Another Year”
* Preparing for the whirlwind amounts of press ahead of her
And lots more!
Another Year opens in New York and L.A. on Wednesday, December 29.