Arthur Morrison and his wife
Kim are both GPs based in the same medical practice in the heart of the
Yorkshire Dales. They have two children, Gillian and her older brother
Blake—the protagonist of the story and today an established author.
Blake’s story jumps between childhood and teenage memories, and the
present day, which sees him at 40, married with two children, and
dealing with the fact that his father is terminally ill.
Seven nominations for British Independent Film Awards
(Oct 23, 2007)
And When Did You Last See Your Father?, an adaptation of Blake Morrison’s best-selling book, received the second largest number of nominations for the British Independent Film Awards:
Best British Independent Film
Best Actor: Jim Broadbent
Best Supporting Actor/Actress: Colin Firth
Most Promising Newcomer - Matthew Beard
Best Screenplay - David Nicholls
Best Director - Anand Tucker
Best Technical Achievement - Trevor Waite (film editor)
The annual awards honour the best in independent British cinema. The winners will be announced at a ceremony, hosted by James Nesbitt,at the Roundhouse in London on November 28, 2007.
|This is your
(The Guardian, Sept 29, 2007, by Blake Morrison
Blake Morrison's memoir, written in grief after the death of his father, has now been made into a film. What does it feel like to see your childhood on the big screen? And to be played by Mr Darcy?
INT. A HOUSE IN YORKSHIRE. DAY.
I'm a boy of about eight, in a striped jumper, sitting by a window while my mother checks the contents of her doctor's bag. Outside, my father is getting his Alvis ready - it's a Thursday, his day off, and the weather looks good, so while my mother visits patients, he will be taking my sister Gillian and me for a drive up the Dales, along with Auntie Beaty and her daughter Josephine.
"Why does Auntie Beaty always have to come?" I complain to my mother.
"Because Auntie Beaty gets a bit blue," she says, "and your dad likes cheering her up. Besides, someone's got to stay behind and run the place while your dad's off gadding about."
The answer doesn't appease me. I know Auntie Beaty isn't my real aunt, and I can sense there's something odd about her relationship with my father.
"I'd still prefer it if you came," I persist.
"For goodness sake, stop grizzling, will you," my mother snaps, then, instantly remorseful, hugs me, pets me and sends me on my way.
Did it really happen like that? Memory is an unreliable instrument and, almost half a century later, I can't vouch for the accuracy of the dialogue, the stripiness of the jumper or the quality of the weather. I know at least one thing must be wrong: if I am eight, then little Josephine (whom I'll later suspect of being my father's child and who later still, much, much later, will take DNA tests with me that prove that she is indeed my half-sibling) can't have been born yet, the age gap between us being nine years. Still, in most important respects, the episode rings true: it could have happened, and fidelity to the emotional core of the experience is what matters.
The account of this episode given in my memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father?, published in 1993, is slightly different, however. There the question about Auntie Beaty isn't addressed to my mother but to my father, and the word he uses to describe her isn't "blue" but "sad". Still, the alternative version seems equally plausible and a good deal more poignant. It shows that my mother's irritation with me is really anger with my father, whose relationship with Beaty is causing her distress. Who can say which version of the episode is more true? The adult protagonists are all dead now. And when it happened, circa 1960, there wasn't a camera present to record it.
Now there is a camera—and a director, a film crew, a cast of actors, a mass of cable and lights, a dozen vans and a mobile canteen. We're in a large empty house in Derbyshire—Derbyshire, not Yorkshire, because the county's arts committee (which includes Stephen Frears) has awarded the film's producers a location grant. The boy in the window playing young Blake is Bradley Johnson, an eight-year-old from Bradford, with an impressive ability to frown and look worried. With him, playing Kim Morrison (née Agnes O'Shea), is Juliet Stevenson, who as well as getting my mother's voice right (a hint of County Kerry beneath acquired English RP) has helped ensure that the main prop in the scene will be a doctor's bag, not a clothes horse: there'd been an idea that since the scene is being shot in a laundry room, Kim might be hanging up washing, but Juliet thought this the wrong way to represent Kim, a professional woman after all.
"Stand by. Rolling. Turn over. Set. And—action."
I feel a bit redundant on set: I didn't write the screenplay, and even if I had, my presence wouldn't be required now shooting has begun. But it's my book that's been adapted and my childhood they're turning into a movie, so I'm curious to see how the process works. The crew have made a space for me in the corner of the laundry room so I can watch my life, or a small part of it, happen over and over again: the question, the answer, the whinge, the loss of temper, the consoling hug. Outsiders aren't generally welcome on set—they get in the way. But everyone's doing their best to be friendly, not just the man employed to puff cigarette smoke in the air before every scene, or the one who wears shorts whatever the weather, or the girl handing round chocolates and slices of fruit, but also the man whose house this is, James Curzon (a descendant of the famous viceroy), who's here keeping a proprietorial eye on the filming. I feel uncomfortable all the same: an intruder, a voyeur, a hanger-on at the edge of my own history. The word "Blake" keeps tolling from the script, and I wince every time I hear it.
Despite the endless retakes, the same scene shot from multiple angles, the sense of déjà vu and déjà entendu, there's something compelling about watching a director and actors at work. One morning, Anand Tucker spent six hours on a tracking shot in which the camera was suspended under a tank of water while one of the crew gently blew on the surface to create a ripple effect—it looked terrific on the rushes, but won't be making the final cut. He's similarly demanding with the laundry room scene, shooting one sequence from outside, through the window, past young Bradley's shoulder. Once he's happy, and the "gate" checked to make sure there's no hair on the lens, he's already thinking about the next scene.
It's taking place in the kitchen and, like most scenes in the film, will be dominated by Jim Broadbent. When I last saw Jim, three weeks earlier, in a studio in Twickenham, he'd just finished playing my father on his deathbed ("It's a relief not to be dead any more," he confided afterwards, "Being dead is much harder than being alive"). The time before that, a month ahead of filming, he had quizzed me, over tea, about my father's accent, clothes and mannerisms—then revealed how much our fathers had in common, not least an eye for the ladies and love of fast cars. He had seemed endearingly shy and lugubrious that day, and I'd wondered how he would cope playing someone as bumptiously energetic as Arthur Morrison (a far cry from his last part, Lord Longford). But having seen him in action, I realise my doubts were misplaced. He inhabits the part so convincingly that I fear his face will soon replace my father's on the memory disc—the DVD of lost time—playing in my head. When I view the rushes of him as my dying father, the tilt of his head, hanging jaw and stubbly chin bring it all back, and my eyes fill.
The kitchen cupboards for the next scene are full of in-period packets and tins—Heinz potato salad, Mary Baker scone mix, Chivers jelly, Bartlett Pears, Smedley's processed peas, Bonnyboy toasted porridge oats. I watch from the shadows as the actors gather round the director. The scene is complex to choreograph, with five characters, and Anand has to concentrate fiercely while he explains who'll be walking where and doing what. "Can you just give us a minute, Blake?" he says. I've grown so used to hearing the word "Blake" addressed to others that it's a second or two before I realise he means me. Will I please bugger off for a bit is what he's saying in the mildest way. I move off, chastened to realise that the material of my childhood and adolescence has now become someone else's property. I don't own the intellectual and artistic rights any more. My life's not my own, it's someone else's. And that someone doesn't want me messing it up.
I wrote And When Did You Last See Your Father? 15 years ago, setting down memories as a form of therapy in the wake of my father's death. The term "life writing" hadn't been invented then, and I'd no idea which genre, if any, I was working in. The spirit of it seemed to be emotional samizdat—highly personal and sometimes taboo stuff that I would never publish but might circulate among a circle of trusted friends.
One of these friends, Bill Buford, thought differently, though, and ran an extract in his magazine, Granta, then published all 220 pages as a book. The book was quickly optioned by a film company, in the hope of turning it into an 80-minute drama for the BBC. On the grounds that I knew the material better than anyone else, I was commissioned to write the screenplay. But several drafts later, the BBC turned the project down: man dies, son grieves—where was the story? A second producer, who optioned the book a few years later, had no luck with the BBC either. Then, six years ago, it was optioned a third time, by Elizabeth Karlsen of number 9 films, who was confident enough to commission a screenplay by David Nicholls, who had worked on Cold Feet. Unable to share her chutzpah, I only skimmed the screenplay when she sent it to me. The book posed formidable problems for any adaptation: a time-span of 35 years and an introspective narrator. And too many Arthur Morrisons had come and gone over the years—Albert Finney, Pete Postlethwaite and Anthony Hopkins among them—for me to believe the film would ever be made.
Three more years passed, as if to prove the point. Then, last summer, Anand Tucker got the push from the forthcoming Philip Pullman movie, The Golden Compass, and, dismayed by Hollywood and with unexpected time on his hands, leapt at the chance to direct a British movie. With Jim Broadbent pencilled in to play my father, funding followed, and things moved very fast. I talked to Anand, met Jim, sent family photos to the art director, gave the recce man directions to our old family home, and belatedly sent a few notes to the screenwriter—everyone was keen that this "true story" have authenticity. The shooting period was a mere six weeks—40 days and 40 nights. As late as the read-through, the day before filming, I still felt sure fate would intervene, with a major backer pulling out, one of the lead actors going into rehab or the producer admitting it was all an elaborate hoax ("You didn't really think we were going to make a film of your life, fathead?"). But the read-through passed off without incident and I got to meet several people I'd not met before, including my wife Kathy (Gina McKee), Auntie Beaty (Sarah Lancashire) and myself in triplicate (Bradley Johnson, Matthew Beard and Colin Firth).
"Who would play you in the film of your life?" non-actors are sometimes asked in magazine profiles or questionnaires. I knew there'd be jokes about Mr Darcy and wet, white shirts when Colin Firth was cast to play me, but I hadn't anticipated how long friends would spend doubled up in helpless laughter when I told them. What was so funny: if he could play a bald Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch, why not me? "It's not to do with lack of resemblance," one friend explained, "it's just that every middle-class Englishman of a certain age has fantasised about being played by him." In truth, I wasn't looking forward to Colin researching my foibles and was happy not to meet him till the read-through. He had read the book (and its companion, Things My Mother Never Told Me), as well as the script and knew as much as he needed to for the part. What mattered was the universality of the story, a difficult father-son relationship, not the quiddity of Blake.
Besides, he was clearly sufficiently well-read—quoting Beckett at me and showing an impressive recall of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections—to play someone whose life has been spent around books. For an earlier television film, Tumbledown, in which he'd played a Falklands veteran, Robert Lawrence, he and Lawrence developed the habit of saying "we" when discussing the character—"in this scene, we look exhausted". It seemed a good model, especially for one scene taken from my book in which he has to perform a certain solitary act in a bathtub. The potential for embarrassment was huge, but "we" took the pressure off: it wasn't Colin doing it, or Blake doing it, it was us.
For another scene, he had to play me at a literary prize-giving while I looked on as an extra. The real-life basis for the scene was a modest poetry award I'd won in 1985, an occasion for which my father had driven down from Yorkshire in his yellow Dormobile. The ceremony had been low-key—cheap wine, casual clothes and a lot of standing around. For the film, however, it was important that everybody dress up and sit down. Sixty or more extras were needed, so I invited family and friends, who sportingly gave up a beautiful autumnal Saturday in order to sit around the National Liberal Club wearing dinner jackets and 1980s frocks. The dowdy poetry gathering of 1985 was sumptuously transformed: it looked as though I was collecting the Booker prize. For my wife Kathy, watching from the next table while Gina McKee played her, it was a stiff test of her capacity to suspend disbelief: in the film, she asks to be mentioned in Colin/Blake's acceptance speech, a request the real her would never make. In terms of the film, though, there was a logic to these changes from the life. In the same scene, Blake throws a wobbly when his father refuses to say "Well done". In reality, my father was effusive in praise of whatever small successes I enjoyed. But fathers who deny their sons acceptance and affirmation are far more common—a little local truth being sacrificed for a larger one seemed permissible. Besides, the film's narrative arc demands tension between father and son at that point.
Germaine Greer recently complained that "it's getting harder and harder to be a real person", on hearing that she is to be played by Emma Booth in a film version of Richard Neville's memoir of the 60s, Hippie Hippie Shake. Actually real people, unlike celebs, rarely do get their lives turned into movies, and when it happens, the best response isn't to rage, but to chill out. There are aspects of Blake, in the movie, which I don't much care for, but that doesn't make them untrue. The anger in Colin Firth and Matthew Beard's portrayal came as a surprise, to them as well as me, but I think of it as an insight, not a libel, revealing how much angrier I'd been with my father, often unfairly, than I like to admit: angry with him for living, then angry with him for dying as well.
So what do I think of the film now it's finished? I'm the last person to judge it objectively, but knowing what authors can go through when their books are adapted, I feel lucky—lucky that a talented bunch of people thought it worthwhile to give their time to such a personal book, and lucky that they have honoured the spirit of the original. They've kept the title, even though an eight-word title is almost unheard of in the movies. The film begins, more or less, where the book begins, with my father jumping a queue of cars, and ends where the book ends, with the hanging of a chandelier. There are no murders, no car chases (but some splendid cars), no steamy sex scenes (unless you count the steam rising from the bath in which Colin Firth, or Blake, or "we" do that unmentionable thing). It looks beautiful, almost too beautiful, as if my childhood had taken place in Gosford Park. And it's sophisticated where the book is raw. As for Blake, unattractive though his behaviour is at times, he gets to do things I will never do, like winning the Booker prize and sleeping with the beautiful Gina McKee. What could I possibly have to complain about?
"The great thing about selling a book to the movies is that nobody blames the author," Tom Wolfe once said. But when the film's a success, he might have added, that somehow redounds to the author's credit, as if the effort he put into writing the book has finally been vindicated. Blame and vindication are beside the point: a book is one thing, a film another; they might tell the same story, but the telling has to work in different ways. To me, the most powerful sequence in the film of And When Did You Last See Your Father? isn't an episode taken from the memoir, but one developed from a passing reference to my father teaching me to drive on a beach. From a phrase in a single sentence, the screenwriter and director have created a moving scene. But even their work would be nothing without the music.
My book has been repackaged now, with Jim Broadbent and Matthew Beard on the cover instead of my dad and me. That's fine. I don't feel proprietorial. I've entered a world where truth and fiction have begun to blend. The other day, the film company returned one of the photos I'd lent them. It shows me standing next to Michael Holroyd, receiving a prize for my memoir of my father. Except that Colin Firth's head has taken the place of mine, as if our faces have been transplanted. At least I think it's Colin. I keep looking, and I still can't be sure.
|Man and boy
(The List, Aug 23, 2007)
Writer David Nicholls talks about the process of adapting Blake Morrison’s memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? for the big screen, with Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth cast as father and son
‘It’s not my story, of course. It’s Blake’s story,’ says screenwriter David Nicholls of his latest project. Having cut his teeth on TV drama Cold Feet, Nicholls successfully adapted his own novel Starter For Ten for the cinema before he agreed to give Blake Morrison’s painfully honest memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? the same treatment. ‘But although it’s someone else’s story, the way Blake wrote it made it into something universal, and it resonated with a lot of people, including me,’ says Nicholls. ‘So my job was to get that very personal story to work as a film without softening the material.’
Blake Morrison’s 1993 book was a candid and unsentimental view of his father, written in steely prose and with an uncommon emotional honesty.
‘When I was asked about any pet projects I might want to write, Blake’s book was one of the first things I thought of,’ says Nicholls. ‘At first I felt a bit daunted about working on it; my background was more to do with comedy than doing a straight drama. But I really wanted to adapt the book, and that proved to be the beginning of a four year process...’
To capture the essence of a largely internal struggle within the mind of the author, the book had the luxury of shuffling through Morrison’s memories in non-sequential order. But to generate the momentum required to keep audiences engaged in a film, Nicholls felt he had to connect the audience the same material but without resorting to cliche.
‘For me it’s very much a process of shaping material; the book is very ruminative, and full of personal anecdotes. Often poetic, it depends on incident rather than plot, and the last thing I wanted to do was impose some dopey Hollywood three-act structure on it,’ says Nicholls. ‘In a Hollywood film, father-son reconciliations are usually made up of unspoken tension, rows, a reconciliation and then death. But in this book, the death of the father is described in detail half-way through. So there was no way we could do that kind of tearful ‘I love you Dad’ ending, it just wouldn’t have been true to what Blake wrote.’
Morrison’s studied description of the differences and similarities he found in comparing his life with his father’s provided Nicholls with a chance to expand the tone of And When Did You Last See Your Father?
‘Blake’s description of the process of illness and dying is very moving to read, but representation of death cinematically can be a real test of the audience’s patience. So I did try to make the tone a little lighter, to create some warmth from the comedy of embarrassment,’ says Nicholls. ‘I wanted to keep hold of the bits which had most affected me—one example would be Morrison’s unflinching description of a disastrous camping trip he took with his father in the Lake District.’
The directorial responsibility fell to Anand Tucker, who helped Emily Watson and Rachel Griffith to Oscar nominations in Hilary and Jackie, 1998’s account of Jacqueline du Pré’s life from the point of view of her sister.
‘Anand had given me a lot of input with the script while we experimented with different ways of approaching the story, so I fully trusted him to make the script work,’ says Nicholls. ‘When I first heard about the casting, I was looking forwards to going out for dinner with Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent, and the others, but after the read-through, I didn’t feel I wanted to visit the set, I’d just have got in the way.’
And When Did You Last See You Father? also deals frankly with the less attractive ways in which individuals deal with tensions created by illness, and Nicholls admits he’s surprised by some of the content of the final cut.
‘While I always intended most of the dialogue to be pretty much as Blake wrote it, I was surprised that almost everything I wrote in the script ended up in the film,’ Nicholls says. ‘There’s a scene of Blake masturbating in the bath while his father lies dying in the next room; I really didn’t think they’d use the scene, but it’s very much part of the honest way that the book was written.’
Amongst the audience for the film’s Edinburgh International Film Festival premiere will be Nicholls’s father. What advice would his son give him about seeing the film?
‘I’m sure that he’ll understand that this is an adaptation, nothing to do with our own relationship,’ says Nicholls. ‘I hope he’ll enjoy it for what it is; someone else’s story.’
(Scotland on Sunday, Aug 5, 2007, by Aidan Smith)
Publishers have had their fill of family confessionals, particularly from sons, and moved on. Morrison virtually founded the genre by writing the daddy, And When Did You Last See Your Father? It's just been made into a fine film.
So, Blake Morrison—57, poet, and a soft-spoken native of God's own country (not Scotland, but some place called Yorkshire)—how does it feel when you see yourself blown up 50ft high on the silver screen and bearing more than a passing resemblance to cerebral hunk Colin Firth?
"When I tell people who's playing me, the laughter generally lasts about five minutes," he sighs. "Any longer and I start to feel a bit offended. The only time I've seen the film, a woman sensed my hurt. 'It's not that you're so ugly,' she said, 'it's just that every man in Britain probably fantasises about being played by Colin Firth.'"
Morrison will see the movie again in Edinburgh when it gets a Film Festival premiere and he's also due at the Book Festival for his latest work, South Of The River. That is his big London book, his Blair Years book, but it's fiction. AWDYLSYF? was an unflinching, hugely moving memoir of fatherly omniscience ("I may not be right, Blake, but I'm never wrong"), disastrous camping holidays, light adultery and grief.
A long time coming—the book was published in 1993—the film is directed by Anand Tucker from a screenplay by David Nicholls and stars Jim Broadbent as Morrison's father Arthur, GP, garden-shed boffin and professional Yorkshireman.
"I'm incredibly happy with it," says Morrison. "They've kept the characters' names and also the title. There's American money in it and for the States it may have to lose the And, but at least it won't be Bye, Pop.
"The film starts like the book with my father queue-jumping at Oulton Park [the car-racing track] by hanging his stethoscope from the rear-view mirror and shouting "Make way for a doctor!" and embarrassing us all. And it's true to the book at the end as well with him bossing me around in my new London home and directing operations for the fixing of a chandelier—the last time I saw him as Dad."
Firth did not consult Morrison beforehand, but they spoke after filming. The author remembers that he forgot to compliment the actor on his performance and says he will rectify this by letter. In the book, Morrison didn't leave much out, even describing a scene where he masturbates in the bath while the old man is dying. "Ah yes. I didn't know how Colin would feel about that, but it's in the film."
Broadbent did ask some questions. "He wanted to know how my father spoke and dressed but, interestingly, his story was similar. His father was overbearing and charismatic with an eye for the ladies just like mine. He also drove an Alvis, as Dad did, though not as grand as the model in the film. You'd think I grew up in Gosford Park, but that's the movies."
The extraordinary thing about Morrison's tale was its ordinariness. Everyone has a father but more of us than Morrison first thought seemed to have dads who were self-taught intellectuals (Arthur Morrison was only ever seen reading Jaws and never finished it) and serial blaggers; called their sons "prize fatheads" and grumbled about "bloody wogs". An entire sleeping constituency of sons contacted him with their experiences of "domineering old sods", one even accusing him of plagiarism. The media, as it is wont to do, appointed him an expert in fatherhood. "I felt like an agony aunt when once I'd dreamed of being TS Eliot."
As well as the male confessional, Morrison could lay claim to having invented the biography of the unremarkable, but this wasn't a calculated move. As an act of catharsis, he was compelled to write about the man who invented the waterproof sleeping bag that was supposed to render the tent redundant.
Why, then, this urge to write about fathers? "When we were young we were impatient with our parents," he says. "Now we want to atone for our callowness, to take measure of them, to understand which parts of them live on in us."
...So is he turning into his father? "I look older than he did at my age, which is pretty horrifying. I'd like to think I've inherited some of his energy although I lack his confidence. I don't have his belligerence and noise although I imagine I'll become grumpy.
"Dad wasn't remote, like many fathers of his age, but the trick is not to go too much the other way, taking over people's affairs, barging in, keeping the children as babies. That was what Dad was like and I've got to watch it in myself."
Morrison laughs. Is he thinking of the scene in the film where father interrupts his son's reading of Dostoyevsky or his teenage fumbles with the housemaid?
"I thought I was distanced from Dad's death. The book helped with that, as did the passing of time. But when I was on set they showed me the rushes and it was the deathbed scene. The way Jim Broadbent held his teeth was uncannily like my Dad—normally in complete control but suddenly slack-jawed. That brought it all back." A pause, then a laugh. "He may not have been right, but he was never wrong."
Blake's heavenly cast
(The Sunday Sun, June 3, 2007, by Coreena Ford)
An author's moving memoir of the weeks leading up to his father's death has been turned into a major movie.
Writer Blake Morrison, of Skipton, North Yorkshire, kept a candid journal while his father Arthur battled terminal stomach cancer, in which he recalled childhood memories and contemplated their relationship.
A year after Arthur passed away in 1991, the intensely personal and moving diaries were turned into the autobiographical novel And When Did You Last See Your Father?, which soon became a bestseller and was translated into many languages.
Blake's heart-rending story has now been transferred to the cinema by director Anand Tucker . . . and the all-star cast promises to make it a huge success when it is released in October. The former Ermysted's Grammar School pupil has told of his delight at the cast, which sees Colin Firth playing him, Jim Broadbent "stealing the show" as his father, and Juliet Stevenson starring as his mother Kim. Blake, 56, a dad-of-two who now lives in London, said: "I'm being played by Mr Darcy . . . three people actually play me at different ages but it's Colin Firth who plays me as a 40-year-old."
"It's a tremendous cast . . . I think my parents would be flabbergasted too. I went on set once or twice and had just the right amount of involvement . . . it was someone else's project but they were fair in the amount they consulted me." Following the same pattern as the book, the film centres on Blake and Arthur's delicate father-son relationship, with events jumping from Blake's childhood to "the present day", when he is trying to deal with his father's illness.
Even though the majority of events take place in North Yorkshire, most of the scenes were filmed in Derbyshire and Sheffield, although the rolling Yorkshire Dales make an appearance....
And When Did You Last See Your Father? was screened for the first time at last week's Cannes Film festival, to rave reviews, and will be released in cinemas on October 5.
Colin Firth is looking for a father figure in Jim Broadbent
(Daily Mail, May 18, 2007, by Baz Bamigboye)
Colin Firth is wearing several hats in Cannes—including a straw boater for the St Trinian's film—but one of the more interesting is for the film version of Blake Morrison's memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father?
In fact, the movie, as directed by Anand Tucker, is one of the best pictures I've seen dealing with the delicate dynamic of father-and-son relationships. It tackles the subject without getting soppy or sentimental.
Jim Broadbent portrays Morrison's father, a doctor with a secret or two. Firth portrays Morrison and I was struck by how spot-on they are: both equally irritated by the other's habits, yet never able to say fully what they've been trying to get off their chests for years. I watched some scenes being shot on set and I marvelled at the care Tucker took to get the on-screen relationships right. Matthew Beard as the teenage Blake Morrison is a real find.
The film opens in the UK in October, but there's an opportunity to meet author Morrison, screenwriter David Nicholls and Tucker in conversation at the Hay Festival on May 30, where some scenes from the film will be screened.
Who’s the daddy?
(Screendaily, Feb 2, 2007, by Wendy Mitchell)
Eight months ago, Anand Tucker had every reason to be disillusioned with the movie business. He had been preparing New Line’s fantasy epic The Golden Compass for 18 months and then left the project abruptly due to “creative differences”. Producer Stephen Woolley immediately called to entice him on board And When Did You Last See Your Father?, which Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen were developing at Number 9 Films.
“It was a miracle when Stephen sent me the script—the day after my involvement with The Golden Compass came to an end,” Tucker remembers. “It came like a little blessing.”
Tucker was impressed by the emotionally resonant story and by how well David Nicholls had adapted Blake Morrison’s memoir about a son and his terminally ill father. “David has really made a movie out of quite an interior journey,” he says.
After seeing Hilary And Jackie, the 1998 film about world-renowned cellist Jacqueline Du Pre that Tucker directed, Woolley thought the director could put his own stamp on Father. “It needed someone with style and vision to make it work outside a British audience,” say the veteran producer of The Crying Game.
Father was put into motion quickly as part of Number 9’s UK Film Council Super Slate deal with Film4, Intandem Films and the Irish Film Board. Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent were cast as the leads.
Just six months later Tucker is already putting the finishing touches in post-production (Intandem is selling at Berlin’s European Film Market and the project may be ready for Cannes). Distribution deals have already been struck with Sony Pictures Classics for North and Latin America, Buena Vista for the UK, Icon for Australia and Lusomundo for Portugal...
Tucker, who previously shot Shopgirl in Los Angeles for Touchstone, said the return to shooting in his native Britain was not too jarring. “This is my home...and this is where my sensibility comes from,” he says. “It wasn’t that quantitatively or qualitatively different than making a film in LA.” Although he notes that the film’s six-week shoot meant “you have to work with less resources and less time”.
Where to drink when you are being stately at Chatsworth
(Times, Oct 28, 2006, by Richard Brass)
On the edge of a little village at the very top of a hill, the Lathkil Hotel provides punters with one of the best views in pubdom, with all the windows looking directly over a sloping field of smug-looking sheep and down into a gorgeous, steep wooded valley....
The pub scenes for an upcoming production of Blake Morrison’s And When Did You Last See Your Father? are being filmed in the Lathkil because the producers couldn’t find an authentic enough pub in Yorkshire, and the beers reflect this traditional flavour, featuring good local breweries such as Hartington and Thornbridge. With pints like that and the chance of an encounter with Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent, indolent tourists should be very happy indeed.
Sony Classics Acquires Your Father
(comingsoon.net, Sept 13, 2006)
Sony Pictures Classics has acquired North America and Latin America rights to UK director Anand Tucker's (Shopgirl, Hilary and Jackie) new feature length film And When Did You Last See Your Father?...
Co-Presidents Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and EVP, Acquisitions and Production, Dylan Leiner released the following statement from Sony Pictures Classics, "This screenplay is so moving, the combination of roles so engaging and full (to be played by Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth) and the precision of Anand Tucker's direction made this a very easy decision to make. 'And When Did You Last See Your Father' promises to be a winner for 2007. We are thrilled to be partnering with our old friends at Intandem and Number 9 Films on this picture and at long last to be working with Anand Tucker."
CEO Gary Smith and Directors of Sales and Marketing Andrew Brown and Billy Hurman of Intandem Films further commented: "Having already secured sales of the film in the UK (Buena Vista), Australia (Icon) and Portugal (Lusomundo), we can't think of a better home for this picture than with our friends at Sony Pictures Classics who we know will give it the love and respect that this great British film deserves."
Producer Stephen Woolley from Number 9 Films adds, "We are thrilled to be working with Sony Picture Classics on this long cherished project, uniting two of Britain's finest actors, Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth, with one of our finest directors, Anand Tucker. David Nicholls' script, adapted from Blake Morrison's novel, is a moving, often hilarious and universal tale of coming to terms with your own mortality. Michael, Tom, Dylan and their excellent team at Sony have a well-earned reputation for choosing and distributing high quality and successful movies. Their seal of approval fully justifies the enormous faith our other financing partners have put into this project. Producer Elizabeth Karlsen and I believe 'And When Did You Last See Your Father?' will be one of the high points of British cinema in the year 2007 and, together with Intandem, look forward to working closely with Sony on its marketing and distribution of the film in North and South America."
takes charge of 'Father'
(Variety, July 12, 2006, by Adam Dawtrey)
Anand Tucker will direct "And When Did You Last See Your Father?" for Number 9 Films and FilmFour, with Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth taking the lead roles.
Produced by Elizabeth Karlsen, the film is set to shoot in the U.K. this fall. It's adapted by David Nicholls from the poet Blake Morrison's bestselling memoir about his relationship with his dad. Broadbent will play the father from the age of 35 to his death at the age of 70. Firth will play the adult Morrison.
The project was developed under Number 9's slate funding deal with the U.K. Film Council, the Irish Film Board, Intandem Films and Film Four. It will be the first pic from this slate to go into production. All four of the partners will be involved in financing the movie.