November 12, 2009 / 11:04 AM / 9 years ago

A Minute With: Film director and writer Richard Curtis

LONDON (Reuters) - Richard Curtis is better known for the films he wrote than the films he directed, but he sees himself working behind the camera more and more.

Director Richard Curtis leaves a photo call to promote his new movie "Radio Rock Revolution" in Berlin April 7, 2009. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

His writing credits include the English romantic comedies “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and he both wrote and directed 2003’s “Love Actually.”

Curtis was back on set with “Pirate Radio,” the U.S. version of “The Boat That Rocked” which opened in Britain in April. The U.S. version, released on November 13, is 17 minutes shorter. It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy and Kenneth Branagh.

The story is set in the 1960s aboard a ship off the British coast and is loosely based on real-life pirate radio stations which used to broadcast pop music from at sea.

Q: Why have you made the U.S. version shorter?

A: “I do think that as an ‘intended goer’, one word which slightly puts you off is ‘It’s a bit long’. There are a couple of films I really thought I would enjoy but I didn’t go and see because I read maybe three times that they were a bit long.

I had a go at shortening it and brought it across to America and had another think about how I felt about the movie. There was definitely more bounce in the room (at screenings). It seemed generally like a good thing.”

Q: How did you decide what to cut?

A: “As far as I was concerned, the movie was quite lean, so anything that was just fun, I suppose, that didn’t have plot ties, anything extraneous was more up for grabs.”

Q: What about the change to the title?

A: “I loved the idea of having the word ‘pirate’ in the title because that is what they were. You couldn’t have called it ‘Pirate Radio’ in the UK. It would be like calling it ‘Post Office’. That is less so here (in the United States). And anyway, I’m quite used to title changes abroad. It was called ‘Good Morning England’ in France.”

Q: Did you listen to offshore radio in your youth?

A: “I was terribly aware of it. I was sent from Sweden to boarding school in England in 1965, already keen on pop music because I had older sisters. I remember at home and at school listening to my tiny transistor radio underneath my pillow. I remember very clearly the incredible atmosphere of friendship and feeling that came across through it.”

Q: Were you trying to make a historically accurate film?

A: “I would say in retrospect it was surprisingly accurate. I had to do a lot of research into the boat and the government and who was in power, the fact that there were no girls (on board), the conditions were dodgy etc. The only two things that are factually inaccurate are that none of the boats sank and that the government (at the time) was in fact Labor.”

Q: What about the soundtrack, which contains a long list of 1960s classics. Presumably it was very expensive to assemble?

A: “Let’s just say it was not inexpensive. There were one or two people that were so expensive we couldn’t even think about it — one song by The Doors was enormously expensive. It’s an interesting world because it is a world of negotiations.”

Q: Could you tell us about how the film was shot?

A: “Everything outdoors on the deck of the boat we did on the boat, and that was all great. We rented a boat for three months at a dockyard in Scotland. Half of the filming involved 150 people sailing out to sea every day spending 12 hours, judging which scene to do according to the weather. The other half was done on a sound stage with giant metal rockers. So at the beginning of each scene we would set the ‘rock’ level.”

Q: You have had a successful career as a writer but have only directed two movies, this and “Love Actually.” Do you plan to be behind the camera more in future?

A: “I probably will, even though I won’t do everything. I probably will pick and choose which ones I direct. The reason why was that I was watching and learning and happy to leave it to others, but I got to the point where I thought on my own stuff I could do it as well myself.”

Editing by Jill Serjeant

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