Breaking and Entering (2006) – Q&A with Jude Law, Robin Wright-Penn, Martin Freeman, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Minghella and producer Tim Bricknell

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Movie interview by Toby White

Following a screening of BREAKING AND ENTERING in London’s West End, PHASE9 and the best of Britain’s press corps joined director Anthony Minghella and company at the Dorchester Hotel for a Q&A on the film.


Anthony, when you’d finished COLD MOUNTAIN I think a lot of people wondered when you might make another British-based film but isn’t the germ of this from quite a long time ago?

ANTHONY MINGHELLA: Yes, after I made TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY I imagined I was going to make another British-based film and I started writing a story based on the idea of a break-in, called ‘Breaking and Entering’ – I write in notebooks and I have two which say very proudly on the front, ‘Breaking and Entering’ and then there’s only about 2 pages of notes inside both of them – but the idea was that I’d write a story about a couple who come home from a party one evening to discover their house has been burgled and when they do an inventory of what’s been taken they discover that things have been added and what had been added was somehow an indication of the problems in their relationship. But I could never really progress that story. Then when I was shooting COLD MOUNTAIN, with Tim Bricknell, we were on top of a hill somewhere and we got a call from our new offices to say they had been burgled and the call became a weekly call for about a year where we had, I think 18 incidents where our offices were being burgled, like a sport. And something tripped in my head that perhaps in that story there might be a way of looking at London. Particularly when I started talking to a group in Camden who were advocating these conciliation meetings and it made me think of a victim and perpetrator of a crime being in the same room and what that might do. It’s such a theatrical idea and the story emerged by this collision of an imaginative idea I’d had a decade ago and this real thing that started happening while I was shooting COLD MOUTAIN.

Tim [producer], did you have any influence in persuading Anthony to make a film from one of his own screenplays?

TIM BRICKNELL: Probably not but Anthony is first and foremost a writer and I’ve known for a long time that it’s important to him to write something original and not simply adapt someone else’s material.

Rafi, you did some free running for real in the film, did you try and do too much? And was Jude ever tempted to have a go?

RAFI GAVRON: There was one incident quite early one where I was doing a choreographed piece and I collided with the guy who plays my cousin and he almost broke my foot. I had a swollen foot for about two weeks into filming which Anthony didn’t know about so, yeah, it was quite nerve-wracking. But, as for Jude, I don’t remember him trying anything.

Jude, were you gagging to put your life on the line for the film?

JUDE LAW: I’ve always put my life on the line for the film. But I’ve never free-run, no.

With almost no free space in London at all now, how easy was it to find and shoot in locations?

TIM BRICKNELL: Well, it was quite easy to find the locations but very difficult to persuade people to let us film in them. On the one hand, you’re never very welcome when a film crew takes over but, on the other hand, you’re left alone so we were able to shoot without much trouble…

ANTHONY MINGHELLA: What Tim is saying is interesting because we shot a very difficult sequence on Primrose Hill, it’s a very traumatic sequence between Juliet Binoche and Jude, and Harvey Weinstein came to visit that day and he looked at this scene with all these people and he asked, “Are these all extras?” [Laughter] and he looked very nervous and I said, “No, we don’t have any extras, just Jude and Juliet…” and he asked how we were going to shoot the scene and I said, “Well, we can’t own Primrose Hill, if you shoot in London you have to take what you get. They’ll be fine, Harvey.” And it’s true to say that we shot this scene for the best part of a day with absolutely no interference from anybody and with a great deal of interest and support and quietness – [at this point Mr Minghella’s name sign falls over] – is that God denying I’m telling the truth? [Laughter] but I was very proud of London on that day. What’s often described as indifference, I think, is people being good-hearted and we found a lot of that when we were shooting, it’s a wonderful city. And the thing about London is that you can tell any story you want to tell, you can find anything you want to find; ugliness, beauty, curmudgeonly people, generous people, it depends really what angle you’re trying to spin. And I think the truth of the film is that we were welcomed in London and we were thrilled to be shooting in the city which we live in and love.

Robin, it was particularly touching your working with Poppy Rogers, it’s a very convincing mother-daughter relationship, did you have a lot of rehearsal time?

ROBIN WRIGHT PENN: No, we didn’t rehearse much and we talked about whether we should rehearse and act the scenes but it would have been destructive, I think, with someone that age. They were so fresh that having this one here [she gestures to Minghella] who likes to chat [laughter] we would talk it to death, but that’s a positive thing. Then at the end of the day we would ask is it worth us muddling her lines with all these nuances and specifics and he said, “You know what, let’s just go animal with it.” “Okay, you’re a monkey and I’m your tree”, so it was with a physicality that we became connected. And that’s all that mattered, that she should just cling to me all the time and no-body else was really a trusting tree.

The Green Effect company, is that a real company?


Where does that ethos come from?

ANTHONY MINGHELLA: I just wrote a manifesto for an architectural company. One of the ironies of this film…Tim was asked that question about whether he encouraged me to write an original screenplay, no, he just encouraged me to get on with making some films. He commented that in the ten years we’d been working together I hadn’t made many movies and that I should make some more and I thought that making a London film would be a quick fix, that I could write a couple of pages about the A-Z that I know about. In fact, I’ve never had to do so much research to write a line than in this film. I thought I’d set it in an architectural practice and realised that I knew nothing about architecture so there was a great deal of meeting and working with architects, particularly landscape and environmental architecture and trying to write a company that seemed to reflect some of the things I was reading and hearing. One of the things the movie endured, and enjoyed, was a lot of expert consultation. Even the first day of our read-through we had someone who’d worked with the UN conciliation forces in Bosnia come in and talk to us. Oddly enough, writing about a place you know tends to be tougher than writing about an imaginary world.

Jude, this is your third film with Anthony, have you seen a development in the way you work together? Is there a kind of shorthand with the two of you? Can you explain your relationship…

JUDE LAW: I think what’s evolved is a friendship first and foremost. A sense of trust and an understanding of each other. If there’s a shorthand then, as with friends, it’s a case of one knows when one gets it. Something doesn’t have to be reiterated. Having said that, the themes of this film are very pertinent and relevant so there was an awful lot to talk about because there was a lot of interesting, meaty stuff. Although afterwards we commented that we’d never actually sat down and discussed Will. We talked about the situations and the architectural practice but we never discussed him and I think that’s because once Anthony decided I would play him and once I was asked to play him it just didn’t need to be discussed. So our shorthand is silence.

Anthony, did you set out to change the perception of immigrant culture in Britain?

ANTHONY MINGHELLA: We were just talking about how sometimes I’d come away from press conferences thinking, “I wish we’d talked more about what the film was about.” And with this film all we’re talking about, which is wonderful, is what the film is about and it’s more about that than I realise. At some level I was trying to write a film about a marriage in London and it spilled out into what I think is that there’s an invisible class in London and there’s this thing that if we took the migrant class out of London, London would implode. As my and my wife’s families are migrant families, I have this particular predilection towards celebrating this fantastic community of all sorts. It’s not always compatible. We share the same geographic space, we don’t always share the same values or expectations or privileges and that leads to conflict and burglary and petty crime. So inevitably the film takes a view that argues for compassion and a second chance and everyone in the movie gets a second chance. One of the things that Martin, in particular, but all of us, was very interested in was about the nature of crime and whether conciliation was a good idea and getting the scene of conciliation to happen was in itself a conciliatory process. It was the most difficult scene we shot in the film because all of the individual actors were conflicted about what was happening. And suddenly we were touching on something, the forgiveness in the film, and the ‘it’ of the film, this encounter, was something we were all troubled by as we would have been had it been a real crime. Oddly enough Rafi was the only one who sat silently in the same way as the character did.

Martin, touching on what Anthony said about second chances, does the optimistic side to the film appeal to you?

MARTIN FREEMAN: It did. That and also that Sandy’s part wasn’t written as a hysterical Daily Mail columnist, that he was a human who responded to being burgled, which is, “F*ck you, stop burgling me”, which is a very understandable, if not understanding, point of view. I think Sandy’s a very decent person and would probably have been a member of the SWP as a student but, as time has gone on and life has taken that shine off him he’s not got time for it. In my first meeting with [Minghella], we touched on that and I’d say the difference between Anthony and I is that Anthony is a slightly nicer person than I am [laughter]. Only slightly, we agree on stuff but he’s probably a little more forgiving than I am. And we imbued that with Sandy but I wouldn’t want Sandy’s tone to be the tone of the movie otherwise it would have been a less interesting story.

Jude, as someone who lives in north London with all its cosmopolitan elements, do you feel a part of it or do you feel a bit cocooned in Luvvie land?

JUDE LAW: Funnily enough the estate where we filmed where Rafi and Juliet’s home is only a street away from where I live and I walked to work on those days so Luvvie land wasn’t so far away from reality. I think that one of the wonders of London is that everyone rubs shoulders with everyone else; where we shop, where we eat, and I think that’s what makes it such an exciting place. I don’t think I feel cocooned.

Have you been burgled yourself?

JUDE LAW: Funnily enough the mother of my kids was burgled yesterday evening while they were in the house…

With that in mind, where do you stand with your character, Will, on the conciliatory debate?

JUDE LAW: I think one of the things in this film that is most challenging is how it approaches the issue of forgiveness. I would like to think that I’m big enough to forgive and be a part of a positive programme to help someone in that situation where they have to steal to provide. However, I also know that I’m a bit of a reactionary. Each situation is different. I was particularly worried about this because the kids were in the house and I think that’s a different type of burglar to one who breaks into an empty office and takes computers…so, err, like Will you can see I’m a bit of a wishy-washy middle class Londoner and don’t quite know where I stand on anything [laughter] but, yeah, I’m at one with my character too!

Rafi, are we right in thinking that when you first met Anthony you didn’t really get on?

RAFI GAVRON: [laughs] I’d never been to an audition before and I just didn’t know how to deal with it so I went in there quite cocky, quite confident and just with my barriers up, what else did I know? But Anthony wanted this vulnerable person to walk in and I wasn’t because I was putting on an act. I think that infuriated him [Minghella chuckles] because I think there was part of him that wanted to cast me and another part that hated me…

Were you winding him up, Anthony?

ANTHONY MINGHELLA: No! I thought he was winding me up. It was an interesting process and Rafi tells it very truthfully. When you’ve done a job for a while you forget what it’s like to go for a job. What I was looking for was something that was very specific; I wanted someone who could play the Bosnian background, play Juliet Binoche’s son, do free running, someone who had a fragility. I was probably more impatient that I ought to have been and at one point Rafi’s mother asked if I had ever dealt with children [laughter]…

RAFI GAVRON: I’m seventeen, Anthony…

ANTHONY MINGHELLA: [Chuckles] Yeah…I couldn’t be more proud of what Rafi managed to do.

Finally, Jude, and Robin, particularly, not being from London, what both annoys and delights you about London?

JUDE LAW: There isn’t an awful lot that pisses me off, really. The main thing, and not something that fortunately you have to share, is that strange men are allowed to lurk outside my house with large cameras and are never moved on by the police. And somehow never manage to get parking tickets [laughter] that really pisses me off. Otherwise, I love London.

ROBIN WRIGHT PENN: Ditto on that. The paparazzi are the most heinous in this city. The thing about London with all the multiculturalism – the fact you can go two blocks and be in another country – at the end of the day [adopts cockney accent] it’s always England, innit? [Laughter] You just feel the Brits. We were shooting the day of the bombing and at home people would be hiding under the covers, afraid to go out and here everybody was going to work and getting on with their life, nobody’s brought down. And I feel like the Brits are able to intermingle, because of that nature, with everybody.

And on that positive note, our guests, thank you.