CODE 46 - Q&A with Samantha Morton
With Samantha Morton (Maria)
What was the appeal of CODE 46 for you?
I've been a fan of screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce's work for a long time, and the combination of Frank and director Michael Winterbottom really excited me. I knew that Michael would respect every aspect of filmmaking and the collaborators involved. Whether it's the cinematographer, the writer, the actors, the guy doing the sound, everybody has an important part to play and he values that. And this is an amazing piece of writing. These kind of parts are few and far between.
Were you always conscious of the design and look that this futuristic film would have?
You can get focussed on that too much when you're making a film set in the future. Michael wanted to lose that, to liberate us in a way. We were making a film about love as opposed to making a science fiction film with all sorts of gadgets. I enjoyed that aspect of the script, with the focus on two people so that the fact it was set in the future didn't really matter.
There is a real suspense to this love story too, isn't there?
I watched a film the other day that was supposed to be a very scary, edge of the seat thriller, but I was so bored by it. This seemed more scary to me, I was on the edge of my seat far more wanting to know what happened next.
Is it the vision of the future that CODE 46 paints that is so frightening do you think?
Actually I think there's a lot of social conditioning in society even today - whether we're aware of it or not. A lot of people aren't, but it has to do with the image you put out to the rest of the world. You can analyse it and say that to a potential mate you're saying a lot about yourself in what you wear, for example, and you're therefore attracting a certain kind of person. The film just focuses on this in a way that's a little more controlled.
Was it a help to be filming in such far flung places as Shanghai, Dubai and Jaipur, to recreate the sense of dislocation these characters feel?
I've done a lot of films like that, and it's one of the reasons I love my job. But the separation aspect in the story is one that's happening more and more in society. People are being pushed into this world that's encapsulated in their own self. You've got all these books on self help, getting to know yourself, doing the right thing, eating the so-called right foods, even down to what books you have on your shelves people are encouraged to look to themselves first as opposed to being a part of society.
Can you identify with the idea of the bureaucratic world depicted on screen?
Absolutely. When I was growing up I wanted to go to drama school to become an actor, but you needed a minimum of five GCSE's to even audition for RADA. I left school very young, so I didn't have this piece of paper and I was told I couldn't even audition without it. And then there's the issue of homelessness in the UK now, it's ridiculous, it's getting like Victorian England. I think the film's incredible because it's more true to life than any science fiction film I've seen. It's shockingly real. The stuff that's in the film is happening now, we just choose not to see it.
It's like all great stories, no matter what the surface detail might be it offers a comment on the times we live in now.
I completely agree. I also think it's very brave in that it makes social comment and is very relevant today. If people don't start looking at that it's going to get worse and worse and worse. We're all living blinkered lives, and we're not seeing what's going on and looking to change it. I'm not saying that everyone has to make a political statement, but we need to be more aware of what's happening and why. I got a minicab the other week in London, and found out that the driver was a trained surgeon. But he was driving a minicab because he was a refugee and didn't have the papers to work in a hospital.
The film has a raw energy that comes, presumably, from the way it was shot. Did you find that nature of the shoot liberating?
I do enjoy all that. Often in film they'll recreate a natural environment: put you on a street and put extras round you, but it's very contrived and controlled. I don't think I'm a very good actor, I'm far better at reacting to my environment. Whether that means my fellow actors, or a cinematographer that I'm getting a vibe with, or the writing. What Michael did was throw us into the real world, and told us to perform in that environment. I'm completely comfortable with that, and I've done it many times before but Tim hadn't.
With you being comfortable, and Tim less so this reflected the experience of your characters in the film, didn't it?
Yeah, Michael's very clever.
What do you want an audience to take away from this film?
I think it's a film that stays with you. People are coming out and going 'wow', and want to see it again. I watched The Usual Suspects again the other night, and I've seen it so many times but I can keep watching it and notice different bits each time. This is the same, it really makes you think about things in society, your motivations, your relationships. But, if you want, you can also get lost in the love story.
Question & Answer Text Copyright Verve Pictures