Movie Feature by Susan Hodgetts
With director Roger Michell, writer Hanif Kureishi and actors Anne Reid and Daniel Craig
Anne Reid has something in common with her character's dilemma in Roger Michell's THE MOTHER. She also lost her husband, a rather "strong character," a few years ago but emerged feeling more assured than ever before: "I've never played a character I've felt so close to me."
But wasn't it hard doing sex scenes with a man 30 years her junior?
"I did have concerns about the nudity," says Reid. "I always vowed I wouldn't take my clothes off but this is the best part I've ever been offered. My son rang me the night before the nudity scene and I cried on the phone to him and got very drunk. Daniel [Craig] has done thousands of sex scenes so he was totally unfazed. I didn't want to look ugly. I do look terrible in it, but if I'd looked fantastic it wouldn't have been the same."
"It's best to be very clear weeks before about what we're going to be doing," chimes in Michell, the film's director. "So we prepared it shot by shot with which bits of body would go where and which bits to camera so people would know the boundaries for that shot. We were all nervous about it. When the day came about half way through there were loads of men with cameras about. Daniel grasped her by the hips and she said "This is what I invited you all here for." She had such courage and humour about it."
"Daniel looked after me," says Reid.
"We were all very sensitive," adds Craig. "Anne cracking a joke broke the ice, we trusted one another."
"If I'd once had doubts I'd have gone to pieces. I've never had the lead before, but Roger filled me with such confidence."
"We had Joan Collins lined up just in case," quips Hanif Kureishi, THE MOTHER'S screenwriter and acclaimed novelist.
Expanding on how he came up with the idea for THE MOTHER, Kureishi explains "I was at a restaurant with my mother, and we were served by this Indian waiter. She said "Ooh he's got lovely hands," and I remember thinking "That's a bit fruity, mother, but you always liked Indians." And then it occurred to me that she wouldn't have any more physical relationships. I wanted to write the story of a woman who didn't accept that, and also two women who were dealing with their pasts in a therapy culture."
Michell and Kureishi worked on the script for 18 months and once Roger had finished CHANGING LANES with Samuel L Jackson and Ben Affleck the pair found a window to do the movie and, what's more, they knew they could make it cheaply.
"But it was a tougher sell than we'd imagined," says Kevin Loader, producer of the film. "We had to fight hard to maintain creative control, and so we returned to the BBC, who were fabulous - we only had a television budget."
"I like working with Hanif," says Michell. "I felt a strange pull to this script. I like the way Hanif sees the world slightly differently, and in a bleak way. We deal with one of the few remaining taboos, and that's part of what the film is for. It's like Pygmalion, someone is reborn during the film, kind of like the Ready Brek Glo man."
Reid interjects "And we're hoping we can stop making sandwiches in the kitchen and minding the grand kids. Middle aged women are starting to shout more about good roles now."
"I can't think why that would be," says Kureishi, "but as a writer I just look for bits of a world that are prohibited. You look for difficult things to do and write about, like can I get inside this woman's head? But you have to leave a space for the actors, you need them to bring themselves and their own ideas for the characters to make it work. [The work] doesn't belong to you anymore though, and you realise you're the only person on the film set who doesn't have a job!"
Didn't you want to make the young characters more likeable? "I wanted to make them pre-occupied. It is awkward if you have parents to stay. What do you owe them? It's very complicated. There's so much feeling there, not because you don't like them, but because there's so much emotion. I wanted to write about the difficulties between adults. There's no drama or tension if all the characters are too nice."
Reid also turned down a part in this year's other most famous Brit nude film CALENDAR GIRLS (we Brits will have to be careful not to lose our prized reputation as prudes) having got both offers in the same week, making it impossible for her to do both. She's disappointingly been cut from the forthcoming Richard Curtis movie, LOVE ACTUALLY, although her scenes will be featured on the DVD, in which she frolicks with Frances de la Tour - "she's not half as sexy as Daniel Craig."
Yet the idea of her romps with Craig seem to have shocked more: Reid proceeds to describe how a woman at a screening of THE MOTHER in Paris reacted. "Apparently what she said translated as "Women in their 60's don't do this!" I told them to tell her "In England they do it all the time!" I did a lot of research and found that the biggest fear for these women was taking their clothes off in front of a younger man."
On the flipside, the "younger man" had a bit of fear too. "I had an initial fear about the role of Darren because these people were so nasty and the subject matter was very difficult, although very important."
"You were so brave!" Reid interjects.
"No you were!" insists Craig. I just wanted to make it real. I'd forgotten it was shocking afterwards. There were so many other important things in the film such as the break up of family, lack of communication."
"It's mostly young women who are shocked by it," says Kureishi.
"And the fact that she could let down her daughters is what they find most shocking," continues Craig.
"I didn't feel I was letting them down, [Paula] has got years to find beautiful young men, and she did say she was giving him up anyway," argues Reid.
Conversely enough, Reid has nearly finished filming a television series with Caroline Quentin called LIFE BEGINS, whilst Michell and producer Kevin Loader are currently shooting ENDURING LOVE, also starring Daniel Craig. Kureishi, meanwhile, declares cheerfully "I'm out of work! So if you know anyone...." He does mention, however, that he is working on adapting his novel "The Body" from last year.
And as the interview closes Reid declares wide eyed "fanmail? Do you think so? I'll let you know!"