Song for Marion is out in UK cinemas today and what feels like a long time ago, I sat down with writer / director Paul Andrew Williams on the set of the movie to discuss where the idea for the movie and how it materialised into a feature-length film. Paul has previously directed London to Brighton, Cherry Tree Lane which are both fabulous but hard-to-watch films. Song for Marion goes in a very different direction but which is guaranteed to make you cry looking at what can happen when a grumpy old man finds himself in a situation where his world is about to be turned upside-down by the terminal illness of his long-term wife.
Song for Marion stars Terrence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Eccleston Gemma Arterton and is guaranteed to make you cry. Our review is up here and you can read my great and frank interview with Director Paul Andrew Williams below. You can also read our interview with Gemma Arterton here.
Please note this interview contains swearing.
HeyUGuys: Song for Marion has been on the go for a little while, where did the story come from initially?
Paul Andrew Williams: I pitched the idea very quickly to the BBC. I had this idea about this old man joining a choir, his wife was poorly and just what would make him (this miserable old shit) join a choir, express himself and do silly things and what makes someone change and do that. That’s where it came from plus based on my grandparents; my Gran died of cancer so there’s personal elements in it. It was trying to write a story that had some element of it being uplifting and happy but also sort of having the reality of certain situations in it.
Song for Marion has been in Production for quite a long while, how have you got to the point of production and how has that journey been?
Since I got commissioned to write it, I’ve made two other films. It got commission to write it at the end of 2006 and it’s just been a process of leaving one company, going to another company, having people really interested in doing it, it’s been up and down. Then this year, we thought it was going to be going in January so many times I’ve thought we can’t do it any more, just burn it, but it’s been quite tough getting this together, considering it was one of my most popular scripts.
The cast is fabulous, two legend veteran actors in Terrence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave and Gemma Arterton who’s very much up and coming, how did you go about getting them?
They’re all very different in what they want from me in terms of director. Most of the time, nots are very small because they’re good and know what they’re doing. I guess there was an element of being daunted because of who these actors are. We had no time to rehearse with any of them and you realise when people are very good at what they do, it really shows. There’s been moments of it being really hard and moments of it being really great so much like every other film I’ve done.
The thing is, what you get on screen is what counts. If it’s really easier for me, I’m not doing lots of takes because I don’t feel like I need to, or I’m not doing loads of coverage because I don’t really need to, so it’s an element of being like “yeah the performances are great” so I don’t have to worry too much about them.
Do you ever look at your cast and feel daunted?
They’re all fucking good actors and Gemma is absolutely amazing. Really down to earth but fucking smart, really smart. She’s done some big Hollywood movies but she’s actually a really solid actress. She’s beautiful and a really really good actress.
We’re up in Durham at the moment for filming, why Durham?
There was some financing that came from Durham and when you get financing, it usually entails you spending a certain amount of money there. It’s been really great aside from the weather, where it’s been horrible.
Has that been a big problem while shooting?
That’s been the main difficulty, the rain and clouds. One minute it can be bright sunshine and then the twenty minutes later it’s pissing it down. That’s been the biggest headache.
Today we’re on set and you’ve got a nice big house that you’ve built in a gym in a school, what’s it like when you walk in?
I actually drew the set, badly but have always had an idea of what I wanted the set to be. I’ve never really had a set built before so the fact that we’ve got that and it is actually how I imagined it because I said to them, “I want a room like that and this is the layout”, and it’s been done like that, they’ve done such a great job. In a way it’s quite weird seeing something that you had in your head.
What’s your favourite thing about being a Director?
You know what, I ask myself why I put myself through continued stress and honestly, I have no idea! It’s so fucking stressful. The other day, I had this shot, where it was like “fuck that’s good” I had it in my head where we do it and it comes off and looked good. But there are times when you do that and it’s terrible. There are times when it’s a good laugh with the crew however it’s so stressful, it induces tears often just because you’ll always find it’s not easy in any way. I’d advise anyone who comes into this industry that you need to have staying power, because it’s not easy in any way. Things falling out literally last minute.
In terms of work, there are loads of jobs that are harder. I think it’s just that you hear the word “no”, or “I’m sorry this isn’t going to work” and you know when you’ve finished this that you’re going to get the whole world looking at it either saying “that’s really good” or, “that’s shit”. And then you’re like “oh, man, I can’t do it any more” but the thing is if you care about it, you care about film or you care whatever then you want to be involved in it in some way. This is my fourth film in five year so in a way I’m very lucky and I do understand that but it does take it’s toll and everyone assumes you’re loaded living the life of Riley.
What can we expect from you next?
There’s a period drama that I’m attached to which hasn’t been announced yet….
Song for Marion (or Unfinished Song if you’re in the US) is released in UK cinemas today. Here’s our review.