With The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks director John Lee Hancock has made something of a cottage industry out of the Hollywood historical drama. His three US-based post-WWII films, based on real events and people, have the human element firmly at their centre. However, in common with his semi-biopic of Walt Disney, the initial construction of huge machines of industry are a common theme.
In taking on The Founder, the story of how businessman Ray Kroc took the McDonalds brothers’ fast food chain to global status, Hancock told James Kleinmann the grey moral areas of the title character were irresistible,
“I’d never read a script where I was actively rooting for someone and then actively rooting against them. It was unique in that way. It fascinated me.”
In focusing on the main character of Kroc Hancock explained how he worked with Michael Keaton (see our interview with the actor here) to render the character with the correct about of humanity,
“We talked a lot about it being a Rorschach test for the viewer. Some people might say, ‘Well he did what he had to do…’ and others might say ‘He’s a monster…’ We talked a lot about being fair, about being accurate. It doesn’t mean shining a harsh light, or a positive light – it means being fair to the character and to the story.”
During the conversation the gloomy shadow of President Trump loomed for a moment, and parallels between Ray Kroc’s version of ‘Fake News’ played into the story.
“One of the things we’re keenly aware of now is branding of business, and if you look back I think Ray may have been the first one to do that. He had an understanding that, not only were the golden arches a great iconography…but that the name, the McDonalds name, had branding value. Obviously we have a President… who does a lot with branding value and name branding – there are certain parallels.”
The Founder is out in UK cinemas on the 17th of February.