Harry Macqueen • Director of Supernova
“It’s about documenting intimacy”
by Kaleem Aftab
- We met up with Harry Macqueen to talk about his new film, Supernova, starring Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth as ageing lovers on a road trip
Harry Macqueen’s second film, Supernova [+see also:
interview: Harry Macqueen
film profile], starring Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth as ageing lovers facing their own mortality, is playing in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival. We talked to the British director about his superb cast, road movies – and beds.
Cineuropa: Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth are such great casting. How did you get them on board?
Harry Macqueen: We sort of found Stanley first. We got the script to Stanley, and he responded to it really warmly immediately, which was incredible to hear. Then he watched my earlier film, Hinterland [+see also:
film profile], and then we met and hung out for a bit. Very quickly, he put his cards on the table and said, “Look, I'd really like to do this project.” The thing for us when we were casting was always to try to get two actors, if we could, that had a history together already, because the film is a pretty intimate two-hander. And that chemistry is what the feature lives and dies on. We got really lucky in that respect because, once he’d said he wanted to do it, Stanley said, “Look, can we talk about who I would be playing opposite? I don't really do this, but I'm best mates with Colin. And I could get the script to him.” Obviously, I said, “Yes please. That'd be great.” And he said, “Good, because I gave it to him yesterday, and he loves it.” So, it was a bit of a stitch-up, really.
And the choice of Dick Pope as cinematographer – was that also to give a feeling of familiarity?
The interesting thing is that the first job I got when I came out of drama school was this Richard Linklater film called Me and Orson Welles [+see also:
film profile]. I had this tiny part in it, and most of my lines were cut. But either way, I spent around five weeks on the Isle of Man working on the film, and Dick shot it. And this was like 12 or 13 years ago. But I remembered thinking how nice it was working with him and Richard Linklater: they were so chilled out and so lovely. And then, when we were thinking about cinematographers for this, the thing about Dick is that he is obviously technically incredible, but also, as he demonstrates with his work with Mike Leigh, he's so adept at seeking out uninhibited performances. He knows where to put the camera to avoid getting in the way of the rawness of those performances.
It’s so unusual to see road movies in the tradition of British film, yet you have now done two. Why is that?
We don't really do road movies in the UK very much. I think that’s for two reasons: firstly, it's a small country when you compare it to America. And secondly, cars aren't such a big thing for us as they are in the USA. So, I felt it would be interesting to set it up as a kind of “generic road movie”, let’s say, and then try and pervert that and make it take place within the idiosyncrasies of modern-day Britain. In general, I'm not really interested in road movies, even though I've now made two of them. But the sense that the characters are on literal and emotional journeys, that sense of propulsion, that travelling through space, is all inherently really cinematic.
There are a lot of beds in this film? Why?
I rewatched it the other day, having not seen it for a few months, and I suddenly realised that. Maybe I had realised it before, too, but it seemed a bit irrelevant at the time. They're in bed a lot in the film. It's about documenting intimacy, and there is no place more intimate than a bed, probably. It feels fun to see them in different beds – ones that they own and ones that don't fit in. It felt quite playful to do that.
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