John Cameron Mitchell talks us through the making of punk sci-fi drama How To Talk To Girls at Parties...
It’s Neil Gaiman season at the moment with both big and small screens adaptations.
Things are gearing up for the second run of his epic fantasy American Gods, Good Omens, his whimsical work with Terry Pratchett about the devil and the end of the world, is heading for our screens next year, while Lucifer, his creation for DC Comics, is going from strength to strength on TV, while long-awaited adaptations of Sandman and The Graveyard Book are in development.
Joining the party, quite literally, this week is How To Talk To Girl At Parties. Adapted from Gaiman’s 2006 short story, the film stars Elle Fanning, Alex Sharp, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Matt Lucas and Joanna Scanlan, with Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch director John Cameron Mitchell taking charge.
Set in 1977 at the height of punk rock, the film follows Fanning's Zan, an alien touring the galaxy who breaks away from her group and meets Enn (Alex Sharp) and Vic (Abraham Lewis), two young inhabitants of the most dangerous place in the universe: the London suburb of Croydon...
As the film comes to DVD shelves, we spoke to Cameron Mitchell about how it came to the big screen...
How did you first get involved with the project?
“It started with Howard Gertler, my producing partner. He read the story and secured the rights and then he started working with a writer Philippa Goslett. Eventually, the pair of them seduced me to come onboard, like a lover, they pursued me. I wasn’t too sure at first, but they won me around and I soon fell in love with the project. It took us a little while to get the financing, but then this isn’t the most sellable of movies...”
How involved was Neil?
“He sort of checked in every year or so and he’d given us the outline parameters of the story, but he wasn’t around too much. He was more of a benevolent godfather to us, but he did give me some parameters with the story, how to extrapolate the work.”
What was your take on the film? What ultimately attracted you to it?
“To me, it’s a film about a lot of things. When you’re in love, everyone feels like an alien, it’s that a strong a feeling. It’s also about parenthood and motherhood, a sense of family.”
How was the film to cast? Did you get everybody you wanted?
“We got everybody we wanted. Elle was our first choice and she was incredible, I really think she’s going to be one of our great screen actresses, she has so much presence. We did a huge search for Enn and we couldn’t find anyone, then I met Alex at the Tonys. We happened to have both won and we got to talking. The others were quite simple, Ruth (Wilson), Nicole (Kidman), Matt (Lucas), are all friends. I got very lucky.”
You ended up filming a lot in Sheffield, why did you decide to shoot there?
“It was partly out of necessity. A lot of London doesn’t look old enough to recreate the locations. Sheffield was two-thirds of the shoot, that’s basically the outside world. The house itself, where the party happens, that’s actually in Ham. It was an amazing find.”
Was it a challenging shoot?
“There were days when it was so cold, though it didn’t rain the whole time we were working. There were difficult days, I remember shooting in this block of flats, the kind that you could imagine a junkie living in and lying down for a nap, just to get some sleep in. We worked long, long days…”
How did you find working in the UK?
“I loved it. My mother is from the UK, I spent a time living in Scotland so it was wonderful to come back and make a film here. I had a huge amount of fun.”