Kieron Hawkes makes his directorial debut with new movie Piggy, which stars two of the most exciting British acting talents.
I caught up with the filmmaker to discuss the movie, working with Martin Compston and Paul Anderson and what lies ahead.
- Piggy has just been released into UK cinemas so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
It’s a revenge drama that is set in Camden in London. It’s about this downtrodden guy whose world collapses when his brother is murdered for nothing.
A friend of his brother’s comes to Joe and tells him that they should seek some kind of justice and so it’s about their journey that they go on and the morality of that journey.
- You penned the screenplay as well as directed so where did the idea for the movie come from? Which particular character or idea was the starting point for the screenplay?
It’s weird actually because I had written a number of screenplays that I couldn’t get funded, they were more relationship dramas; they were quite heavy but they weren’t violent or anything like that.
But this idea for the film came from me being frustrated about not being able to get movies made and so I looked at what sort of low budget movies were being made and a lot of them were quite violent.
So it formed from that and the character of Piggy came into my head, he is a character that you can almost hide behind because he can act out things that you would like to do.
It sort of stemmed from the frustration of not being able to shout a someone on the bus who has done something terrible or in a pub where someone has shouted at you and you can’t stand up for yourself because you don’t have the guts or whatever - so that is really where the character came from.
- Did you pen the screenplay with any particular actors in mind? Can you talk to me about the casting process?
No I just wrote the screenplay completely open as I find that it clouds me when I start thinking about actors to play roles. Because it was so well budget I didn’t know if it was going to get made or how it was going to go down so I wrote it really open.
I had written so many screenplays that hadn’t been funded that I didn’t really have high hopes of this every being made if I am being honest, so when the screenplay went out and I got the calibre of coming back saying they were interested I was blown away.
As soon as I saw Martin Compston down on the list of actors who were interested I was like ‘right, that’s it I want him’. We sort of struggled finding Piggy as I knew that it had the potential to be quite an iconic role.
There were some brilliant actor who came in, they really were exceptional, but there was something that just wasn’t quite clicking. Then Paul Anderson walked in and I was like ‘yeah we have found him’, I think that that was about a week and a half before we were due to start shooting.
- You have slightly touched on my next question really as you say Paul Anderson and Martin Compston take on the central roles of Piggy and Joe so what was it that you saw in these two actors, particularly Paul, that you thought would be great for the roles?
Firstly I knew that Martin was such a great actor and it’s one of those funny things as I have a lot of friends who are actors and I am amazed at how often they have to go and read and audition because you just need to look at their work.
When I met Martin it was never about auditioning him because I knew he could act but when he came in he just brought a vulnerability and intelligence to what is essentially a silent role for most of the movie.
Also the thing about Martin, which was very important, I was very much aware that I was a first time director and I have never carried an hour and a half narrative but on of the things about Martin is he had carried movies before and I knew that I needed to lean on that experience.
So he has this incredible vulnerability but a huge wealth of experience in filmmaking plus he is an exceptional on top of that.
Paul Anderson just came in as I said… by then I was a little bit like ‘I can’t quite find this character of Piggy I just can’t find him, and then Paul walked in and there was something about it. He didn’t know the script very well as he had only got it the day before but it just didn’t matter.
Then it was really the conversation we had after and we talked about the morality of the story and he was walking around the same idea that I had but in just a slightly different way, essentially it was the same idea and I was like ’this if the guy’.
- I had a chat with Martin last week and he said Paul's performance was the best performance that he had ever seen evolve in front of him so what was it like seeing him embody this character?
It was incredible! Because of the collaborative nature of the way that the three of us work it was incredible because one of us would have an idea and the other one would go off. Paul just brought so much to the table and it was exceptional to see him give so much.
What was magic, and this is something that no one will see which is a shame, but he almost gave me three different performances throughout the takes; he would give me a big performance a mid range performance and a more restrained performance - that is how in control of the character that he was.
Paul is an incredibly intelligent and creative actor and I think that that really shows in this film.
- And Martin called you a very collaborative filmmaker so how important is it to get an input from the actor?
It’s everything, it’s absolutely everything because in the end you can be as pyrotechnical as you want and that’s all fantastic but really the actors are the storyteller and it has to come from them.
I was very fortunate with Neil Maskell, Louise Dylan, Martin and Paul that I had exceptional actors that I was able to collaborate with.
- The movie is quite violent but a lot of the time the violence is played out on Joe's face rather than watching Piggy commit the act so why did you decide to shoot it this way?
I describe it first and foremost as a character study it is Joe’s perception of the world, that is really what the film is.
So it was important that we saw how he perceived what was going on - shooting something horrible and grotesque wasn’t the point because it can just become dismissible, what’s not dismissible is people’s reaction to something terrible.
Joe is the whole movie and it is very important to see his reaction to these terrible acts of violence.
- How have you personally found the response to the movie?
It is a very very strange thing as I have never done anything like this before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect but by and large it has been very positive.
It’s an extreme movie in some ways and it is not a comfortable watch, even I find it difficult to sit through sometimes as it is very intense.
I know that it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea so to be honest I am quite taken aback by the positive response to a very extreme piece of work.
- We are always hearing about how difficult it is to get movie project off the ground in the UK at the moment so what challenges did you face when trying to get this made?
We really did make this movie for no money, comparatively to low budget films we were even lower budget, this really was a very inexpensive movie and one thing I am most proud of is it doesn’t look like that.
So there were the challenges in raising the money but the producers were so good but once the ball started rolling and people agreed it was relatively straight forward.
- Finally what's coming up for you?
Next I am, thankfully, doing a very light comedy for Channel 4. It’s a very sweet comedy called the Mimic and it will be screened in November.
It stars an impressionist/comedian called Terry Mynott, Jo Hartley, who played the mum in This Is England, and Neil Maskell and it is written by Matt Morgan, who is a wonderful comedy writer.
So that’s the next thing and I am really pleased because I didn’t want to known for just brutal violence and hopefully people will see the brains behind violence and it’s not just me going mad and wanting to
Piggy is out now
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw