We caught up with Rez Kempton to chat about his new movie Amar Akbar & Tony, a film that he has just completed work on.
The film sees him team up with director Atul Malhotra while Karen David and Martin Delaney are also on the cast list.
He chatted about the film, working with the first time director and what lies ahead.
- You are currently working on Amar Akbar & Tony so can you tell me a little bit about the film?
The film is a British comedy/drama; there are elements of both in it as there are in real life. When the director first spoke to me about the project said that it is a realistic film and I certainly feel that we have captured that in that it is a very British story.
It is set in London in a diverse community that sees multicultural backgrounds living side by side. The story follows three friends who have grown up together; one is a Sikh, one is a Muslim and the other is an Irish Catholic but they all live in London. It follows their journey into adulthood.
- You take on the role of Amar in the film so how did you get on board this film? And what was it about Atul Malhotra's script that really drew you to the project?
I think was the first time I had read a script that was a British film but it wasn’t in the gangster mould; we have been making a lot of those films of late. We have made successful films like East Is East and Bend It Like Beckham and they deal with certain issues about what it is like to be Asian.
What was great about Atul’s script is that it reflected my own experiences of growing up in this country having been born here. There lots of different mixes of people living together side by side and are just getting on with lives with no issues with what their cultures are.
This movie celebrates different cultures. Tony is a white Irish Catholic but he enjoys hanging out with these two guys that come with different cultures and backgrounds.
Yes we have other issues problems but on the whole we do get on and we all face the same issues; such as dream and aspirations and how we get the girl of our dreams. So I thought that it was a very universal story.
- As I said you take on the role of Atul in the film so what sort of journey do we see this character go on throughout this film?
These three friends and in a lot of ways they are alike but they are also quite different. I saw Amar in Atul’s film as the guy who has come from a traditional record; his father runs a restaurant.
When you come to a country you want to do well and you want your kids to do better and I think that was encapsulated in what Amar does; he wants to be a lawyer and break from the family tradition and make his family proud.
I think that he does have that weighing on him - not from the family but his own sense of who he wants to be and the goals that he wants to achieve. Amar is very much a guy who wants to the right thing.
- You have just finished shooing s how was your filming experience?
It has been amazing. We were so lucky to have a fantastic cast. The bond between the three friends existed from day one and I really felt me, Sam (who plays Akbar) and Martin (who plays Tony) are going to be good friends; me and Martin have got really close and I feel like he is my long lost brother.
We wrapped yesterday and Karen David - who is flying back to LA - was like ‘I am really going to miss you; I have never felt so much part of a family’. I think that our producer Victoria and Atul put together a great team and we really do feel like a family and we were genuinely sad yesterday.
- Atul Malhotra is in the director's chair make his feature film directorial debut so how are you finding working with him?
Really good. I have done a short project with him before and I think that we he has shot two ads together as well. So I did know him a bit before we started working on this.
He is very much a film person and he is always talking about different film influences; Martin Scorsese has had a huge influence on him.
He also borrows from European cinema as he talks about French cinema and Italian cinema as well as Indian films from yesteryear; Amar Akbar & Tony is a nod to a seventies Bollywood movie called Amar Akbar Anthony.
- You have worked with Atul before so how collaborative a filmmaker is he with his actors?
Really good as he gave us a lot of options to develop our characters. Because we are not a big budget film we didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time, we only had a week or so, when we got all of the cast together.
He did say that wanted to hear our ideas and what we bring to it and share those ideas - when you are on set you don’t have as much time to collaborate and share ideas and so you need someone who has strong leadership skills to say ‘this is what we are going to do so let’s get it done’.
He certainly has a good marriage of both; he is a really likeable guy and yet he knows in his head what he wants to do and every now and again when you see the monitor you really see his vision come to life as his shots just look amazing.
Our DOP is just amazing; I think that they have worked together on other projects but this is the first feature film that he is DPing. You can see that they have definitely worked together before.
It is importing that you DOP and your director speak the same language as they have got to communicate quickly about the vision that they are trying to create. So they definitely had that and that chemistry was so important.
- Talking about the collaboration between actor and director how important is for you as an actor? And how rare is it to have a director that is so open and collaborative with you?
Generally directors know that they do need to do that otherwise there is a school of thought that you could just work with a model and tell them what to do, where to stand and what to say. Acting is an organic… you have to feel that is right as well sometimes if they are saying ‘can you move here and say this?’
As a character when you are playing it you can sometimes feel ‘well I wouldn’t do that. I would wait and see what happens and then move in’.
So it is a two way process; sometimes it just looks right for the shot and you have to trust your director that what they are asking for you will work. But you have also got to feel comfortable that you can say ‘I don’t feel this is working for me. Can we look at it in a different way?’
Atul definitely has that and he listens to you and he wants you to feel alright too. At the end of the shot he will look up and say ‘did that feel ok for you?’ And it is so great to have that as an actor as this is a creative process and you want to feel like you are inputting to that as well.
Yes it is the director’s vision and he or she will shape the film but, as an actor, you are bringing so much of yourself to that you feel that your input has to feel right. I think personally that actors can read if an actor is not comfortable with something that they have been asked to do.
- You made you directorial debut on a TV project last year and you have done some producing in the past so how do you find working behind the camera?
That is really where I started and I would make films with a friend that I grew up with. We would always go and watch movies such as E.T. and Indiana Jones and Star Wars and they inspired us to go off and make our own films.
We would trundle off to the park or the forest and be our friends to be baddies and heroes and make our own films with this video camera. From that age I just thought it was amazing to share and tell stories.
What I liked about film is that it is such a collaborative ensemble where everyone has to work together; it’s like a machine and if one cog doesn’t work then the whole thing doesn’t work.
So you really do have to have that family feel and I really enjoy that about film and about how film works.
- Now that you have had a taste of the director's chair is it something that you have any plans to do again?
It was something that I did enjoy. I wouldn’t say that I am a technical director but what I did feel that I could bring as a director was being able to work with the actors because I am an actor myself and I understand the process and what they need. Then having a good crew around me to help me with the technical aspect.
Different directors so work in different ways; the very first director that I worked with on a feature was very much about working with the actors and filling in back-story and bringing that through.
Some directors that I have worked with are very technical and will say ‘I trust you. You are the actor you know the acting aspect while I am going to be say behind here doing the shorts and working out how I am going to tell the story’.
Everyone does bring different aspects and I certainly like getting in there and working with actors and trusting the clever technical to be able to provide the vision that I want.
- Throughout you career you have moved between TV and film so what are the major differences between the two mediums? Do you have a preference?
I can tell you straight off that film is my passion. As a kid those are the things that inspire you and give a bigger vision. TV is smaller and in people’s houses and it is a different kind of medium.
There is so much pressure and difficulty to raise money to make a film - especially in Britain - and there are lots of great filmmakers with lots of great script that they are trying to get made and financed. The passion that a filmmaker has to get his project off the ground - sometimes they are running around with that script for five to ten years - so they really really want to do it.
TV is a different medium because it is led by the networks and corporations and they have to consider advertising. So the material that you get in TV and film is quite different. TV gets great drama; we are so lucky here in Britain with the like of Sherlock in recent years.
But a filmmaker has a passion to make a project means that they are out there raising money long before our actors get involved. I just so admire their passion and dedication to that project. Because I grew up watching films and making film I do lean towards film.
- Finally what is next for you going through the rest of this year?
I did a film called Chakara, which we shot in India, and they are in the post production phase at the moment. Also I am working with a director at the moment and she is writing her script. We worked shopped it before I started working on Amar Akbar & Tony.
She is writing it at the moment; she got actors together to workshop it and now she is writing it. She will be doing a workshop again in August when she has finished the script and we are hoping to start shooting in September/October.
That is certainly a different project to this and I am really intrigued to see what she comes up with. She is a first time filmmaker director - she has made short films before.
It was a very diverse group of actors that she brought together and I am really interested in some of the ideas that we work-shopped. So I am really intrigued by that but she has come up with as she hasn’t really given us a lot back yet.