Your new movie The
Cunning Man - in a few words, what is it about?
film tells the story of an elderly and mysterious farmer who drifts
through the Welsh valleys collecting dead animals. Nobody knows why or
what he is up toÖ
Cunning Man is inspired by real-life physician and "cunning
man" John Harries - so what can you tell us about him, and what
attracted you to his story in the first place?
he was a healer and used modern medicine, he also used folklore magic
and so was feared just as much as he was admired. This really interested
sources of inspiration when writing The
film poses the question: should animals be a regarded as a commodity? In
the ritual scene where Afran recites an incantation from his book of
spells in Welsh, he is in fact reciting the five key rights of animals
as laid out in the EU Lisbon Treaty.
How much research did you do on the
magical side of your movie?
hobby is the history of magic so I guess Iíve spent about thirty years
reading about mystery!
How did the project come
together in the first place?
collaborator ZoŽ Dobson [ZoŽ
Dobson interview - click here] said ĎI have an image of a mysterious
man, walking down a country lane, holding a dead dog... Why?í It
really just snowballed from there.
What were the challenges of
bringing The Cunning Man
to the screen from a producer's point of view?
far the hardest aspect was assembling a pile of taxidermy animals. You
soon find out that stuffed sheep cost a lot more than Britainís
premiere acting talent!
play one of the leads in The
Cunning Man - so what can you tell us about your character, and
have you written the Knackerman with yourself in mind from the get-go?
Knackerman deals in, and profits from, death; collecting carcasses to
take to government-approved incinerators. To him, all animals have a
price on their backs. After I finished the second draft I thought I
could embody the Knackerman so from there I tweaked him with my own
quirks in mind, although he was loosely based on a real Knackerman that
talk about the rest of your cast, and as writer and producer, did you have
any say in terms of your co-stars?
to time constraints, I called every agent I knew and pretty much cast
the film. The barmaid played by Charlotte Jo Hanbury is a great comedy
actress who I have known for several years so I knew she would perform
her lines exquisitely. As for Ian Kelly who plays the Inspector and
Simon Armstrong who plays the Cunning Man, I saw self- tapes and
immediately knew they were perfect.
What can you tell us
about your director ZoŽ Dobson [ZoŽ
Dobson interview - click here], and what was your collaboration with her
is a friend of mine. We have known each other for maybe twenty years but
never really worked together (although I once presented a kidís TV
pilot for her) She works in factual TV and with my own background it was
a great mix of different skills. She was excellent in the edit. Her
hobby is visiting art galleries which gives her films a strong visual
look inspired by her favourite artists.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the
were sponsored by Arri and Pinewood Studios for lighting and were
allowed the kit for two days. This meant we had to be super-organised -
we were after all shooting with live sheep, pigs and chickens! As a
result, we had a solid shot list which meant no one was stressed at all.
In fact, Simon who played Afran said it was his favourite shoot of all
The $64-question of course, where can
The Cunning Man be
doing really well on the festival circuit and can be seen at various
upcoming film festivals including Norwich Film Festival (UK), Abertoir
Film Festival (UK), and will be having its Australian premiere at
Melbourne Lift Off Film Festival!
Anything you can tell us about audience and
critical reception of The
far, the reception has been fantastic having won 8 or so awards and a
series of five-star reviews. One thing I am particularly proud of is we
have appealed to both genre festivals and art house drama festivals as
the film highlights the bleak reality of being a farmer and poses the
questions about the rights of animals.
Any future projects you'd like to
written a feature film, a folk horror called The Grimoire Ė itís
about a mysterious and real book on witchcraft written in medieval
in a slightly different direction, Iíve written a comedy about a new
age book centre and the colourful characters such places attract. Iím
aiming to make this into a short film with a view to pitching it as a TV
From what I know, before you've started out as an
actor you were a professional magician - so what can you tell us about
that aspect of your career, and to what extent does your being a magician
influence your acting (and vice versa)?
been a professional magician for twenty years and when a magic show is
done really well, it gives the audience a sense of astonishment and a
real feeling of wonder. I like to try and transfer that feeling of
wonder from a live show on to film.
What got you
into acting eventually, and did you receive any formal training on the
have performed stand-up comedy for years and a young director (Andrew
Saunders) saw me on stage. At the time he was studying with Stephen
Frears and asked me to play a bully in his short. It is the best thing I
have ever done. Since then I have studied with Dee Cannon, the
of Drama at RADA.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior
to The Cunning Man?
am probably best known for my role as Sgt Paul McMellon in the BAFTA
nominated and BIFA award winning Kajaki. I was recently in the political
to Fake a War alongside Katherine Parkinson and Once
Upon a Time in London which is currently streaming
on Netflix in the UK.
would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to
bring your characters to life?
an actor, I just try and leave the stage with some dignity!
(and indeed actresses) who inspire you?
main inspiration is Steve Martin, he started out working in a magic shop
in Disneyland and ended up becoming a movie star.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
grew up watching a lot of David Lynch so I love the idea of keeping the
audience unnerved and on edge.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Maybe Frozen -
I love the film but my daughters watch it over and over again. Theyíre
always singing Ďlet it go, let it go.í Iím like ĎWhy donít you
let it go?í
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for the interview!