Your new movie Muse
- in a few words, what is it about?
Muse is about Harry Newman, a Stephen
King-esque author struggling with
writers block following the deaths of his wife and daughter. His agent
Mr Williams suggest he retreat to his country house in the South of
France to clear his head and whilst there he befriends a new neighbour
who bares an uncanny resemblance to his daughter - that friendship soon
turns to a distorted and perverse obsession and things spiral out of
control from there.
What were your
sources of inspiration when writing Muse,
and was any of this based on personal experience?
Originally, no, it wasn’t based on any personal experiences - it was
heavily influenced by Misery by Stephen King and also Secret
Window. It also draws on a lovely little short story called Whistle
and I'll Come to You by M R James. When I originally wrote
the first draft years back, the ending was a lot more sinister and
twisted. It went through various guises over the years; this movie has
been one of those projects that just gets stuck in 'development
hell’. Either the money would fall through or a member of cast would
hit the big time whilst we were trying to get things together and then
we couldn’t afford them. I was also busy off having children and
various projects came along. Then late last year we finally got the
film greenlit and my best friend had just passed away, whom the film
had originally been written for. He’d remained onboard as a
producer, as much as his health would allow, but sadly he never got to
see the finished product. But when writing the final shooting script,
it became a lot more about grief, and then twisted ending got removed. It
just felt right.
you've chosen a rather slowburn approach to horror - care to elaborate?
I think the last movie I saw before we shot (and I took several cast
and crew to see it multiple times before we started shooting) was Hereditary
and I adored it - it terrified me but I thought it was phenomenal
- that slow burning grief that takes centre stage - it's much more of a
psychological horror that really gets under your skin slowly - I’d
say its equal measures horror, thriller and drama.
was shot mostly in the South of France - so what were the
advantages but also challenges filming there?
The only challenge was it was terrifying at night - the top floor
hadn’t been refurbished and there was still German writing on the
walls from occupation during the war. We definitely slept with the
lights on - we were fortunate enough to all be able to stay at the
so there was a wonderful family atmosphere. Nicholas Ball would take
on the role of lighting the fire for us every lunch time - and opening
the bar - you’d come down and find another actor cleaning in their
pyjamas, etc - it was just a wonderful shoot - everyone got on, ate
together, laughed together.
Richard directs Jeffrey Charles Richards and
Since the locations play
such a big part in Muse,
did you write it with them already in mind, or did you have to scout for
them after the script was done?
After - absolutely. When I first conceived the idea, it was called Snow and
he retreated so his cabin in Norway where cabin fever set in. Then we
were planning to shoot in Pasadena, where we actually did shoot a
beautiful trailer that managed to get us greenlit. Then one day during
pre-production, I ended up reading a random article about a couple who
had restored a beautiful French Chateau. It just looked like it belonged
on screen so I contacted the couple and they told me to f**k off. So we
looked for other similar holiday rentals rather than via a location
agency and eventually found one, owned by an author no less - again, it
just seemed right, and then the final shooting script was polished with our
location in mind.
talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?
The lead is a wonderful man named Jeffrey Charles Richards, whom I met
when we shot a lovely little short film called In The Still Of The
Night with the intention of using it to raise the finance for
Muse. I’m sure there’s a clip from it on YouTube somewhere, if you
dig hard enough. Then we did a couple more shorts together, and he was
always there in the background, attached to this film that most of the
time, we felt was never going to happen - but he stayed with me
throughout even the most disheartening of times. Then we shot a proper
trailer for the film, then again, nothing happened for two years. By
the time the film was greenlit, it would have been inappropriate for
anyone else to have the role - he’d been living with this character
of Harry for so long, none of us could really picture anyone else
doing it. Above all though, he’s just a good man - the kind you want
to be godparent to your kids - I look forward to many more years of
friendship and movies with him, although I predict in a few years we
won’t be able to afford him - he really is tremendous - so I guess
the friendship will have to suffice.
Nick and I go back the best part of a decade now but I’d most
recently worked with Nicholas Ball (Lifeforce,
on my previous movie The Krays: Dead Man Walking and he
completely stole the show in that, so I had to have him again - he’s
so underrated, has such presence and a the most beautiful voice. I
wish he could read my children stories every night! He’s the kind of
actor who should really being showing up as the bad guy in an episode
of Ray Donovan or Game of Thrones - he’d have thrived
in something like Deadwood, so hopefully after a couple
more projects together, more people will take note - he deserves it.
Emily Price was, aside from a friendship with a lovely actress named
Rachel Warren, the only other good thing to come out of a shoot I was
working on up in Leicester last year - it was her first film gig and
she completely took my breath away - sometimes you just meet someone
and know they belong on the big screen. Her attitude was great, she
was incredibly down to earth, she was confident and I just kept
thinking ‘if you put this girl in a movie, there isn’t a man or
woman alive who won’t fall a little bit in love with her!’
Several months later I sent her the script for Muse,
fortunately for us, she said yes.
The two supporting roles were suitably filled by Kev Orkian, a
wonderfully talented man who I adore, we met, literally, over our
friend's deathbed, and again, it just felt right and I’m looking
forward to working more with him. The second is Lowri Watts-Joyce, who
although only in a small role, was good enough to convince us she’ll
be appearing in a much more prominent one in the next film. She’s
very young but is just a naturally gifted talent - I really like her
acting style - she’s one of those smart-arse kids who’s top of the
drama class, always has the lead role in the school play and knows
everyone's lines - not just hers - she was prompting everyone -
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
You’ll find it included with your Amazon Prime subscription today in
the US and the UK, followed by Japan and Germany next month. We’ve
also got some festival dates coming up and will share those on our
Instagram (@musemovie) as and when they come in.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of
We’ve had some very kind and flattering reviews and at a private
screening in January, the audience response was great - everyone
jumped when they were supposed to, laughed and cried when they were
Richard with Jeffrey Charles Richards
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
It’s all I ever wanted to do but I first really knew when my
grandmother took me on a holiday to Blackpool - we went to Granada
Studios on a day trip and did the backstage tour - I sat at this
editors desk and decided ’this is what I want to do with my life’
- my grandmother took a lovely photo of that moment, I have it on my
desk at home. Then when it came to GCSE’s, I took Media Studies and
followed that with a BTEC National Diploma in Media Studies and Film
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Muse? And as
far as I know, you reside in LA these days but make movies primarily in
the UK - care to explain?
My main background was post-production - I started as a runner in
various post houses - Cut & Run, Rushes, The Machine Room - it’s
strange now that when I was there, those places were taking over as
many buildings as they could, and now a decade later, they’re
downsizing, closed or moving out of Soho, it’s a shame. I’ve great
affection for Soho but apart from one or two remaining restaurants, I
barely recognise it - it’s terrible what they’ve done to Berwick
The first significant gig I had that changed it all was on a movie
called Rise of the Footsoldier as the assistant editor and
trailer editor. A couple of years after that I made a documentary and
a couple of independent films which never really got off the ground,
then I went to Los Angeles in 2013 for a meeting with an actor, and
completely fell in love with it - so I came home, packed and went
straight back. I met my wife, an immensely talented chef, and then I ran a film location agency for a while, which was a nice
way of being on a film set every day, but not having the
responsibility of it being your production - I’m about to expand
that to the UK - I love architecture so combined with the film aspect,
it’s a really rewarding and enjoyable job. It was a nice way to keep
my toe in the water whilst I took a few years off pursuing film to
have kids - three wonderful boys, whom their very patient and
beautiful mother definitely and unquestionably deserves all there
So it wasn’t so much a choice to only shoot in London but live in
America so much as the natural order of things. I alway love shooting
in the UK - you can just get on and do it, partly thanks to the
incredibly skilled crews we have - in the US, people just talk about
doing things for so long and never actually do it. Unless you’re
Marvel or Disney, it’s very hard to get things started. You can get
tied up by unions and red tape and there’s so many hoops to jump
Nicholas Ball and Lowri Watts-Joyce in Whatever
Became Of Richard Blaine?
future projects you'd like to share?
We’ve just finished post-production on a short film called Whatever
Became Of Richard Blaine?, which also stars Nicholas and
Lowri - it’s kind of a precursor to one of two features I have
in development that’s called Life & Other Times. The
other is called His Last Stand.
We’re about to shoot a horror movie, Baba Yaga, over
in Los Angeles. It follows a successful film producer, who’s
daughter was abducted by her mother at birth. Thirteen years
later, he’s reunited with her, but something sinister follows
her home - it’s been described as Mama meets The
Orphan, which again is flattering. I’m excited to
shoot it in LA - when we finished the screenplay, it just
didn’t feel right to compromise on shooting in Los Angeles when
the story pays homage to so many iconic locations.
Then it’s back to London to film gangsters swearing and shooting
at each other - a film called The Hunt, an
adaptation of short story called The Most Dangerous Game by
Richard Connell - with two really great names we’re excited to
announce soon - that one would be described as Sleuth
meets Death Trap but with heavily armed gangsters.
I’ve also just started work on a book which will be out next
year and I'm in the process of expanding the portfolio of
locations we represent over in England.
Richard with Jeffrey Charles Richards and
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
I like the way Crissy Rock said it - she compared my director's
approach as reminding her of Ken Loach. That meant a lot.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
David Slade is an incredible director, both in his film work and
Of all time? Casablanca - the ultimate Hollywood great that
defies Hollywood convention - he doesn’t get the girl - but he loves
her - he understands loving her means wanting the best for her, even
if that means not being with him. I could watch it over and over, and
always make the pilgrimage to see it whenever it plays at The Prince
Charles Cinema. That aside, Edward Scissorhands, Hard Candy and
little known film called Lawn Dogs. As we delve further
into horrors, I’ve found myself watching them in abundance - last
year I loved Hereditary, Get Out and Halloween.
... and of course, films you really
I watch a lot of films - I try to give as much as I can a fair
hearing, even if I’ve heard its terrible, because there’s always
something you can learn - be it something you should do, or shouldn’t.
But if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
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My personal Instagram is @fatherandfilmmaker and you can follow the
progress of Muse and our future films by following @musemovie
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
I must thank a few people, for their unfaltering support, or I
wouldn’t be able to do what I do - the mother of my kids, who
deserves the world but puts up with me instead, my kids for giving me
the reason to never give up, our composer and my favourite
collaborator Craig Gannon, and of course Richard, Rhian and Mark who
made Muse finally possible.
Thanks for the interview!