The IFA presents an interview with Jeremey
Brock from the film Driving Lessons.
Jeremy Brock Gives Driving Lessons
by Lisa Johnson
It isn t everyday that a first-time feature director
gets to work with his absolute dream cast, but
Jeremy Brock, who was able to snare multiple-Oscar
nominees Julie Walters and Laura Linney, along with
Harry Potter s Rupert Grint, for his semi-
autobiographical film Driving Lessons, was able to do
A graduate of the BBC s director s course, Brock is
known for his screenwriting skills, having penned
acclaimed films such as Mrs. Brown, Charlotte Gray,
Faith, The Last King of Scotland and a new version
of Brideshead Revisited. Still, the very tender film
Driving Lessons was his first stint in the director s
chair, and he recently sat down with IFA to chat
about some of the projects blessings, and curses.
IFA: You wrote the script from personal
didn t you?
Brock: I did, I did. It s based on an
experience I had
as a youngster when I was working for Dame Peggy
Ashcroft. I lived for six months in her basement and
cleaned for her, and we developed a really sweet
friendship. I wanted to try and find a way of
fictionalizing that relationship, as well as writing
about my experience of British suburbia, so I just kind
of put the two together.
IFA: You wrote this almost six years ago.
it feel to finally give birth to this baby?
Brock: It feels great actually it feels really
I ve got a fantastic team. I ve got Julie Walters and
Rupert Grint from Harry Potter, and Laura Linney,
who is the indy queen here. As a first time director,
to have actors of that caliber was a joy, and to see
my writing being played by them was fantastic.
IFA: How were you able to assemble such a
Brock: It s a very strange business when
casting, and as a new director I didn t know how it
worked. But you have your wish list, and then you
send the script out. And I was lucky that Julie read
the script and kind of got it, and saw that there was
a really good opportunity for her. Once Julie was
attached, there s a different kind of vibe.
With Laura, I had wanted to work with her for a
while, but I was worried about the accent. I
shouldn t have been. Because, in fact, I flew out to
New York after she read the script. She liked it. I
very timorously said, Well, maybe there s an issue
with the accent? Then she just delivered a perfect
series of accents, from Southern American to West
Coast to East Coast, and I just realized that it was
never going to be a problem.
IFA: Laura Linney was an interesting choice,
an American in a very British role. Why?
Brock: Because my primary concern was
I ve always felt that Laura has this extraordinary
transparency, this kind of ability to tell the story with
her face, really quickly. And the part of the mother is
a very difficult part, because she s not on camera a
lot, but she s got to impact. You ve got to feel like
this woman is an extremely controlling, but very
attractive, charismatic woman who this boy has to
escape from. I just feel like the moment you put the
camera on Laura, you are completely transfixed. And
she understood that she was playing the baddie.
IFA: Casting Rupert Grint was a stroke of
because he has such a huge following from Harry
Potter, especially among young teenage girls. I
understand the big kissing scene required a little
Brock: The boy s a star. But here s the
thing: I have
a 17-year-old guy with a huge following, but he s
very shy, and very modest. So I had this grand idea
that I was going to do an all-in-one shot, this big
kissing scene. So I set it up, and I said to
Rupert, We re going to hold this shot for a long
time. And because he s a shy and sweet guy, he
kind of pecked away at the girl and then he pulled
back. I m afraid I had to go in and gently explain that
this was a big kiss. We re talking tongues. We re
talking big kissing. And so he finally got it, and I
think, after the twelve takes, he seemed okay.
IFA: Did he really need the twelve takes, or
leave those in there for his own personal enjoyment?
Brock: A little bit of both. But truthfully, I had my
grand shot in mind, so I had to keep going until I got
IFA: For whom did you make this film?
Brock: I hope that it s for an audience that
generations. It s a rites of passage film, and it s an
odd-couple romance. And the rights of passage is for
people who are Rupert s age, who have experienced
that kind of difficult family relationship most people
do have tricky times. So it s for people who are
growing up, but it s also for the generation that Julie
appeals to, because it s as much her movie as it is
his. It s about friendship, and it s about faith. And
the friendship is between these two, and they both
need each other. They both have to grow up in the
movie. So I m hoping that the younger and the older
audiences will get something from this movie and
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