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October 4th, 2006 
 Independent Filmmakers Alliance Newsletter
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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 just that.

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 experience, 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. How does it feel to finally give birth to this baby?
Brock: It feels great actually it feels really good. 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 fabulous cast?
Brock: It s a very strange business when you re 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, casting an American in a very British role. Why?
Brock: Because my primary concern was talent. And 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 genius because he has such a huge following from Harry Potter, especially among young teenage girls. I understand the big kissing scene required a little extra coaching.
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 did you 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 it.

IFA: For whom did you make this film?
Brock: I hope that it s for an audience that spans 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 enjoy it.

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IFA
Independent Filmmakers Alliance


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