Simon Bird • Director of Days of the Bagnold Summer
“This is a film about two ordinary people who would never usually have a movie made about their lives”
by Kaleem Aftab
- Cineuropa met up with British director Simon Bird on the afternoon of the Piazza Grande world premiere of his debut film, Days of the Bagnold Summer
Simon Bird is best known for playing Will McKenzie in The Inbetweeners [+see also:
film profile]. The actor’s directorial debut, Days of the Bagnold Summer [+see also:
interview: Simon Bird
film profile], is a heartfelt coming-of-age story adapted by his wife, Lisa Owens, from a graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart, about a single mother and teen son spending the summer together.
Cineuropa: Watching Days of the Bagnold Summer, it seems that the tone was one of the most important elements of this film. Would you agree?
Simon Bird: Tone is always the main thing I'm interested in when I'm reading or watching something, and that's what I loved about the book: the tone of it is very specific and delicate, and right on that border between being funny and being sad. I don't know why that appeals to me so much.
The mother and son at the heart of the film are not your usual protagonists. You seem to want to celebrate everyday people.
I like the fact that this is a film about two really ordinary people who would never usually have a movie made about their lives, and who are sort of totally overlooked within their own lives. Their friends don't even take them that seriously or have any real interest in what's going on in their lives.
Why did you want to adapt Joff Winterhart’s graphic novel?
I read the book and loved it, and Lisa, my wife, who ended up writing the script, loved the book as well. When I was scrabbling around, trying to think about what I wanted to do as a feature, she reminded me about it, and we both suddenly thought, “Oh yeah – that could be great!” Then I, with my producer, sat down with Joff, who's an amazing guy, as you can probably tell from his books. And he was really lovely, very generous and very much up for us working with his stuff. He was very hands-off, in a good way: he just said, “I give you my blessing, so do what you will.”
Were you primarily led by the illustrations that are in the graphic novel, or did you try to forget about them and create your own aesthetic?
It’s a weird mix. At one stage, I was seriously considering making it exactly like the book, doing it black-and-white, making it quite grungy and shooting it in a square aspect ratio, like the square panels in the book. However, eventually, I decided that it would actually be really nice to celebrate these people by shooting them in Technicolor and putting it on a big screen, and making it feel as much like a proper film as possible. There are a couple of images that are just so good and so on the money that I couldn't really forget them, and I think there are definitely at least two or three images that are just 100% lifted from the panels of the book.
The film rests on the two central performances by Earl Cave and Monica Dolan; as they are not the “usual suspects”, what drew you to them?
The fact that they weren't necessarily the biggest names in the industry I think is great. This is a story about outsiders, and I wanted people to root for these characters. And maybe it's a lot easier to root for these actors than it would be to root for – I don't know – Meryl Streep and Brad Pitt. Monica I knew of, and as soon as we started developing the script, I thought she'd be the perfect person for it. Earl came at the end of a very long casting process, and from the moment he walked in, I knew he was the right person for it. He's just naturally very funny, and even when he's playing somebody who's something of a moody adolescent, there's a sweetness and a magnetism to him as well.
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