Tackling the coming-of-age topic with dark humor and thoughtful style, Richard Ayoade’s feature debut “Submarine” is more than an impressive first movie. From the incredible number of accomplished performers (Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor, Paddy Considine, plus the astonishing teen actors Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige) and the impeccable British/French New Wave-inspired looks, the British writer/director looks to be poising himself for a very promising filmmaking career.
“Submarine” centers on Oliver Tate (Roberts), an incredibly self-aware and deluded teen that thinks his life is ripe cinema material. Unfortunately, he’s a lot more typical than he’d like to admit — his parents (Hawkins and Taylor) might be on the verge of a divorce and he’s struggling to win over the heart of the unpopular Jordana (Paige). Of course, Oliver imagines these to have quirky solutions that only he can solve, but eventually they all hit serious heads that he can’t fabricate an answer to. His inability to confront the reality of life leads to some hilarious and unsettling moments, which ultimately end in a finale which, although expected, it undoubtedly earns.
Ben Stiller and “Submarine” song-writer/Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner joined the director to chat with the press, and here’s what we learned about the film, including their original idea for the score and the surprising influence of a Martin Scorsese film.
1. Executive Producer Ben Stiller Was Very Hands Off And Met Richard Ayoade After Shooting
A stamp of approval from a great, well-known American comedy actor will surely turn some heads toward a film with a relatively unknown cast and director. Red Hour, Stiller’s production company, received the script for “Submarine” from Warp Records and were asked to be a part of the production, but in a morally supportive way. Once the “Zoolander” director fell in love with the project and shooting began, checking in on the team each day was a pleasure, rather than a nightmare like most producers experience. “We got dailies sent to us and we talked on the phone. It was amazing, we’d get the dailies everyday and I started looking forward to getting them.” Strangely enough, by being this far removed from the process, Stiller hadn’t even met with Richard Ayoade until after the shooting was well underway. “I came to England to do my little mini piece that I’m in on the TV and that’s when we had a chance to sit down and talk.” Thankfully there were no major disagreements/fist fights.
2. Alex Turner Was Originally Going To Cover Existing Tunes For The Soundtrack
Sporting a terrific soundtrack, viewers likely be taken by Arctic Monkey frontman Alex Turner’s original songs that populate the film. However, at one point, the idea was for the chilly orangutan to reinterpret old favorites. “Originally we were gonna do a couple of covers, some John Cale tunes, a Nico song ‘I’m Not Sayin,’ a version of the tune ‘How Deep Is The Ocean‘.. but we ended up abandoning it,” Turner expounded. Still, by analyzing those, he knew what direction Ayoade wanted to go in. “I suppose that helped me kind of feel out what the temperature should be,” Turner added. And yes, we realize the cover idea sounds exactly what Wes Anderson did for “The Life Aquatic.” Move on.
3. One Of Richard Ayoade’s Influences On The Film Was…”Taxi Driver.”
What’d you think we were going to say? Right, well for all of the Hal Asbhy and French or British New Wave connections, Martin Scorsese’s post-Vietnam, Palme d’Or-winning masterpiece. Not the worst place to look to, but definitely a surprise. “It seems very violent but because it’s very internal, you have this voice-over of a character who is always seeing the least important thing. Just the juxtaposition between the voice-over and what’s happening I think is done so well in that film, so that was a big thing we had in mind,” stated Ayoade. If only there was a hip Harvey Keitel and a nerdy Albert Brooks to round out the influence!
4. Actor Craig Roberts And Alex Turner Are Long Lost Twins, Despite Their Age Difference
The entire team was thrilled with the talent they managed to amass, and young actors Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige impressed all with their spirited performances and ability to carry a movie despite having a relatively small resume. Apparently that energy carried over behind the scenes, with Turner noting the humor of Roberts. “He’s a funny chap. He came up to me quite confidently and said ‘You do realize we look an awful lot alike.'” Everyone laughed a bit before he clarified, “Which is true… well, we do have similar bags under our eyes…”
5. Richard Ayoade’s Pitch To “Community” Was “I Probably Won’t Ruin It.”
Even though he started his directorial career on “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace,” a series he had written and directed with very clear creative control, directing the episode “Critical Film Studies” on “Community” was a different experience for him. “American television is very much created by the writers, they’re so key. You’re just trying to do something that serves that script.” He elaborated, “The scale of it is bigger, there’s a lot of writers, the cast have been in that zone for years and they do 22 a year… You probably can’t ruin it. I mean, that’s what my pitch to them was.” Considering the positive response to that episode (and the whole season, oof), it seems like he was correct with his presumptuous statement.
6. Richard Ayoade Believes You Can’t Trust A Director About His Own Film
A quick gander at other interviews and press junkets with Ayoade reveals a director with a very quick, self-deprecating sense of humor. When a blogger asked him how important the casting was at a junket, he replied ‘Not at all,” following that with a quip about just wanting to get to lunch sooner. Another wondered what his favorite scene was, he replied “The credits, because it’s two songs and just a blue screen. I can finally relax.” His heavy sarcasm doesn’t bode well with everyone and someone had to inquire about this behavior. “Well, I really like Orson Welles films, so in that respect, it’s quite easy to be self-deprecating if you’ve seen other films. Also, it seems somewhat impolite and inaccurate to go around tooting your own horn. Why should I be trusted talking about something I’ve done? It just seems ridiculous.”
“Submarine” opens in limited release on Friday, June 3rd.