Seven Questions For Mike Leigh, Director Of "Secrets & Lies"
Mike Leigh, the British director whose new film “Secrets & Lies” won the Palme d’or at Cannes, took some time to answer some questions from indieWIRE and an online audience during the New York Film Festival– “Secrets & Lies” was the opening night film for the event.
indieWIRE: Since I know he is an admirer of your work, I was just wondering if Robert Altman is a favorite of yours. Also–what did you think
of “Kansas City”?
Mike Leigh: I loved “Kansas City“, and I think it’s a great film. I think it’s
been underrated! We are mutual admirers. I think “Kansas City” was
misunderstood by a lot of people. I think the whole idea of this
insignificant girl who’s got a tiny problem that grows out of all proportion
being played out against the drama of big events, this jazz fest & politcal
activites. is really dramatic. I think it’s a great film. Some people seem to
be critical of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance. But its very clear that
this girl was a movie freak. She was doing all of the screen goddesses of the
I think its a great film, and I think Altman is a great director. People
should look out for his contribution to Positif, edition 400 (a Parisian
magazine) in which filmmakers wrote about movies. He wrote about my movie,
and people might find that interesting to read.
iW: Do you feel that your religion has any effect on your work?
Leigh: I don’t have any religion. I’m an aetheist. If the question is
supposed to be that does my Jewish background have anything to do with my
work, it may be that certain humanitarian influences have seeped into my
work, but it hasn’t really affected my work, no.
iW: What is your favourite film of all time?
Leigh: I can’t answer that question, because there’s a lot of films that
vie for that privelege, but I can list a few of them. They are “Living” by Ozu,
“Mahanagar: The Big City” by Satyajit Ray, “The Tree Of Wooden Clogs” by Omi, “Some Like It Hot“, “Jules Et Jim“, “The 400 Blows“, “The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari“…
that’s just some of them.
iW: Mike, many of your films are very funny but also extremely
dark. How do you decide which path you are going to take?
Leigh: I don’t decide. I try and make films that are as real as
possible, I try to create a reality, like the reality we experience in life.
Life is comic and tragic. So the material I create in the films is both comic
and tragic. It comes that way, it’s hewn from the theme. Of course I do use
comic skills and tragic skills as a filmmaker and dramatist. But I don’t make
a conscious decision as to when it should be comic and tragic.
iW: What was your motivation for “Secrets & Lies?”
Leigh: So far as the adoption aspect of it was concerned, there are
people close to me who have (had) adoption-related experiences. And so I
wanted for years to make a film which explored this predicament in a
fictitious way. I also wanted to make a film about the new generation of
young black people who are moving on and getting away from the ghetto
stereotypes. And these were jumping off points for a film which turns out to
be an exploration of roots and identity.
iW: How much has the BBC and Channel 4 influenced your work?
Leigh: The BBC and Channel 4 have not influenced my work at all, as
such, but both have been at different times responsible for facilitating my
work. But there’s no way in which either institution has influenced it.
iW: What is the next movie you plan on directing?
Leigh: I have already finished my next movie, apart from the fact that I
cannot think of a title for it, but it is edited and ready, nearly. Its about
a couple of women who are 30 years of age, and you see them now in 1996, and
it keeps flashing back to when they were students in the mid 80s…it’ll be
released next year sometime, and it stars, amongst others, Katrin Kartlidge,
who was in Naked” and in Lars von Triers’ film “Breaking The Waves.“