Paddy Considine, the accomplished British actor likely best known Stateside for his turn alongside Samantha Morton in “In America,” joins a long roster of actors-turned-directors with his first feature, “Tyrannosaur.” (This interview was originally published during this year’s New Directors/New Films festival where “Tyrannosaur” screened. It comes out in limited release this Friday through Strand Releasing.)
The grim love story world premiered at Sundance this spring, netted two awards and is now screening in New Directors/New Films. Based on his BAFTA-winning short “Dog Altogether,” “Tyrannosaur” stars Peter Mullan as a self-destructive alcoholic who finds redemption in the hands of Hannah (Olivia Colman), a Christian charity shop worker. Together they form an unlikely bond, one that enrages Hannah’s abusive husband.
Indiewire caught up with the refreshingly blunt Considine in New York, the night following “Tyrannosaur”‘s ND/NF premiere.
You studied photography at the University of Brighton before getting into acting. Did you always envision a career in filmmaking?
Yeah, I did. Not as an actor, though. When I was a teenager I got into drama at school. It was never for me. Oddly, I was trying to just generate some interest in me from the teachers. I wanted to prove I wasn’t a waste of time.
By the time I was 18, I wasn’t interested in acting at all. I never had a huge passion for it. It was more an endurance test. But I did love film. I think I was always going to find myself working in film in some capacity.
It was when I left University that I began assembling a few documentaries and short films that have never been shown or anything. I just archived them. I only got into acting because one of my friends was Shane Meadows and he directed a feature film. Because I amused him for whatever reason, he put me in his second film [“A Room for Romeo Brass”] and it sparked a career, which is great. But I’ve spent the whole time asking, “What the hell am I doing?”
Would you say your success as an actor has caught you by surprise?
Yes, because I felt quite unconvinced about it. I realized if I was going to have any longevity, I knew I had to learn about the craft of it. I couldn’t make words work, I couldn’t make scripts work. I just started working with an acting coach back home. I learned a few techniques that helped me out. It’s helped me for every time I’m a bit adrift on set. It’s just a backup plan really, another line of defense that I rely on.
Is this anxiety you’re expressing part of the reason why you’re not in “Tyrannosaur” apart from a small cameo?
I just didn’t want to be in there at all. I really found it pretty liberating. Being inside of it, I realized I found it a lot easier and a lot more fulfilling when I was on the outside looking in.
It’s a mutual thing, making a film. A lot of it is about trusting the environment a director can create. And I’ve been working with some really good directors, which in turn helped me turn in some really good performances. I have no desire to direct myself; I don’t know how to do that. I admire those that do, like Mel Gibson and Clint.
The film is remarkably accomplished for a feature-film debut. Where did you learn the craft without any formal training?
I said to someone once, “I’ve paid for my education in film.” I’ve been paying it for it since I was four years old and first taken to the cinema.
As far as directing, there’s no one that can teach you or anything. I just knew the film I wanted to make. And to be perfectly honest, it came out of all the things I didn’t like about directing, acting, cinema or British film. It was more a reaction. I didn’t make it out of what I loved about cinema. Aesthetically, it was made of the things I disliked.
What do you mean by that?
I was just fed up with low-budget British film – getting a hand-held camera, swinging it around, improvising and chancing things a little bit. That whole technique got bastardized to death. I’m sick of seeing it. I wanted to make a movie. Actually, if there was any one model, it was Clint Eastwood. What I love about Eastwood is the simplicity of his films. Simplicity is a gift, I think. It’s not easy to do. People think they have to overcompensate, but it’s bold and brave to be still. I wanted that for my film.
The film is also extremely dark.
I can only guess it comes out of my need to be reassured that there is redemption. Ultimately, violence is futile to any degree. The tough moments in “Tyrannosaur” never went in there to make people feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to shock you. It’s always about context. Like that anal rape in “Pulp Fiction” — everybody was laughing in the cinema when they saw it. I wasn’t, you know?
I’m interested in the survival of souls. Sometimes your salvation comes through the most extreme situations. I’m interested in human beings. Sometimes I have a hard time being one. I have to believe there is a purpose.
Did Peter Mullan, an accomplished director in his own right, ever offer any advice to you on set?
No. Peter didn’t have to. I’ve been on sets and I’ve seen lead actors telling directors where to put cameras. It’s just not on. Peter knew I was in control of the film I wanted to make. All he had to do was turn up and be class, which is what he is.
As actors and directors you discuss a scene, but that’s play, that’s part of the craft. If an actor ever came up to me and told me where to put the camera, I’d know exactly where to put the camera.
Can you tell me a bit about your next project, “The Leaning”? It’s a ghost story right?
It’s a film about letting go. It’s about a girl who can’t be intimate with men. Every time she starts to be, this phenomena happens around her… this activity. But, again, I’m not making some generic ghost film. How we have to move on is the theme.
Do you see yourself foregoing an acting career to focus on writing and directing?
Well, I don’t have any acting jobs at the moment. I will have to act, though. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done a couple of things in the past year that I’m really proud of, like “Submarine.” But at the minute there’s nothing out there, so I’ll just write and continue on with that.