Today: April 18, 2024

Kevin Macdonald – How I Live Now

Glasgow-born director Kevin Macdonald, 45, currently working on thriller Black Sea, starring Jude Law, is best known for his Oscar-nominated film The Last King of Scotland about the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and the acclaimed documentaries Touching the Void and Marley. He has changed tack quite dramatically with How I Live Now, a dark, edgy love story for young people. By the sounds of it, he’s had a ball.

Why did you want to adapt Meg Rossof’s novel?
A friend gave it to me and I actually just read it and thought it was a beautiful book, without any expectation of making it into a film. I thought, yeah, this is a different representation of teenagers in fiction than we’re normally presented with. So much teen fiction seems to be American and, particularly the way it’s represented in cinema, it’s all American. This is obviously very European, edgy, it’s got some tricky themes, and that appealed to me. As a teenager I would have liked this!

What convinced you to take Saoirse on as your lead?
Originally I was looking for non-professionals. But when l met her I instantly thought, you idiot, you should have been begging her to do it! Her reading was so moving. She’s such a good actor, that’s what it’s all about. There’s nobody under twenty in the world that’s as fine an actor as she is. The degree of feeling and profound emotion she brings to thing is extraordinary. It’s a film where there’s not a lot of dialogue, so a lot has to be communicated non-verbally, and she does that beautifully. She was the rock around which the rest of the cast are in place, and they’re all as good as each other..

What was working with such a young cast like?
I didn’t get arsy actors being difficult, saying: “Why didn’t you call me two hours before my call time today?” They just had a great time. It was a bit like a summer-camp really, sometimes I did feel like I was sort of having to be at one of those PGL camps, keeping the children in line and making sure they weren’t having too much fun… So, what activities are we doing today?!

You do documentaries and very political films, what happened with How I Live Now?
I’d wanted to do a love story. It’s about the power of love, and it’s also something of a fantasy. I like that it combines naturalism in its approach, but that it’s also a dark modern fairytale, about love – how love can help you survive when times are at their worst.

This isn’t a big budget action movie, how do you feel about Hollywood right now?
It’s depressing, and one of the reasons I wanted to make this film the way I did. I could have done an ‘American’ version, but I wanted to keep the budget low and offer European teenagers something that’s for them, that isn’t filtered through American stuff. Hollywood is boring at the moment. All those ‘men in tights’ films, I don’t know how people can take it seriously. It’s just puerile, psychologically uninteresting and they reference themselves constantly. The nerds have won the war of culture! But it’s all cyclical, I’m sure that will change.

How I Live Now is in cinemas from Friday 4th October 2013

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