You may not be familiar with Kris Thykier’s name, but he has an impressive list of British films under his producer belt: Stardust, Harry Brown, Kick Ass, and most recently, Nazi hunter film The Debt.
You may not
be familiar with Kris Thykier’s name, but he has an impressive list of British
films under his producer belt: Stardust, Harry Brown, Kick Ass, and most
recently, Nazi hunter film The Debt.
however, will know his wife: quirky TV presenter Claudia Winkleman, who was the surprise replacement for Jonathan
Ross on Film 2011. Thykier built an impressive list of contacts while doing PR
for British films such as Guy Ritchie’s
Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, now he counts the likes of
Ritchie, Mathew Vaughn, Dexter Fletcher and even Madonna among his friends. Features
Editor Heidi Vella caught up with Thykier over the phone for a chat about
the DVD release of John Madden directed The Debt, which is on shelves (virtual
or otherwise) on Monday 23rd of January; but it was his recent collaboration
with the most famous and controversial star on the planet – Madonna – that
dominated the conversation. Thykier produced Madonna’s first feature debut,
W.E, about the romance between King Edward
VIII and American divorcée Wallis Simpson, which hit cinema on Friday. In general it’s received negative reviews,
except for a few praises here and there for set design and costume, but Thykier
insists he’s proud of the film. He tells Heidi why he decided to take on
Madonna’s critics and what his wife tells him about his films.
When we heard Madonna was doing
a feature about King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson it’s fair to say we were
It was a really interesting project to work on and I think she [Madonna]
is pretty spectacular; I think the film is pretty good. I am pleased you’re intrigued
How did you come to work together on
I’ve known her for a long time. I used to run a PR firm called Freud
with Mathew Freud, and I ran all the entertainment stuff there. In fact, when I
first started working in film my partner was Mathew Vaughn who produced Lock
Stock and Snatch. So, I knew Guy and had also met Madonna a few times socially
– I guess we were friends or close acquaintances. You know what? It was one of
those situations where we kind of knew each other and she was looking for
someone to work with, either foolishly or whatever, she decided that it was me.
I think we kind of knew each other well enough and there was mutual trust. I’m
really, really proud of the film and I think she’s done a good job and as a
kind of debut it’s staggeringly good.
Madonna has a somewhat a cursed history
with film, did this make you apprehensive at all?
No, what has been very interesting through this period is how big a
target she is. And I do think at times it’s a little disappointing; look, I’m
used to working in the film industry, I’m realistic about the policies and the
downsides. The level of media attention she accrues is great; she is incredibly
famous on a level I have never really experienced before. In a way that is
great as there’s a huge amount of noise and hopefully that will deliver and
people will want to see the film. The downside of that is extraordinary in
terms of the level to which people project their own version of Madonna. There
is a surplus baggage there, so I do feel that’s been interesting. The things I
thought about were whether she could do it; her acting career didn’t really
matter. In some ways it probably helped. Ralph
Fiennes has directed Cornelius. I’m not suggesting Madonna is Ralph Fiennes,
but I am saying having worked on movie sets and acted on lots of things, you do
kind of understand how things work. So I don’t think the baggage was
appropriate, the apprehension would be more about the whole world of
What was it like working with Madonna?
When you work with any director you have to think about what you admire
in them and whether you think you could work well together. One of the
things I knew about her was that she has an incredible eye; look at all of the
things she has done throughout her career; the way she’s designed her tours,
the art she’s collected the books she’s done – she really has a very strong
visual eye. A strong idea of how she wants things to look. In the first
instance I thought that was pretty interesting and then the other thing I knew
about her, which I knew was going to make it tough, is that she works harder
than anyone else alive. Which, as a producer, you want – somebody who will get
up before everyone else and go to bed after everyone else. It does mean that
it’s quite challenging as she expects the same of all the people who work with
her. She is actually a very collaborative person, and I know that seems odd
because her reputation is for being single minded – she’s definitely single
minded – but she absolutely wants to work with the best people, wants to learn
and have an input.
What do you prefer: working with an
experienced director like John Madden or a new director on their debut?
I don’t think it’s about which you prefer. There is something marvellous
about working with a director who absolutely knows about the mechanics of what
they are doing, but it’s interesting working with someone who is doing it for
the first time, so I don’t think it’s an either or. They were both great
experiences; I’d work with both again in a heartbeat.
The Debt is now being released on DVD,
but as a producer how do you think the way we consume films has changed – is
the DVD still popular in this age of free downloading and streaming?
Years ago the average person would have 40 DVDs in their collection and
they would buy quite a wide selection of DVDs. But what you’ll find now is they
tend to only buy the hits. So, that’s tricky. There was this marvellous time
when people went out and got a DVD player and re-bought the classics that they
love and also tried to be more experimental with film. I am very positive about
film, because I think it is never going to leave us, it is part of our makeup.
It is the first thing you do with your kids, do straight away when you’re
allowed to go to the cinema alone, it’s the first thing you do when you’re
dating. There are moments in one’s life where film is intrinsically involved and
it’s a good value experience. Hopefully, whether it’s on a silver disc or
downloaded on our iPads will stop meaning anything soon and it will just be a
case of how do people purchase and own film or rent them?
Your wife Claudia Winkleman presents
Film 2011, how critical is she about your films?
What you have got to remember is Claude has never set herself up as a
critic; she was overjoyed to be offered the job. She positions herself as more
of a fan. In terms of my films: look, I have no idea what she says behind my
back, but to my face – ha,ha – she tends to tell me they are all
Do you ever consult her before choosing
Yeah, I always ask her. We went to the movies on our first date. We live
about six hundred yards from an Odeon; what we do is go to the movies. We have
slightly divergent tastes and there are other things we agree on. We both
broadly love movies. We’re incredibly democratic about liking all sorts of
movies. I think our first date was, in fact, Armageddon, which I still think is
a fine film. So, yeah, I can ask her opinion on things, sometimes we fight and
don’t agree, but it’s all part of the fun!
What movies initially sparked your
passion in film?
There was a period of time where I was kind of obsessed with psychological
thrillers of the 70s. I remember being completing consumed by them when I was a
teenager, those were the films I aspired to make and The Debt was my kind of
homage to those kind of films. Three Days of The Condor was definitely a
defining moment for me.
What other films do you have coming
Ill Mannors which I executive produced, which is the directional debut
of Plan B, he wrote and directed it.
It should be coming out in the spring. We’re just doing the final edit on that.
I think he is the most talented young man I’ve come across in years and years.
I’ve also bought a book called Trash that Stephen
Daldry is hopefully going to direct and Richard Curtis is adapting. It’s always about trying to get the
next one going.
The Debt is out on Blu-Ray and DVD Now