Ken Loach Interview
Ken Loach Interview
Ken Loach is one of the most acclaimed British film directors of the modern era, with a career that spans over five decades. Renowned for his socialist and realist style, his series of groundbreaking television dramas in the mid sixties broke with tradition and saw him make the move to cinema with his first feature Poor Cow. The film Kes from 1969 was then listed by the BFI as one of the top ten films of the 20th century and despite much of his work causing political controversy, he has won several awards for the likes of Hidden Agenda, Raining Stones, Land and Freedom, and The Wind that Shakes the Barley which saw him take home the Palme d’Or in 2006.

Recently in London to talk about his latest work, Route Irish, he and actor Mark Womack spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about the privatisation of the Iraq war and the difficulties of filming torture scenes.
You have a long-standing collaboration with screenwriter Paul Laverty. How did this project come about, compared to the way you usually work together?

Ken Loach

Well, we kind of exchange - we chat all the time, over the phone because he lives in Madrid. And I keep him up to date with the football scores and we chat about all and sundry. And we thought at some point we'd try and do something about Iraq and the consequences of the war. And then the army started moving out and the private contractors started moving in and that seemed to be the point at which to tell the story. So it's the story of two contractors and the girlfriend of one who has a sort of relationship with the other. But it was that point when the contractors came in that we became aware of the privatisation of war and that that was just unacceptable.
We thought of the English cities and Liverpool was the one...
Why did you choose Liverpool as the main location?

Ken Loach

Well, it was a question of finding a city with a strong working-class culture, with a river. And we'd worked in Glasgow a lot, because Paul's from the west coast of Scotland but we both thought of Liverpool – we didn't want to go back to Glasgow. We thought of the English cities and Liverpool was the one. It could have been possibly Newcastle, but I knew Liverpool better so we went to Liverpool.
Could you have done a Newcastle accent, Mark, if it had been set in Newcastle?

Mark Womack

Woah, I don't think I would have been here, would I? Way-ay, man. [Laughs] Yeah, probably, but thankfully it was Liverpool.
How did you get involved in the project?

Mark Womack

I came to meet Ken initially a good few months before we started. We met and had a chat and then I came in and did some improvisation with different people. And then later on in that stage we did some more detailed work with some of the actors who eventually ended up in the film. And thankfully I got the role.
Obviously it's a frustrating film to talk about because you don't want to give away a lot of the stuff that happens but what was the hardest scene to film?

Mark Womack

Probably the waterboarding scene, I would think. Just because we shot it in five or six hours and we actually did it for real in the end. We tried to sort of fake it using a tube or a pipe to help Trevor Williams [who plays Nelson] breathe, but in the end we ditched that because it kept breaking things up, so we actually went for it. And that was pretty intense, a really intense scene. But I thought it went really well and Trevor was fantastic.

Ken Loach

Yes, that one. And the opening scene in the church was quite difficult, because at the start everybody's cold and it's only when you've been going two or three days you get a momentum going. And that was a big scene to do and for Mark particularly. But it was difficult for me as well, getting the tempo right and everything. I think the scenes you do at the beginning are always tricky.
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Content updated: 11/12/2019 01:11

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