Pawel Pawlikowski Interview
Pawel Pawlikowski Interview
Pawel Pawlikowski is a Polish-born film writer and director, who worked on British documentaries before making his debut feature film, Last Resort in 2000. Receiving much critical acclaim at both the Toronto and Sundance Film Festival, he also went onto to win the Most Promising Newcomer at the 2001 BAFTAs.

Back on the big screen with a thriller starring Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas, he spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about writing his poetic film scripts, being compared to Roman Polanski and taking some of the credit for launching Paddy Considine’s film career.
I'm a huge fan of both Last Resort and My Summer of Love. How much credit do you take for sort of being there at the beginning of Paddy Considine's career?

Pawel Pawlikowski

I think it's Shane Meadows who kind of forced him to be an actor, because I saw Paddy in A Room for Romeo Brass, where he just kind of knocked me sideways, you know, so I can't claim too much credit. But what was really good about Last Resort was Paddy didn't have much experience, he wasn't quite sure – he didn't think of himself as an actor and in Last Resort he didn't have a bravura part, so he was always frustrated that - “When do I start acting?” - not like in Romeo Brass, where he had this amazing bravura role. He was really frustrated but when he saw the film, he thought, you don't have to do that much to exist on screen, you know, you don't have to do spectacular things. So I take credit for that.
I was trying to make a film about a character with mental problems...
That's kind of what I meant – you look at his first role in A Room for Romeo Brass and I don't see the character from Last Resort in that performance.

Pawel Pawlikowski

Yeah, it was kind of sculpted differently and other sides of him came out that he wasn't that aware of. And then when he saw it, he was like, “Oh, yeah ...”
And the same for Emily Blunt and Natalie Press, actually, in My Summer of Love - you were there for the beginning of their careers too. What did you see in them?

Pawel Pawlikowski

They were just right for the parts. I came off a project which never happened, which involved famous actors. It was about Sylvia Plath, and I couldn't find the right guy to play Ted Hughes and I thought that without a guy who really can have that kind of presence, it's not going to work. So I thought, 'Okay, let's make a film with actors I can find or discover,' so I was excited to look among unknown people. Natalie was special – when I met her, I knew the film could work. And then Emily was amazing, just right. She was Tamsin as I imagined her, so that was good. Rebecca Hall was there too. It was between her and Rebecca Hall.
It might please you to know that I recently heard the scene where Natalie's doing the Exorcist voice, used in a film quiz as a trick question – you know, 'Where is this line from?' - so everyone wrote down horror movie answers and it turned out to be that.

Pawel Pawlikowski

Oh good – so it exists somewhere else!
Let's talk about The Woman in the Fifth. What attracted you to the project and how did it come about?

Pawel Pawlikowski

I was kind of writing a naturalistic drama, more in the vein of Last Resort and My Summer of Love, involving a character who's sort of losing it. And it felt very literal and kind of on the nose and looking at somebody who's a bit mad can be boring from outside. So I thought, 'I'd love to make it more from inside.'

Then I got sent the book [by Douglas Kennedy] by the producer and the book was a thriller with quite a few murders and it had the logic of a mystery thriller. I didn't feel like it was my kind of material, but I thought, if I take this as a kind of starting point – just forget the mechanics of the thriller, to make it more like a kind of dream, like a musical piece, it could be much more interesting than what I'm actually plotting here. It could be an adventure into the unknown and I felt like I want to see the kind of film that I haven't made before and I haven't seen before.

So I liked the idea of making a film that's kind of not entirely subjective or solipsistic but is kind of constantly balanced between the state of mind of the hero and the outside world and where reality and a kind of dream reality inter-penetrate all the time. And that's how I sold it to Ethan [Hawke]. So I said to him, 'Let's make a film that kind of doesn't make sense.'
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Content updated: 14/12/2018 15:32

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