To sit in Jeremy Thomas’s office, a minute’s stroll from Tottenham Court Road tube station, is to take a pew in a glorious chapel to all things British cinema. The producer, a veteran of films both famous (Sexy Beast, Crash) and cult (The Hit, Mad Dog Morgan), has accrued enough photos, keepsakes and memorabilia to populate a museum that Empire would happily pay to visit. On one wall is the framed Best Picture envelope Eddie Murphy sent him after The Last Emperor’s Oscar triumph; on another, a Donald Duck cell signed “to Jeremy” by Walt Disney himself. There’s a model motorbike on a shelf, testament to an extra-curricular passion, and a snap with Dennis Hopper taken in the long-faded New Mexico glare. There’s an iPad on his desk although the VHS player, still in service after 30 years, would probably find a spot in that museum too. “It’s a classic,” he counters with a deadpan grin.
Loyalty and dependability have been hallmarks of Thomas’s career. His simple requirement for making a film hasn’t changed. ‘There’s no prescription for me,’ he explains. ‘It’s all based on: “Do I like it?” I do it because I like it. People find that amazing.’ With Ben Wheatley’s High Rise underway, he’s still finding plenty to like out there. This month he’s the subject of a BFI season showcasing some of the high points from his résumé. While he modestly defines his role as “putting together the bits” on a film, his instincts and command of filmmaking’s many complexities have guided his hand across four decades. Over coffee and Digestives, he shared some of his secrets.