Never Let Me Go Q&A
Produers Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich on the adaptation of a literary sensation - and Judge Dredd?
What did you see in the book?
Andrew: The book came to us because the screenwriter Alex Garland had been given an early copy by the author, and had an idea how to make it into a film. It was incredibly beautifully written, but Alex is the kind of guy who came in two weeks later and it was all there. And it took a while for things to come together, but usually that's all you need, is someone with the passion.”
Allon: It was just backing Alex, because he had a real passion for it. He made a screenplay that felt so complete.
So why Romanek?
Andrew: It was about getting the right cast and director together for us, and we wanted somebody who could make quite a simple story visually interesting. Mark had worked with Fox Searchlight, and we sent him the script and really liked it.
How about the cast?
Allon: There's always a serendipity to it - we had people circling, and had put the film on hold at one point when people fell through. We'd heard about Carey because our friends made An Education, but we hadn't seen her. So we asked our colleagues who went to Sundance what she was like, and they said she's a genius. They brought the only copy of the film back from Sundance the next morning, and we were blown away. We went to see her two days later, and it turned out she'd read and loved the novel, and she'd always hoped that one day she could play Cathy. She so inhabited the part, but it was a slam-dunk from that moment. Keira, when we said Carey was in it, immediately wanted to work with her again. Garfield we'd seen early, but we wanted to cast Cathy first - and of course we knew he'd be cast as Spider-Man a year later.”
Andrew: Academy Award nominee, Academny Award nominee, and Spider-Man.”
What about the song in the trailer?
Allon: There are a few versions of a song called Never Let Me Go, and we just found one that we liked, and then recorded it with Julie Bridgewater.”
It's an amazing novel, and the best thing about it is it's such a slow reveal. How do you deal with that in the film?
Andrew: The modern world that we inhabit means that people know the story, so it's very hard to completely hide it. I don't know how much you thought the trailer gave away, but the film is true to the book so it's very true to the book. So there are people who won't know. It works, I think.
Allon: We probably spent more time editing the first third than the whole rest of the film for exactly that reason. The other thing is that it's quite unusual where 15 minutes of a movie is with three kids and there's not much else, so the casting of them was key.
You've just returned from location scouting Judge Dredd...
Allon: We like to do the same thing, over and over.
Andrew: The main thing about Dredd is that it's a fantastic comic that was completely messed up 20 years ago. Our idea is to make a very hard, R-rated, gritty, realistic movie of Dredd in Megacity, so we've got to get the tone right. He's not going to take off his helmet. His bike is going to feel real. He's going to hit people and it's going to feel real. There's been a change in comic-book movies; they were treated unseriously and now they're treated seriously. We've cast a guy called Karl Urban to play Dredd. We'll be shooting in Johannesburg, it's being directed by Pete Travis, we're shooting with the people who did District 9 - and if we get it right, Alex has a couple of ideas for other stories as well. It's not based on any one comic, and John Wagner is involved in every decision.
How did you get the finance for this one given how bad the first was?
Andrew: It's about economics. In the last film they had epic architecture, but then they had to make it for everyone. Then they had to cast a moviestar, so then you had to see his face. But the most important thing for us is getting the tone right, so it's not going to be a fantasy place, it's going to be a real place, and we're going to make it for the same price that District 9 was made for.”
With Never Let Me Go, how involved was Ishiguru?
Allon: He was unbelievably generous throughout the whole process. He would come in if we needed him. We could phone him up, he visited the set and hung out with the kids. We asked him to sign a few books for the cast and crew, but he wrote like a page for everybody. That epitomised his attitude to it, but he's also been generous in what he thinks of the movie. It was entirely positive.
And is the movie finished?
Andrew: It's totally finished; it's out in America in September and January here. Carey Mulligan, unbelievably good. She is the real deal.
Wow, so they bring us high-brow Oscar bait and throw in a bit of cool comic-book news as well. These people know their audience. You can actually feel everyone getting more and more excited as they talk.