Notting Hill’s Coronet cinema got a revitalising lesson in new British cinema last night as James McAvoy, Charles Dance, Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall and the heroically named Benedict Cumberbatch all walked the mini-red carpet at the premiere of brainy new comedy, Starter For Ten.
Based on the bestselling novel by David Nicholls, the film centres around Brian Jackson (McAvoy), a fact-digesting knowledge-hound whose first leap into the hormonal cauldron of University life is charted through his careering desires towards women and his childhood obsession with University Challenge, hosted by the inimitable Bamber Gascoigne. Some of the quiz questions that appear in the movie may have proved tricky for the cast, but for big screen newcomer Tom Vaughan, directing his first feature was absolutely terrifying: “You’re just thinking all the way through that this isn’t just something that’s going to simply turn up on people’s TV. This is something that people are going to have to go out in the cold, pay money for and choose to watch. But you just have to put yourself in the place of the audience and make sure you’re not being self-indulgent. I really didn’t want to do a flashy director number on this film.”
For James McAvoy, Starter For Ten marks the beginning of what will surely be a formidable run of releases over the next six months. Key roles in the forthcoming Atonement, Becoming Jane, The Last King Of Scotland and Penelope look set to make 2007 the year of the Mac. The actor’s enthusiasm for this movie was crystal clear: “I’d never done a comedy and this was a comedy set in the Eighties. A lot of the films I love were made in that decade, particularly John Hughes films, and British films like The Rachel Papers. I love doing comedy. It’s very clear whether it’s good or not, whereas doing a dark drama…you can never tell whether it works or not. With comedy, you either laugh or you don’t. I’ve done a lot of highbrow stuff, but to be honest I’m more proud of this [movie] than anything else.” McAvoy’s performance has been festooned with critical acclaim, but he’s still plumping for a more public embrace: “I’m really glad that the critics seem to like this movie, but good reviews are worthless unless people go and see the film. People might read a review of this movie and think they’d like to see the film, but still go and see X-Men 15. This is actually a great British film and everyone should go and see it so we can make more great films!”.
Starter For Ten is a movie that oozes a defined sense of British culture, but with a US release date of Valentine’s day set for next year, director Tom Vaughan is happily optimistic at the prospect of stateside success: “They don’t know what University Challenge is and they can’t believe that Bamber Gascoigne is a real person, but they love the Eighties setting, they love the music and they love the Britishness of it all.”
*Starter For Ten is released in cinemas nationwide from Friday (November 10th) *