The Good Father is the ironic title of an abrasive new British drama in which a splendidly splenetic Anthony Hopkins wages a one-man backlash against feminism. A middle-class. middle-aged liberal who has paid his dues to the women‘s movement. he finds the break-up of his marriage and the distancing of his son‘s affections provokes a chain reaction of hatred culminating in an unquenchable desire for revenge.
‘ He takes refuge in a perverted legal system and vicariously unleashes his rage through a case involving another father in similar circumstances.
The film is directed by Mike Newell. a vastly experienced professional who finally received the recognition long deserved for his work on Dance With A Stranger. Christopher Hampton‘s adaptation of Peter Prince‘s novel The Good Father provided a script with which he immediately felt a degree of empathy. "There were great chunks ofit I understood.‘ he says. ‘I understood that anger born of disappointment in yourself and the self-destructive aspect of it. where you bury yourself in rubbish in order to scream at the world..‘Look at me. I suffer terribly.‘ The character of Hooper says. ‘you thoiight you were cooperating and then you found that cooperation wasn‘t enough.‘ His problem is the problem of any decent. liberal person who finds themselves involved in a cause which finally doesn‘t need them. When you feel that you‘ve put the work in. like he does. then you want a return for
it.‘ Newell was keen to avoid
presenting The Good Father as yet
; another ploddingly worthy piece of L British social realism. Instead his
film is bleakly funny. moves at a
cracking pace and is invested with a
lurid sense of the grotesque. The
latter element was deliberately
pursued through particularly careful
casting. ‘The character is all to do
with anger and so what he sees is extremes and stereotypes.‘ Newell
explains. "There was a time when I
was considering making the whole thing subjective camera. like Lady In The Lake. because it was so much that character‘s poisoned point of view. It wasn't possible and would have been a silly thing to do. So. I chose to have all the characters excessive and wild. almost like
' something out ofa comic book. They
are Johnsonian figures who all but carry labels on their foreheads. but that was what I wanted.‘
A consistently modest fellow. Newell hopes that the film may challenge a few ofthe ‘unquestioned orthodoxies‘ ofour time but is realistic in stating that The Good Father can never have a mass audience appeal. 'It has no particle of heroism or the heroic values that you would want from a big screen film. It can‘t have. It‘s minimal and it‘s nitpicky and it‘s sour. We all nod our heads sagely at the justice of certain causes and I hope the film will unsettle our view of those orthodoxies. I‘ve tried to be as compressed and pithy as possible and retain Christopher‘s very cuttingly funny tone but I think some people feel it is glum and dour and it‘s not supposed to be like that at all.
Anthony Hopkins‘ role in The Good Father has won him extraordinary respect and praise. With the film soon opening in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Stephanie Billen went to meet its reticent star. while Allan Hunter spoke to its more forthcoming director. Mike Newcll.
However. you should be allowed to do these things.‘
One of the characteristics of Newell‘s career has been the
g diversity ofsubject matter that he has tackled; from The Man In The Iron Mask to Bram Stoker‘s The
Awakening. from the story of Ruth Ellis to the lengthy dispute between Robert Kennedy and union boss Jimmy Hoffa. His latest film. Amazing Grace and Chuck. tells ofa
g populist anti-nuke movement in . American and stars Jamie Lee Curtis
and Gregory Peck.
Newell feels that the generational difference between Hollywood elder statesan like Peck and their
‘ modern-day counterparts is that the
former feel a responsibility towards
. their audience whilst the latter group
feel responsible for the truth of the character that they depict. Anthony Hopkins. however. is an actor that lends himself to no easy categorisation. ‘l‘d worked with him before and went to see him in Pravda. I think it was my great good fortune that he was playing such a character at that time because he was so full ofenergy. It would be wrong to way that he‘s a maverick. Nothing in his whole career has shown him to be anxious to cooperate with any kind ofpigeonholing. He‘s remarkable in that he has a kind of fiendish delight in taking on impossible characters. He is a magnificent. huge. high-profile actor but he doesn‘t fit into any school. I think he‘s the cat who walks on his own.‘
Making a different impression: Graham Caldwell finds out about the new. improved Lenny Henry.
The trouble with telephone interviews is that they can be such a pain to record. When Lenny Henry called I was still disentangling myself from what seemed like yards and yards of microphone cable. Luckily he took this in good humour and contented himselfwith the odd ‘one two. . .one two. . .‘ as I explained. somewhat pathetically. that we were currently held together by only a few ' strips ofrnasking tape. Eventually. contorted and in no little pain I asked him what his Scottish audiences could expect of his stage show.
. ‘More of the same really.‘ be
explained. There will be anecdotes
about life on the road featuring
‘people in Ford Anglias and old
people on Motorways' as well as his
new car phone. ‘I know . it sounds really posey‘ will get an airing.
- together — so to speak — with men who walk around naked. ‘lt‘s really embarrassing. They come out of the
gym and the last thing they put on is
and shirts. combing their hair. but with no pants on.‘ Henry doesn‘t go in for this sort ofblatant exhibitionism himself. preferring to get ‘covered up pretty quickly.‘ ()ther favourites such as Delbert Wilkins. the Revd Nathaniel Westminster and his crooning send-up of‘macho. sexist Wallys like Marvin Gaye and Maurice White‘. 'l‘heophilus P. Wildebeeste. Unlike many newer comics who made their name in television. Henry. with his background in variety is comfortable with a live audience. ‘You get an instant reaction. You know straight away what‘s funny and what‘s not funny. Thankyou . . . Amen . .. Goodnight.‘
Henry is a young man with a reputation for taking his work
seriously. ‘It‘s hard. it‘s very hard.
You can‘t really go on and expect the muse to be there every night. It‘s
hard work: that‘s why you get so
many comics who go around
thinking of new material.‘ He should know. because he is someone who has worked at it harder than most. From New Faces stardom at 16 to the condensed milk sandwich buffoonery of TISWA S to the innovation of Lenny Henry Tonight the rise to the position the 28 year-old from Dudley now occupies as one of the country‘s brightest funny men. has not been easy. Since he was launched on the club circuit doing three minutes of his own material and a lot more ofother people‘s, Henry has done his growing up — personal and professional — very much in the public eye. ‘It‘s weird. but it‘s necessary: also you have to drag the public with you because they freeze you at different stages where they like you.‘ Never happy with the stand-up comic/impressionist label he had nor the image of ‘running about in a red. green and gold cap saying OKAAY.‘ he decided things had to change.
‘lt started with Three ofa Kind— doing that non-sexist. non-racist humour and also from seeing Rik Mayall. Alexei Sayle and French and Saunders at the Comedy Store and later when the Richard Pryor influence finally sank in. I realised
l their pants: they‘ve got on the socks
comedy isn‘t about telling jokes. it‘s 6'l‘he List 31 ()ct — 13 Nov ‘ ‘ ‘
l depressed all the time — they‘re