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He made his name playing hard man Jimmy Boyle but moved behind the camera to sidestep
typecasting. DAVID HAYMAN, who has just made his most commercial ﬁlm yet, talks to Alan Morrison about The Hawk and his new TV series A Woman ’s Guide To Adultery.
could be playing Jimmy Boyle when I’m
65,’ complains David Hayman in a half-
joking, half-serious way. ‘I do my ﬁrst
thing on film, and that catapults me on a
national level, and the telephone doesn’t
stop ringing for two years — “Come and do Sweeney, Minder, The Professionals. Come and be Jimmy Boyle.” And that shocked me, because that is not the breadth and the strength of my talent. it’s one aspect of my talent.’
So strong was the reaction to Hayman’s on- screen debut in A Sense Of Freedom however, that he was immediately pigeon- holed; when casting directors were looking for a hard man they started reaching for the Glasgow phone book. It was at this point, in l98l, that Hayman made the switch from acting to directing in order to gain more control over his career. With an array of classical leads and over ten years at the Citizens’ Theatre in his native Glasgow behind him, he began with an acclaimed production of John Byrne’s The Slab
Boys Trilogy at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre; later work
included directing Martin Sheen in The Normal Heart at London’s Royal Court and a three-year period running 7:84 Theatre Company.
More recently, television has provided a steady income, with Hayman at the helm for episodes of The Bill, television films Govan Ghost Story and Black and Blue, and the mini-series Firm Friends. His feature debut, Silent
Scream — a stylised account of poet and prison lifer Larry Winters —
scooped several awards at home and abroad. But although working behind the camera gives him more creative control, Hayman doesn’t see the two aspects of his career as widely divergent.
‘Acting and directing are intrinsically the same job because our job is to tell a story,’ he explains. ‘I am a story teller, and I’ve told the story of Jimmy Boyle as an actor and I’ve told the story of Larry Winters as a director. The disciplines and techniques involved are very different. that’s all. Ninety per cent of directors in any country come at it having no experience of what it is like to stand on a stage in front of bright lights and crowds of people and communicate. So you tend to find them saying, “Okay, I want you to jump off the moon naked and land in barbed wire.” All they do is shout “Jump!” and “Cut!”, with no thought for support or encour- agement or creative input. I never ask an actor
to do anything I haven’t done or wouldn’t be prepared to do myself, and they know that, so they can’t pull the wool over my eyes.’
This approach has given Hayman an enviable reputation as the ‘actor’s director’, but there is more to his success than an ability to understand the material from both perspectives. There’s the choice of material, which tends to be gritty, challenging and, for want of a better word, controversial. None more so than A Sense Of Freedom and Silent Scream. ‘It just so happens that the pieces I’ve done that have involved pn'sons have been very powerful and memorable pieces of work,’ he admits. ‘But, having said that, I think drama is about human beings in extremis, it’s not human beings in their ordinariness — Mike Leigh does that par excellence. So where you’ve got them caught in a political, social or moral dilemma. that’s when you highlight aspects of people’s lives. The best, most effective and most powerful example of that is to chain somebody up and put them behind bars. It’s a brilliant metaphor for so much of life.’
Hayman’s second feature film as director also involves a murderer, but this time it’s not the man, but his wife, who is in extremis. Peter Ransley’s novel and screenplay, The Hawk. draws on an atmosphere that was around at the time the Yorkshire Ripper was on the loose. Whenever a serial killer is reported to be at large, the police can expect to receive on average over 30,000 phone calls from women who believe their menfolk are the culprit. Set in the north of England, the film focuses on such a woman who gradually comes to believe that her husband is a vicious serial killer who is being hunted by police. She is hindered by her traditional sense of duty as a wife and the fear that her suspicions are merely a symptom of recurring periods of mental illness. Another serial killer movie? Not quite, but with Helen Mirren — hot again after the Prime Suspect series — in the central role, it’s a more obviously commercial choice for Hayman to make.
‘l’m slightly regarded as a kind of maverick,’ he admits. ‘I mean Silent Scream is stylistically outwith the mainstream, and Black and Blue [a TV drama on police corruption] is politically and morally outwith the mainstream. I wanted to do something that was as mainstream as l
could get, as a test to myself. But I would never dream of doing something that I felt was j gratuitous. What I love about The Hawk is that it’s not from the killer’s perspective; it’s about a ~ woman who lives in a nightmare, with the ' whole fabric of normal everyday life crumbling :
down about her head.’
Hayman’s roving camera lets the story unravel :
with a brooding sense of unease, constantly disconcerting the audience. This free-moving technique was something he developed when working on The Bill (about two episodes a year for three years), ﬁnely tuning his ‘developing shots’, which start at the top of a scene and move, unbroken and uncut, to its end. He did one half-hour episode in seven shots and says he’d work for the series again, if a script could be developed that he could do in two. One before the adverts, one after. ‘I don’t like standing back and viewing things,’ he confesses. ‘That’s why I’ve got cameras roaming around, and that supplies its own personality and its own comments on the material. I hate detached pieces of work that don’t involve you, like, ehm Peter
Greenaway. It just leaves me cold, you know. 4
8 The List 19 nevember—z December 1993