Destined to be the ‘sleeper’ hit of the year, KIRK JONES' Waking Ned has all the charm and humour of an old Ealing comedy. Words: Miles Fielder
Kirk Jones‘ first feature Waking Ned. an Ealing— esquc comedy revolving around a lottery win. has hit the jackpot in the US. The bigwigs at the UK National Lottery aren‘t smiling. however.
‘A lot of people assume that we got our money from the l..ottery.‘ says the young writer-director. ‘But it's the complete opposite: can you imagine them reading that script‘.’ They said: “Do you honestly expect us to put money into a film that not only shows the winner dying. but the whole village getting together to scam us?” ‘Point taken.
Waking Neil's relatively modest £2 million budget was cobbled together from a variety of sources. including the Film Commission on the Isle of Man. whose locations stood in the more costly southern Ireland setting. The budget also restricted Jones to minimal time with his cast — not that it detracts from the film. which is driven by marvellous performances.
With hindsight. the casting of sixty/seventy- something actors Ian Bannen (the Scot whose
impressive career has ranged from Brave/wart to Dr
Fin/av) and David Kelly is a coup. And. considering the current vogue for pretty young things in British comedies (Shouting IVs/i. Sliding Doors and This Year‘s Love). it‘s also a gamble. but one that's paid off.
‘I was very influenced by the relationship I had with my grandfather. and that’s why I wrote a film
22 THE LIST 18 Mai ~l Apt 1999
'l said no to an offer from America to cast Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and shoot in Canada.’ Kirk Jones
Taking a gamble: Kirk Jones directs Waking Ned
that features two pretty mature actors.~ explains Jones. ‘I don‘t see actors of this. age on the big screen very often. They bring with them confidence. presence. charm and energy. Their comic timing . . just the movement of an eyebrow is a whole emotion.‘
(iood job. then. that Jones didn‘t succumb to casting pressure from the money people. ‘I said no to an offer from America to cast Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and shoot in Canada. The Grumpy Old Men films were so far removed from the film I wanted to make. My two old guys are celebrating their lives and they‘re on a great adventure. I didn’t want to take the piss out of their age in any way.‘
In addition to the characters. it’s the setting that informs the tone of the film. which is resolutely not ‘()irish‘. The West (‘ountry English boy Jones accomplished the former while avoiding the latter with first-hand research.
‘()n my first visit to southern Ireland. I photographed. videoed and interviewed people.‘ he recalls. ‘Then I came back to write the script. One of the best moments for me was during casting in Dublin when the lrish actors were saying. “Hang on a minute. you're English. I‘ve read the script and thought you were lrish." ‘
The Americans were also impressed with Jones‘ efforts. Waking Ned's ‘sleeper‘ success in the US has resulted in numerous offers from Hollywood. Yet. Jones remains cautious.
‘l‘m aware of this pressure. everyone saying “What’s next. what‘s next". But if I took someone else‘s script or money and made a real turkey . . . I would die.‘ he exclaims. Then. joking. he adds: ‘You might speak to me next year and HI have signed tip to Paramount. but I seriously think I would get into a lot of trouble if I went out there.‘
Whether Jones follows in the footsteps of famous eX—pats such as Ridley Scott. Alan Parker. Adrian Lyne or Michael (‘aton-Jones remains to be seen.
General release from Fri 19 Mar. See review.
Lights, camera, action. . .
DUNDEE CONTEMPORARY ARTS (see feature on page 104) isn’t all about paintings and installations. The two- screen cinema situated within the building boasts auditoriums with 220 and 80 seats, as well as state-of- the-art projection equipment and DTS Digital sound. The programme kicks off at 8.30pm on Sat 20 Mar with the first screening in Dundee of Ken Loach’s My Name Is Joe, which will be introduced by actress Louise Goodall. The majority of films on offer rest on the arthouse/ mainstream borderline, but Taysiders should also look out for a short Humphrey Bogart retrospective, regular children’s matinees and rare screenings of Andy Warhol films and screen test reels. Call the cinema box office on 01382 432000.
CRUSAID SCOTLAND GLAMS up for its annual all-night Oscars party at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Sun 21 Mar. Live coverage of the Academy Awards ceremony — which is only on satellite this year — is preceded by preview screenings of Gods And Monsters (see Ian McKellen interview and review) and Le Diner De Cons and an auction of movie memorabilia. Tickets cost £15 and are available from the box office on 0131 228 2688.
THE 20TH CELTIC Film and Television Festival heads to the Isle of Skye from 24—27 Mar, and gets underway with a screening of Irish comedy Waking Ned - see interview with director Kirk Jones on this page. Talent from Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Brittany and Cornwall will descend on the Hebrides for the first time since the first festival, which took place on Benbecula. Speakers include filmmaker John McGrath, writer Bernard MacLaverty and a stage-to-screen masterclass featuring directors Morag Fullerton. Christopher Morahan and Michael Bogdanov (who scandalised the theatre world in 1980 with Romans In Britain).
Bowled over: Louise Goodall
heads to Dundee