him on stage at Iidinhurgh's (‘ameo cinema for his first
feature film. l‘)‘)7's ()rp/tans. In the bar afterwards fora few pints. On stage with him in a Newcastle cinema talking ahotrt his new film. lllt’ .IIagda/ene Sisters. Again. in the bar afterwards for a few pints. Most recently in a swanky London hotel a few days before (’hristmas. where he was doing press for .llagdalene. I feel like he's become something of a pal.
When we meet for the third time. it's: ‘.»\ll right Miles. how's it going'." Then. before we settle into the hotel suite's furniture for a chat. he makes a joke about four in the bed: him. me. Magdalene's ptrblicist and anotherjournalist. Ila. ha. l)irty' sod. Later. we'll talk about the latest Star Trek film. (‘hristmas with the family. no more first footing at Ilogmanay in Glasgow. his hometow'n‘s sad drtrg and crime problem. how times have changed etc.
And it would he the same for you. too: you'd meet Peter. and unlike so many I’R-schooled filmmakers. he’d he funny. cheeky. candid. telling you stories. quickly making you feel like his pal in the ptih. That‘s Peter Mullan. He‘s not at all like his hard man screen persona: thug in Sliallou- (irat'e. warrior in Brave/ream. drug dealer in trains/rotting. former alcoholic in My Name is Joe. gangster in ()rdinarv Deeent Criminal. had lather in The ('lat'tn. psycho in Session 9. and that old despot Macbeth opposite his Lady. (‘ourtney Love. in the forthcoming Miss .Iune.
So. Mullan takes the couch and I take an armchair. He‘s got his shoes off. The fags are on the coffee table hetween tis and the shape of his arse is indented into the furniture. lle‘s
I ’ V0 ,net I’eter Mullan a few times. (‘hairing a Q&.-\ with
been doing press all day. In fact. Mullan‘s been doing press for
Magdalene for ages. and he's knackered. Since The Magdalene Sisters picked tip the top award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival and another at 'I‘oronto. and then played everywhere from New York to (‘ork. he‘s been on a whirlwind press tour. He's just recently arrived from Croatia. where an acting gig. Helen al'l’eek/iam. has been paying the mortgage.
‘I was shattered when I came back from Croatia. much. mtrch more so than I thought I would be.’ he says. reaching for the cigarettes and lighting tip a menthol. ‘Yeah. I was really fucked. because it was a very intense film and I was in every scene in the (‘roatian part of the shoot. Then. of course. you’re no sooner back than it‘s the whole press thing. And literally it was like: name a country and there I was. "We want you there. we want you there. we want you there.“
Mullan's moaning. playing otit conversations (he does this a lot). just now between himself and the PR people. But aside from being shattered. he’s got a wife and kids to support. ‘(iuys I need to cam my living.‘ he says to invisible PR people. ‘I need to pay the fucking mortgage. and this doesn’t pay the mortgage. At all. If anything. the opposite.’
"Tomorrow. he says to rue. ‘the drawhridge comes up until New Year. Then I've got France to do. Germany. I’m leaving it at that.’
Then. it‘s back to work. Writing. He‘s got I l ideas. one of
which will become his third feature. His plan is to start writing in February. 'But if any acting work comes tip. I’ll be taking it.’ He's moving to his new American representative. l(‘M.
HE IS CHEEKY, CANDID, TELLING YOU STORIES, QUICKLY MAKING YOU FEEL LIKE HIS PAL IN THE PUB
with a view to possibly uprooting to .-\merica with his family. Iividently. he‘s quite pleased. The move of agent should help with the hills. ‘Butf as he say s. ‘I've got to write something cos I‘m ftrcking hroke.‘
But despite its success. the .llagdalene e\perience has made him cautious. Three years ago. when Mullan was interviewed by The list. he was quoted on the cover saying: I” make any damn film I want.' That's no longer the case.
‘.\'ow.' he says. ‘it will literally he: what one might I get the money to make. and what one can I live with for four years in terms of the making of it'.’ I‘ve learned enough to know that if you just wake up in the morning and go: "That‘s a great wee idea for a film." if you start punting it. you might he tmfortunate enough for someone to go: "That's a great idea for the film. I'll give you the money." And then you wake up the next morning and think: “That's a pish idea." .-\nd you cannac get ottt of it.
‘I remember on The Big .Ilan.‘ he says. recalling his first film role. 'l)avid Leyland did rewrites for the end of what was an appalling film. ()n set. I was jtrst a hit player. but him and me got on pretty well. I remember saying to him: "Do you realise the crew's laughing at these rewrites?" He said: “I know." I said: “Why are you going to shoot this when you know it‘s bollocks?" And he said: “It started out as a snowball and now it's an avalanche. And I can‘t stop an avalanche." So. I’m very conscious that you’ve got to he very careful of what you‘re writing. particularly if you've got any kind of reputation now. It can he a real double-edged sword.‘
Mullan does have a reputation to live up to. and it's not jtist because of Magdalene. His first feature. the (ilasgow—sel hlackest of comedies. ()rp/ians. might not have set cinema hox offices alight. bttt it marked him as a serious filmmaker who really works at his craft. making movies that challenge audiences. And then. of course. there was his best actor l’alrnc d‘()r award glory at the IOUX (‘annes Film Festival for his remarkable lead performance in Ken Loach‘s My Name is Joe. That elevated his reputation to the international level.
And so there‘s now also the problem of expectation. I tell him l‘vejust seen Martin Scorsese‘s (iangs ol'Neu- link and am disappointed. that maybe I was expecting too much from the man who made Mean Streets and (hind/elliis and ('asinn. ‘lf.’ he says. ‘you create something that had an impact way beyond anything you could ever have imagined. or hoped for. people will not allow you to top it. they'll jtrst not allow it mentally.‘
He cites the case of Ken Loach. 'Now. how many films has he gotta do before people don‘t mention Kes'.’ As you say. with the name of Scorsese attached. (‘oppola as well. it‘s like. I don't know what they'd have to do to top it. I‘m in no position similar to those guys. btit I'm sure my next film will get compared to Magdalene.~
My allotted time with Mullan is fast drawing to a close. and I‘ve only asked him two questions. Like I said. an interview with him is more like gahhing in the ptth. Speaking of which. when the publicist pops her head round the door. indicating ‘time please. gentlemen‘. Mullan asks politely fora beer to be brought to the room. 'Anyway.‘ I say. 'we should talk about The iI/Iagdalene Sistersf b
Magdalené Sisters is e by the critics and 7" by the Vatican
13—27 Feb 2003 THE LIST 21