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Alien Autopsy - Jonny Campbell (director) interview

Ant and Dec in Alien Autopsy

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SHAMELESS director Jonny Campbell talks about making his feature film debut with Alien Autopsy and what it was like to work with TV personalities Ant and Dec….

Q. How did you find directing Ant and Dec?
Jonny: From my point of view, I had to be sure they were capable of doing it. So that’s where the whole story comes along about auditioning them and making them do a screen test. It was my first film too and I felt that it was a cinderella slipper moment finding these guys and thinking of them for these characters because it was quite leftfield. But then it was perfect and I wanted to be absolutely sure that I would be able to get really great performances out of them in the time available. Obviously they’re great at what they do on TV week in, week out. But the difference, of course, is that you’re looking straight into the camera, so you have to almost forget all that. Whereas you have to play up to the camera in front of a live audience, you have to do the opposite as an actor. So I wanted to reassure myself that they could go back to their roots. But they did that and now I can’t think of it turning out any other way.

Q. As a director, how was working with Harry Dean Stanton? Is the man a genius or slightly scary?
Jonny: He was awesome. But he keeps you on your toes. You can’t bullshit someone like that, who’s done 107 films. He was always the first person that came into my mind when I read the script. When you read a script, you always pre-cast it so that it’s easier to read. But to think that he actually did it is still a great feeling. But he was incredibly serious about what he was doing. He wanted to know everything. The first time we met up in LA, it was about 11am and I don’t think he’d gone to bed that night. It was a real experience for all of us and I’m glad to have shared it.

Q. With respect to Ant and Dec, how much of a gamble was it casting them in this film?
Jonny: Good question. I didn’t really think of it in those terms, to be honest. My reaction to the idea of Ant and Dec playing those roles is probably the same as most people’s. They can’t quite corrolate Ant and Dec in a movie because they’ve not done it before. They’re so well-known in a different field. But as I said before, I felt that I had to make sure I could then deliver a great performance from them in a completely different field. That’s why we did the screen test and read the script again and again and again. But to give them their credit, they really rose to the challenge. They were incredibly disciplined on set. They knew their lines better than anyone else, every day, which meant that you could actually rehearse properly. And they had early nights. So was it a gamble? I think it makes it more interesting when it’s a bit of a gamble sometimes. This was such an unusual story that casting the guys was also quite an unusual thing to do. But that’s reflected in the story and it felt right.

Q. Are you interested to see how Ant and Dec are perceived?
Jonny: Obviously, in the UK market they’re entrenched in everyone’s minds. Everyone knows what Ant and Dec have done. What’s interesting for me and for everyone in terms of the film is how they’re going to be received in countries and territories who don’t know who the hell Ant and Dec are. They’ll be two alien actors who’ve not been seen before. They are two of our most talented people in this country so it’ll be interesting to see how they export overseas.

Q. Will there any funny out-takes on the DVD? What can we look forward to?
Jonny: The story is so complex that it went into all sorts of different areas. So when we watched the whole thing we realised there wasn’t time to explore everything and such scenes became a bit of a distraction. There’s a lot of stuff with the guys that didn’t feel right in the movie itself but they’re ad-libbing is hilarious, so there’s that to look forward to. The tone of the film was also important to retain. It’s not taking itself too seriously, it is a great story, these two characters venture into genres they shouldn’t be venturing into and there was one genre in the script that felt like the wrong one to go into. It got a bit too serious about their friendship. So there are some very powerful scenes that they performed. In fact, one of them is the one we used for the screen test which shows you how important I felt it was at that time. It does show their versatility as actors not to be funny all the time, but also to move you.

Read the review
Read our interview with Ant
Read our interview with Dec