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Flashbacks Of A Fool - Baillie Walsh interview

Flashbacks of a Fool

Interview by Rob Carnevale

WRITER and director Baillie Walsh talks about the making of Flashbacks Of A Fool, his passion for Roxy Music and David Bowie and why he chose South Africa as a filming location…

Q. You said that the inspiration for this movie came from a painting of a boy running through a field and the look of joy in his eyes. How did you start to develop the film from that?
Baillie Walsh: I walked into the artist’s studio and I saw that painting and recognised the expression on that little boy’s face of pure joy and happiness. It was literally just one of those moments of remembering… it’s like being kicked really. And I loved that feeling and it just set me off on thinking about the past. I’d always wanted to work with Daniel Craig and knew that I was going to have to write a script if I was ever going to, so set about putting two stories together.

Q. Why did you set the film where you did?
Baillie Walsh: It’s about a memory and I grew up in a seaside town. I didn’t want it to be kind of a grimy English seaside town, I wanted it to be a memory, which is kind of a heightened reality. All my summers, when I think back to them, have blue skies. So, I wanted the memory to have that heightened reality, which is why we shot in South Africa and built those houses on that beach. I wanted to have a romantic idea of what childhood was to set against the tragedy.

Q. And how easy was it to assemble such a great cast, as there are many well-known faces in small roles?
Baillie Walsh: The assembling of the cast was, I think, because of Daniel’s involvement and because they liked the script. Those kind of smaller roles contained scenes that the actors enjoyed doing. I was very lucky to get them.

Q. Did you have to do anything to the South African location in order to make it look like an idealised English coastline?
Baillie Walsh: Well, what I had to do was find the right beach location and that took me a while. I had a couple of visits to South Africa in order to find the right beach because I wanted to walk onto that beach and believe I was in England. I walked onto Silverstrom Beach, which is where we filmed, and I’d been to a beach like that in England. Maybe the sea’s a bit bigger and maybe it’s all a bit more heightened but when I walked onto that beach I thought: “OK, I believe it.” But we got lucky. We kept getting delayed. So, if I’d filmed in the summer in South Africa we’d probably have had a problem. Luckily, we were in the winter and the light was softer, so it worked perfectly for me.

Q. Is the music in the film reflective of your own musical inspirations?
Baillie Walsh: Yeah, absolutely. Those songs were really, really important to me as a child and as a teenager. David Bowie and Roxy Music informed my life and they kind of introduced me to a bigger world and an artistic world. The Roxy Music track in particular has been my favourite track throughout my whole life, so when I was writing the script it was, in a way, integral to the script.

Q. What was Bryan Ferry’s reaction to the film when he saw it for the first time?
Baillie Walsh: It was great because I got to show it to Bryan Ferry and Anthony Price [art director of the first Roxy Music album cover] at a private screening – because they’d never come to the crew screening – and they were both in tears at the end of the film. I thought I’d got a result. Luckily, they both really appreciated the movie and they loved it. Anthony made some costumes and made Harry [Eden]‘s jacket and a few little bits and pieces. They were very generous with their time and they’d given me the music. I’ve known them both a very long time, so I was very happy.

Q. Did Daniel Craig and Harry Eden work hard together to capture each other’s character traits? Was it important that Harry embodied some of Daniel’s characteristics in his performance?
Baillie Walsh: Well, I obviously wrote it for Daniel and my biggest fear was how the hell am I going to cast the young Daniel? The first person I saw was Harry after my agent suggested him and after the first time I met him I knew. They didn’t have to work at it because there’s something similar about the two of them. They’re natural. But when I was casting the movie, Harry would always be there in every reading so over the space of six months – maybe more – it was a gradual process. I never had to direct him by saying: “A young Daniel would never do that…” We had to suspend disbelief anyway, and we had to take you back to this magical place, so we made a decision quite early on not to attempt to do the same mannerisms. He’s a young teenager growing up and that’s the important part of the story. But they’re both incredibly natural and instinctive actors and the last thing that I wanted to do when we were getting Harry to play the young Joe Scot was to push him into a corner… he’s a natural.

Q. Was Miriam Karlin as feisty as her character in the film?
Baillie Walsh: Bless her, I kind of asked Miriam to put those horrible false teeth in. She is feisty but she loved the part and I was very, very lucky. Again, I couldn’t have wished for a better Mrs Rogers. But that’s the great thing… the script is one thing, but the thing that happens when you’re making a film is that the actors bring so much more. Miriam Karlin brought Mrs Rogers to life. I hope the script is OK, but the actors actually made those parts come to life.

Read our review of Flashbacks Of A Fool