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I Want Candy - Stephen Surjik interview

I Want Candy

Interview by Rob Carnevale

STEPHEN Surjik, director of I Want Candy, talks about some of the challenges of making an English film with some American sensibilities…

Q. The notion that struggling filmmaker may see pornography as their way in isn’t a new one. Can you tell us about your real-life brush with it?
A. When I was in film school in Montreal we would struggle to make our very important films and when day came to night we’d take our raw stock to the laboratory and try to make a deal with the guys that ran the lab to run it for cheap. There was always a guy hanging around that lab in the overcoat who always wanted to get people involved in his film which was, of course, some kind of porno film.

You would try to avoid this guy but I eventually got sucked in. My friends would say that he’s really interested in my work. I wanted to counter the deal so I came in with a project called The Crash, which is basically a story about these guys who run round in ambulances and there’s a weird sort of sexuality that takes place in the ambulance. It was dark material but I thought it was an angle. They read the book and didn’t want to meet me anyone; they thought I was a real pervert and didn’t want anything to do with me.

Q. Did life imitate art in a way in that you had a script for this film and then asked who could we get to play the part of the porn star? Why not Carmen Electra?
A. We went after Carmen very early on in this process. We wanted to make a British comedy with some American sensibilities in it. But while Carmen always owned the role and was Candy I always wondered what it would be like with a real serious actor such as Sylvester Stallone. But seriously, we dreamt about Carmen for a long time.

Q. Were there any English traditions that took you by surprise, such as tea breaks or bacon sarnies?
A. The one that took me by surprise was that we had to re-schedule some stuff so that everyone could watch the football because it was the World Cup.

Q. How was it juggling the Englishness with some of the American sensibilities?
A. One of the major issues that we wanted to embrace on the British side of things is that the actors never wink at the camera. They always go straight ahead and embrace the situation and its reality. That’s really what we wanted to embrace in terms of the British sensibility.

The American sensibility is more of a production value in terms of the writing of it and the slickness of it. We wanted to keep it as high value as we could given the budget constraints.

Q. How did Eddie Marsan get involved?
A. When Eddie walked into the room he had the role. I’ve been a fan of Eddie’s for some time and had no idea that he’d be interested in such a thing. He came dancing in the room wearing this incredible suit, with his hair slicked back and just fired off the lines. It was done.

He pops up in small roles in all sorts of American stuff, as well as British stuff. I’ve known him for a long time. I didn’t even know when he walked in the room that it was him because I was so… what’s he doing even reading for the role really? That was one thing I had to get over. Then after that I was just kind of petrified speaking to him.

Q. Where do you get your influences from or do you direct the film that you want to see?
A. Little Criminals was a very dark, gloomy and socially realstic, hardcore look… it was really the antithesis of this in every way. I kind of have two careers; one is I’m producing a TV show in Vancouver right now called Intelligence which is a suspense thriller, kind of political spy show. And then I do comedies.

When I started in comedies I liked doing it but there was a certain point when… doing comedies can be very, very difficult. It’s not funny to do a comedy. If you want a funny set I’d watch a war movie being made. People tend to joke a lot. On comedies there’s not much joking going on for some reason and that got to me. I didn’t want to do comedies for a while. But I’ve really, really grown to love it again in a major way. I love watching it and making them.

Q. I love the charming way that Candy Fiveways got her name in the film [by taking the name of her first pet and the name of the road she grew up on]. What would your porn name become?
A. Mine is Fluffy Durham!

Read our review of I Want Candy