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In The Loop - Chris Addison interview

Chris Addison in In The Loop

Interview by Rob Carnevale

CHRIS Addison talks to us about getting giddy while shooting in Washington for political satire In The Loop, coping with the improvisational style of Armando Iannucci’s direction and how he really feels about the political stories that populate our newspapers…

Q. Was there a parallel between the actors of In The Loop going to America and shooting in these wonderful landmarks, and your character’s wide-eyed excitement, and – by extension – how our real-life politicians sometimes get overwhelmed in that arena?
Chris Addison: Well, I think they did. That’s exactly what happened to our politicians, isn’t it? When [Alastair] Campbell and [Tony] Blair went to America they just got a bit giddy, which was one of the reasons they managed to sell everybody – including the people – quite so far down the river. So yeah, that absolutely happened to us. There are a couple of scenes where Tom [Hollander] and I are in the back of a limo in a motorcade and our characters are looking pretty giddy and wide-eyed. And we were pretty giddy too. On one occasion that was because we’d been starved of oxygen for about four hours immediately prior to the take.

Q. Can you give us any examples?
Chris Addison: There was one time I can remember where we had this enormous long limo, that you’d normally expect to see a hen night or a senior politician in, and Tom and I are in the back and we couldn’t move through Washington. It was rush hour by the time we came to take the shot. But eventually one of the police outriders – they have to be real policemen otherwise it’s impersonating a police officer – knocked on the window and said: “Do you want us to turn the lights on?” And for about a good four or five minutes everyone in that car was just giddy as we slid through the Washington traffic.

Q. Do they have a dedicated section of the police force for situations such as those?
Chris Addison: In New York, they have a specific department of the police who deal with all film, but they don’t have that in Washington. So, if the guys who you’ve ordered have something better to do, which in Washington they just do, you have to wait around, which is why Tom and I were starved of oxygen for nearly four hours. For them, it was just the second job of the day.

Q. Does the improv come easy to you?
Chris Addison: It’s really hard to do. It’s easier just to be funny as yourself than it is to be funny in character. That’s where it’s hard. Standing on stage as a stand-up comedian and responding to something that’s happening in the room is a completely different thing to standing there with a story and a narrative point that you have to get to, as well as a set of characteristics. Armando has told the story many times of how when we filmed the TV series from which this sprang, the five original members of the cast had all come up to him and said: “I think everyone else is really good but I’m holding us all back.” And that feeling never quite goes away.

Q. Do you get angry when stories about politicians’ personal lives emerge at the expense of the actual stories that count politically?
Chris Addison: Those stories are sort of the MacGuffin for the kind of stories that we’ve done in The Thick of It and the film to a lesser extent. It doesn’t really matter, any of that. I heard John Humphreys and Jacqui Smith on the Today programme, and it just makes you angry, because Humphreys is just as guilty as the politicians at perpetuating this obsession with the Westminster village. What’s most interesting is what’s happening underneath it.

The characters who’ve been built up are all ones who are obsessed by how they appear on that level, to the detriment of all the things that they actually should be doing. I don’t think you get angry at the idea that a man might have watched a couple of porn films – you get annoyed by the emphasis on that, and what that represents about the culture of politics in this country.

Q. Do you ever count up the amount of swear words in the script?
Chris Addison: It sells it short to say that it’s just swearing. It is profane but the writing around those swear words is really beautiful, funny and inventive. And that’s what allows the swearing.

Read our review of In The Loop

Read our interview with Peter Capaldi