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Looking For Eric - Ken Loach interview

Ken Loach

Interview by Rob Carnevale

KEN Loach discusses some of the challenges of making Looking For Eric, meeting Eric Cantona for the first time and why he thought it was a leg pull at first, and also his ongoing working relationship with screenwriter Paul Laverty.

Q. How long into your meeting with Eric Cantona was it before you mentioned you were a Bath City supporter?
Ken Loach: [Laughs] Well, I think it was because of my association with Bath City that Eric decided to get in touch with me. No… I managed to contain myself for a few days.

Q. What was your reaction when you were approached by Eric?
Ken Loach: Well, we thought it was a leg pull really. We didn’t believe it was true. The reality is that Paul [Laverty, writer] and I would have swum The Channel to meet Eric. So, we thought it was a joke but it turned out to be true and it was very interesting because Eric’s thought to us was to make a film about his connection to the fans, which as you all know is very special. We wondered for a little while whether we could really pull it off. You can’t just make a film because you admire someone’s personality and their skill – there has to be a real core and content to the film. But then Paul wrote the character of Eric Bishop and that was really the key that unlocked the set of relationships, the narrative and the imaginary connection to Eric that’s in the film.

Q. Can you describe your working relationship with Paul? Do you finish each other’s sentences?
Ken Loach: We started working together in about ’93 shortly after Paul had come back from Nicaragua working as a lawyer observing human rights abuses. But I think what makes it easy is that we tend to snigger at the same things and get angry about the same things. Nevertheless, the scripts are written by Paul and we talk about them. We throw them backwards and forwards but Paul does the writing. But that’s about it really.

Q. Do you think this film will appeal to fans of other clubs other than Manchester United?
Ken Loach: I think it’s important to separate out the footballing side from teams like United and the ownership. The footballing is just magnificent and whichever team you support, Alex Ferguson has produced team after team that plays magnificent football as have other great managers. So, I think you can admire the footballing side and have questions about the ownership.

Q. How was writing Cantona-isms for Eric?
Ken Loach: One of the most unpleasant phrases that I’m sure you hear a lot is the A-list – like some friends are better than others. I guess what Paul means [in his writing] is that all friends can contribute to the same level of support.

Q. There’s quite a lot of violence in the film. What do you think the film says about violence?
Ken Loach: I think this is too big a question to be able to deal with properly in short answers. I think it’s a huge issue. The issue of guns is a huge issue. I know Paul will talk more about this, but he spent some time with the mothers who try to keep their children away from violence. I think that violence is a great problem in society. Why? I think we’ve built a society which is built on aggression, on greed, on inquisitiveness. We’ve destroyed the method or the pattern for young people becoming adults.

Centuries ago, when I was young a lad would become an apprentice and he’d be sent for a left-handed screwdriver. Things like that were a way of absorbing young people into the world of adulthood. We’ve destroyed all that and we’re now surprised when kids who have no visible future want all the things that we’re told we need and, of course, resort to violence and guns. It’s a huge issue and we can’t deal with it adequately now.

Q. What’s your favourite scene?
Ken Loach: It’s a tricky one. I like the trumpet scene. When George Fenton was recording the music he was very keen to keep the original Eric playing in. He said: “He’s a great trumpeter but he shouldn’t give up the football.”

Read our review of Looking For Eric