The Firm - Nick Love interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
NICK Love talks about remaking Alan Clarke’s The Firm, his fascination for football violence and gang culture and why he feels he’s mellowed as a filmmaker. He also talks about his passion for all things ‘80s…
Q. Why remake The Firm and, by extension, return to the theme of football violence that you originally examined in The Football Factory?
Nick Love: Well, I’m fascinated with it. I can’t lie. I think that more than football violence, I’m fascinated with gang culture and I think there’s lots of ways that this is tied in to each other. I think, for me, I wanted to make a personal film, so I set it in the early ’80s, which was something that was true to life for me. I joined a casual gang. But there is something about football violence and the lads’ outing, and the spark when there’s a lot of men together, that I do find interesting.
Q. How has your attitude to football violence changed from the time that you were surrounded by it to directing this film?
Nick Love: Well, I think you can see from the film that it’s a pretty moral film and a positive film as well. Ultimately, the character decides to walk away. I think that in terms of my films it’s certainly the most obviously moral. It’s a rights of passage film, it’s a coming of age film, and it is about the allure and attraction of it and particular people who are kind of cool, etc. But ultimately, it’s about someone who doesn’t really want to engage on that level.
Q. Do you think it’s also a coming of age film for you as a director in terms of not being as violent and confrontational as some of your films?
Nick Love: Yeah, I do think it is. I certainly know that I won’t revisit that milieu again. I feel like, for me, the scene with the two boys walking off at the end feels like that’s me walking off at the end as well. I think it’s a much more complete film than I’ve made previously about that sort of genre that shows different aspects of it, and not just one side of it. It’s got more soul, possibly, and more heart. I’ve grown up and softened, definitely, and I think the film is a reflection of my mental state.
Q. How easy was it to find Calum MacNab and Paul Anderson for the two leads?
Nick Love: It wasn’t that difficult actually because I’d worked with Calum on The Football Factory and I knew Paul from around and about. A couple of people had put him in front of me before and said I should look at him because he’s potentially a really good actor. I did see lots of fairly well known young male London actors for the roles. But there was something about the two of them together that made me think they’d surprise people.
But if you’re making a remake of a really well loved Alan Clarke movie, and with my track record of making immoral violence, you’ve got the odds stacked against you – so, in a sense, what I tried to do was diffuse the situation as much as possible. One way of doing that was to tell the story from another point of view, another was to give it a lot of heart rather than just loads of violence, and then cast unknown, fresh people that weren’t people I’d used before. So, it was all about trying to surprise people.
Q. That decision seems to have been vindicated thus far by the early positive reviews you’ve had?
Nick Love: Yeah, I have to say it’s ironic… I mean it’s a film about football violence on some level, it’s the fifth film Ive made, and my reputation for making ladd-ish films is bad… and yet it’s got the best reviews of all the films I’ve made.
Q. How much fun was re-creating the ’80s?
Nick Love: Brilliant! I’ve never really left it emotionally. I did have a big pull towards it still with the clothes and the music. I’ve never really stopped listening to ’80s music. I have such vivid memories of Corona bottles on tables and Rubix Cubes, even though they’re a bit obvious. But I had so many memories that my production designer and costume designer could play with. Actually, the film’s cheaper than most of my other films. You don’t need a lot of money to do it. You just need to put the right money in the right places and half the time it’s just a room with a bit of wallpaper that tells the story. Obviously, the street fights are quite big and quite dramatic… but that’s where you have the feeling of “wow”, blokes running around with deerstalker hats on. It really gives you the feeling of like: “Shit! That’s the ’80s.”
Q. On the one hand there has been an ’80s revival that must have helped the film…
Nick Love: Very much so, yeah!
Q. Yet on the other there were also the recent headlines of football violence following the game between West Ham and Millwall. How much did that damage your film?
Nick Love: I’ll be frank with you, we did lose a couple of sponsors on the back of what happened. It was certainly very… whether it was serendipitous or just terrible timing I don’t know. But who would have called that – those two teams playing each other after not doing so for 15 years almost? But I think it does actually put the film in some sort of contemporary context in a weird sort of way and I think it will balance itself out. I think there is a lot of press hysteria about Upton Park because there were men running around the pitch. But they weren’t football thugs – they were just drunk dads that were over the moon that their team had scored. That said, it was a very hostile place.
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Nick Love interview
- Paul Anderson, Calum MacNab and Daniel Mays interview
- The Firm photo gallery