Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Congratulations on the Golden Globe nomination...
A. Thank you very much!
Q. You must be very chuffed?
A. Very chuffed, very surprised and trying very hard
not to take awards and nominations very seriously, which is a
really boring response.
Q. You can build your hopes too high sometimes...
A. Oh I know I can't possibly win! I'm just going there
for the fun, but I'm not writing a speech.
Q. But now you have Golden Globe nominee under your belt,
to go with Olivier Award winner...
A. I'm a Golden Globe nominee, yes. It's very nice. It's
a very nice thing, but I kind of think of all the awards I wasn't
ever nominated for, for years and things.
Well, you just know, as a writer, I didn't really write one of
the five best screenplays of the year. There were lots of brilliant
screenplays; I was just one of the lucky ones who got nominated.
Q. But it is a brilliant screenplay. It pulls viewers
in a lot of different directions and it is very challenging?
A. Yes, well I hope so. But I think the thing I'm proud
of about the film is that there aren't many films - either independent
films or mainstream Hollywood films - that are like this; it's
of its own times, and it's the film Mike Nichols wanted to make.
And whether you like it or not, it's authentic; it's the real
deal, and it doesn't pull its punches. It's a film-makers film
and I love it for that. He hasn't sold it out, it's just what
he wanted to make. And very few films these days, that you see,
do you feel that there's a sort of artist's hand at work, and
is doing what you wanted it to do.
I felt like that when I saw Paul Pavlikovsky's My Summer of Love.
I just thought here's a guy in full command of the medium - you
just feel confident from the first shot. And I felt like that
with Mike, you know, as soon as you see Natalie Portman walking
towards you in slow motion, you just think 'oh, right, I can relax,
he knows what he's doing'. And it's a really nice feeling.
It doesn't really feel like it's got anything to do with me. I
mean, I know I wrote it, and all that and invented the characters
and made it up, but it's Mike's film, so doing the press and stuff,
it feels a little bit inauthentic. I was just one component of
Q. But probably one of the most important. I mean, if
it weren't for you there would be no story?
A. Sure. But he's the teller of the story, somehow, more
than I am. When it was a play, I'm the teller of the story, but
the director of the film is really the teller of the story.
Q. You and Mike Nichols first started talking about adapting
Closer into a film in 1999, when it first went to Broadway?
A. That's right, yeah, I had breakfast with him in the
spring of '99. He'd seen the play and he'd read the play and he
just said he wanted to do a film of it. And I said 'let me think
about that' and took a couple of years... I was never going to
give it to anyone else; I just needed to get the play out of my
system and start thinking about it as something completely different.
The irony was, once I'd said 'yes', he said 'but I kind of wanted
to do it like the play'.
Whereas my assumption was, 'ok, can I live with ripping up the
play and turning it into something completely different?' It took
me two years to go 'yeah, I can', and then Mike goes 'well, actually,
I want to be completely faithful'.
Q. But it is slightly different?
A. Slightly different, as film naturally makes it different.
But I've always felt with this material that whoever acts in it
becomes the characters, cos I don't really deliviate the characters
very clearly; they just... they're people in motion saying stuff,
and so whichever actor plays the role, that's what Alice is like.
It's not like they have to kind of become someone else.
Always when I directed the play, I was always trying to cast people
not who were necessarily like the characters, but people who I
felt had the essential component that the character had, some
kind of soul for it.
Clive Owen being unique....
Q. Because he was in the original stage version?
A. Yeah, because he had the soul of Dan in the stage
version seven years ago, when he was a younger man, and now he's
absolutely right for Larry.
Q. And arguably, he gives one of the finest performances
in the film?
A. Yeah, he's phenomenal. Really good.
Q. How do you see that Clive Owen has changed in the
time that you're known him? Do you stay in contact?
A. Yeah, yeah we see each other now and again and when
he's been in plays I've gone to see them and had dinner with him
and stuff. I'm afraid to say he's the same nice guy he was seven
years ago. He was always very committed to his work, and he still
is, and he was always interested in doing good stuff, working
with good people, and he still is; it doesn't seem to have gone
to his head at all, he's just kind of straight, he's just the
real deal. He's more at one in his body, I think, which is something
I noticed. When he played Dan he was kind of gangly in some way,
more boyishly uncertain of where to put himself physically, whereas
now - it must be the effects of being photographed so much, doing
press and having to talk about yourself endlessly - it forces
yopu to find a way of being in the world where you're protected
but you can give enough to get through the avalanche of press
and the responsiblity you have as a successful film actor. So
he seems more centred.
Q. And has that kind of attitude he adopts towards the
press helped you in recent times, as the level of scrutiny surrounding
you intensifies? Because I imagine this must be a new level of
intensity for you?
A. Yes and no. I mean when the play was on in New York
I was starting to get film offers coming through, and since the
film's come out I get offered more than I used to, but it happens
incrementally. It doesn't feel sudden. It just sort of slowly...
you notice more people are calling but it doesn't feel like a
big shock. It's very nice but it's not shocking.
Q. It's also quite refreshing
and surprising to see Julia Roberts in quite a shocking role by
her standards. I mean, she's been seen swearing before, in Erin
Brockovich, but she's never used language as coarse as this...
A. Yeah, not pushed as far as this. And never resistent
to it, just totally went with it from day one. Yeah, I think she's
surprised a lot of people; a lot of people think of her as a particular
kind of actress, but I think she's got much greater range than
people have given her credit for.
Q. Did you get to meet her?
A. Oh yeah, a lot. I wouldn't say we're best buddies,
but I hung out with her and gossiped, a few jokes...
Q. And did she have much input into the character, or
attempt to bring anything of herself into the role?
A. Well, I never know how much an actor puts of themselves
in, and how much they're drawing on personal experience, and I
wouldn't like to pry. But I imagine that if you agree to do a
role like that you must know the territory in some way, otherwise
it would feel like double dutch.
Q. Talking of knowing the territory, you have stated
that it's not really autobiographical, but it does draw on some
A. Well I was once unfaithful to someone, I can admit
that, and someone was once unfaithful to me, and it hurt, so it's
autobiographical in that respect, emotionally, but there is no
prototype of Alice, and I'm not Larry and I'm not Dan.
Q. So who do you sympathise with most out of the characters?
A. All of them. I like them all. I'm very fond of them.
They've been very good to me over the years. I like them all -
I don't always approve. I see myself as a sort of benevolent uncle
to these characters, and I can see why they do what they do; sometimes
they make some mistakes, but at heart I think they're decent.
But there are some responses to the film that just go 'they are
black, they are evil, they are vicious psychos at war with each
other'. I feel those people are watching a different film from
the one I see.
Q. Is that because they're clinging on the more traditional
need for a happy ending, do you think?
A. I don't know, I don't know. It just seems to me that
life is a bit like this. I know it's a film and all of that, and
it's a Hollywood film, but it kind of feels like this sometimes,
when you're in pain and it hurts, and you're desperate. Or you
are about to cross some moral line and it's so seductive and you
just do... and all that. And I think Mike Nichols has just captured
those weird feelings, so I find it surprising when people go 'oh,
it's got nothing to do with anything I've ever experienced!' I
tend to think, 'well, what have you been doing?'
Q. So do you believe in love at first sight?
A. [Pauses] Yes. Yes I do. Um, but it never seems to
Q. Which is why people go on looking?
A. I guess so.
Q. And would you describe yourself as an optimist or
a cynic when it comes to love? Because I have the feeling that
after seeing Closer, a lot of people might have you pegged as
A. Yeah they would and they're wrong. I'm a happily married
man and I think to get married you have to be optimistic. And
I've been with the same person for a long time - I've been together
for years. So yeah I'm completely optimistic. You have to be,
because when you've given up on love, you've given up on life.
Q.I'm actually planning to get married this year.
A. Congratulations... good luck to you! I went to a wedding
recently, in fact, in Richmond Park. It was at Pembroke Lodge
and it was fantastic - except, it was the day someone got murdered
in Richmond Park, so it was a wedding in a crime scene. And I
thought I've got to write this as a romantic comedy. But it was
a fantastic wedding. Is that your neck of the woods?
A. Right, when I was a kid my mother used to take me
to that wonderful little hill top near there, where you could
look through the bushes and see St Paul's Cathedral. You know
where I mean? I grew up in Kingston upon Thames. It's amazing
that thing, it's magical.
Q. So talking about future projects, what's next for
A. I'd really like to write a play. I miss the theatre
and I've got to get off my arse and write a play; that's really
what I've got to do.
Q. Have you started?
A. I have a few vague ideas, but too vague to discuss.
Q. You direct and act as well, do you intend to do both
still, as well as write?
A. Yeah, if something came up that was too good to say
no to. I'm always up for a bit of that. It's nice to do different
things, otherwise I'd never get out the house, but I couldn't
say I'm flooded with offers as an actor.
Q. Going back a little bit, you started out as a stand-up
Q. Do you miss that at all?
A. Never. No. I have two recurring nightmares. One, I
have to do my finals again, and I haven't revised, and the other
one is that I have to do stand-up again and I don't know my lines
- I've got no act.
But when I watch great comedy on TV - The Office or Little Britain
- I do sometimes think 'oh, I'd love to do a bit of that'. So
I sort of miss that. But I don't miss stand-up.
Q. So what made you decide to make the transition into
A. Nothing, it wasn't a conscious choice, I just happened
to write a play. And the play got put on - that was Dealer's Choice
- and so suddenly I was a comedian who had written a play and
then I'd so enjoyed having written that first play and having
it put on, I wanted to do that again and so wrote Closer. And
suddenly I was a playwright rather than a comedian. It just sort
of happened incrementally, so there was never a day when I sat
down and said 'well I'm going to stop being a comedian now and
I'm going to become a playwright'. It just happened. And yet I've
never felt as though I've ever been in control of my career; I've
always felt each day incrementally moves towards different areas,
but I've never had a plan or a strategy for it.
Q. So do you ever find yourself having to pinch yourself
then with how far you've come - and how fast?
A. It doesn't feel fast. I've been in showbusiness since
1986 - that's when I graduated and I went straight into doing
stand-up. I've been at it a really long time, in fact - 18 years
in the business. That's a long time, you know, so I feel I've
worked for it. So I really appreciate it and I do pinch myself.
But the thing that really excites me is the people I've worked
with over the years. To have worked with Steve Coogan when he
was just starting out and to have been involved in all that, and
The Day Today was fantastic; and to have Ray Winstone and Phil
Daniels in my first play and then to have made a film with Mike
Nichols - it's the people that you feel excited about. It's not
the awards and it's not the glory of it. The glory is, I had Ray
in my play and I directed Ray Winstone before he did Nil By Mouth
and, you know, it's that, really.
Q. It serves to enrich the overall life experience, doesn't
A. It does. It's that and that's what I like about showbusiness
- you're constantly meeting new people and working with them,
and getting to meet people who are your heroes. It's great, it's
a nice job for a kid.