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League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse - Steve Pemberton



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Was it a tough deciding what to leave out because fans' want/expect to see their favourite characters?
A:
Well it was, between the three of us we've done 100 characters in the life of League of Gentlemen, so obviously for 100 minute film we either do a minute each or... so we quickly decided we had to have a small group of characters and when it came to deciding the main group of characters that were going to carry the story - it just kind of chose itself really.
The more extreme characters didn't seem able to exist in a real world and do what we wanted to do which was try to integrate them into the world of `us', as well as some of the characters that we knew a little bit less about - it gave us the option to explore them a bit further and felt less spin-offy. Because we didn't want it to appeal to fans only, we thought it was more universal - if we opened it out.

Q. Was it easier playing yourselves in the film?
A.
No, that was the hardest to write, certainly. We experimented with different ways of writing for ourselves and we suggested giving ourselves different names so it wouldn't be so difficult - but at the back of your mind, you know that `Kevin' is really you, so we struggled with that.

Q. How did you get Michael Sheen to play him?
ALL:
Curly hair!
Steve Pemberton: If you know Jeremy, he's got that lovely curly hair and Michael had, at that time, the same hairstyle.
Mark Gatiss: We met him and he was a fan and it just came together.
Reece Shearsmith: It just seemed right, we thought it would be a great way to start the film with this pre-title `Scream' type section where he apparently dies and he really pitched it in the right way I think for the film and the world we create. It's quiet difficult for actors to come in and do our kind of screen acting with us, sometimes with David Warner, he didn't deliver the line like we imagined David Warner delivering the line when we'd written for him. So we'd say 'Do it like David Warner'.

Q. What in your past did you drawer on to feed the humour?
A:
It's probably less about what happened to us from our past and more what we watched on telly - with the curtains drawn. We kept being told to play out by our mums but it's paid off. If you're a film fan you can see a lot of references in there and stuff that we've enjoyed.

Q. At a time when the BBC consider it non-PC to show the George Mitchell Minstrels, how come you guys got away with Papa Lazarou - who is so non-PC?
A:
No, that's the strange thing, the BBC press department did compile this lengthy response, and apology in advance and it's never been used! And that goes across the board, we've had very few complaints.
I think when you create a world liked we've created with Royston Vasey, which seems to have its own rules and it's quite a nightmarish world, people sort of know when they go into that world what the rules are, and that it's a fictional thing, and clearly there's no intent with Papa Lazarou other than to be a very disturbing nightmarish figure.

Q. Where did he come from - Cornwall?
A:
I don't know if it's Cornwall where they get big barrels of tar and set fire to them and they've all got black faces - it's the Wicker Man!
Mark Gatiss: A lot of that is based on observation of a Greek landlord who used to say on the phone 'Hello Steve'..
Steve: As we were writing it, we came up with this idea of a carnival visiting the town and then we threw the make-up into the mix and then we were writing the scene and then it twisted on this moment where he thinks I'm his wife and we said, right that's what it is, he collects these women.
As you're writing it you have these moments of inspiration, it's very rare, so when it happens you cling onto it.

Q. Did you film your doubles using women?
A:
No, all the doubles were male so they had to go through everything with us and they had to have our costumes and our paddings and have their noses up and we see very little of them apart from the back of a head or a shoulder.
There was one bit at the end for the apocalypse bit and all the characters had to be there and the they came in one at a time, all our characters, and it was really freaky - it was like the film coming to life.

Q. Whose idea was it to have the catering company called Hot Buns?
A:
Hot Buns - yeah, that wasn't our idea but I have to say it was the best catering ever.

Q. When you wrote this film did you assume the audience would know all the characters?
A:
I think it's more gettable than if we'd carried on the story of the TV programme because then people who hadn't seen it wouldn't have had a hope.
By taking the characters out of Royston Vasey on this journey which ends up back there again the fans and the non-fans are in the same position and no-one knows what is going to happen.

Q. Through the American BBC Channel, the States has seen your show, so do you plan to open the movie in the US and will you go over and promote it?
A:
Well, we'd love to, but it's going to depend on what it does over here and they're certainly looking at places in Europe and in Australia and America - where there is a presence there.
I think you've only got to look at Shaun of the Dead, where they did a similar thing - it did well here and they thought well let's give it a shot and it surpassed everyone's expectations.
If the same thing were to happen that would be great but the difference, I guess, is with this it is definitely based on a TV show, where there was more of a distance between Spaced and Shaun of the Dead.

Q. Where has the show been a success?
A:
Everywhere: Poland, Finland, Eastern Europe.

Q. Why the Poles?
Mark Gatiss:
It's a lifestyle they aspire to!
Steve Pemberton: Germany, all over, I mean France, who are notoriously snobbish about taking Le Clique Du Gentleman!

Q. How has Herr Lipp gone down in Germany?
A:
I don't know. I expect they've made him Austrian or Swiss - done a Manuel on it!
Mark Gatiss: In Japan the series is called Psycho-Ville!
Steve: If only we'd thought of that.

Q. Isn't it strange hearing yourselves dubbed into another language?
A:
I think they get three characters to do all the voices, so you haven't got a woman's voicing Tubbs, you do have a man.
Mark Gatiss: I'd love to see a translation, though, if it was translated back - because there was a review of one of our books in Dutch and Steve put it through one of those internet translators, which is ridiculous, and the line just came out, it said 'Jeremy is a little cotton-reel' and we never understood what it was supposed to mean! It was brilliant.

Q. When did you first realise the show/characters had taken on a life of their own?
Mark Gatiss:
The day before yesterday!
Steve: It happens by increments. The first time we really felt it was when we went on tour, which was 2000.
We opened with Tubbs and Edward rising from the ashes of the Local Shop and there was this eruption of cheering and love for those characters, and that's very different from individual people coming up and saying they liked the show or reading a nice review, this was a mass of people and wherever we went in the country, particularly I have to say, north of Watford, you got a massive response. Particularly from places like Newcastle and Manchester.

Q. Did Woody Allen pick you up from seeing League of Gentlemen?
A:
I very much doubt he's a fan of the show. No, it was just an audition that I did on tape and the tape got sent away. He's a fan of Last of the Summer Wine apparently.
Mark Gatiss: I hope I'm in it too! I did a day. I played ping pong with Scarlett Johannson.

Q. Will there be another series of League of Gentlemen?
A:
We've always set our own agenda really, it would be a very dangerous thing to do to set deadlines that we have to meet. We've never done that, we've always thought what do we want to do next.
This film, for example, we wrote on spec, we didn't want anyone looking at it halfway through and trying to shape the film, and I think we'll do the same again, if it's another film or tv series, you just hope people want to keep seeing what you do.
It's a bubble, the tour is going to be called The League of Gentlemen Are Behind You, and it's a pantomime theme, so there's no point with Herr Lipp thinking he's been through this experience, each new thing is its own bubble.

Q. Have you ever been censored... told that's going too far?
A:
It's atmospheric and it's creepy and it's dark, which is the word we are always saddled with, but I think we know where the line is, maybe we go close to it or dip our toe over it...

Q. What makes you laugh and what scares you?
A:
I'm scared of cows and laugh at Curb Your Enthusiasm. It's the bigness of cows..

Q. What's next for you?
A:
I'm about to start the new Lassie film over in Ireland opposite Peter O'Toole and Samantha Morton - no cows I hope, people say to me 'Are you playing the dog?' and I say `No, I'm playing the lead!'

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