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Home Blog London Film Festival Red Carpet: Glorious 39
Red Carpet: Glorious 39 Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 22:33

A director like Stephen Poliakoff always attracts the best. So when his first feature film in a decade comes to London, you know you have to be there for the inevitable orgy of talent. Bill Nighy, Christopher Lee, Romola Garai, David Tennant - all of them would be cruising through the capital within the space of 20 star-struck minutes. I was wearing my sexiest clothes (pinstripe suit, subtle jumper, shoes) and smelled fantastic. Surely I could bag at least one of them tonight. This was the night when I would get lucky.

Then the bad news started to flood in. Christopher Lee would sadly not be attending. Then again, at his age, it's impressive enough that he's still acting so well. I could forgive him that one. And so the evening kicked off with the TV legend himself, writer and director Stephen Poliakoff. His film is all about the build-up to World War II and the pro-appeasement movement, which saw people planning to make a deal with Hitler instead of fighting him. Could he compare the situation to recent events in Iraq?

"Well, drawing parallels with the Iraq War, in which intelligence was used to persuade us to confront Saddam, it's interesting to see how strong the secret service forces were on the other side - trying to dissuade people from going to war. It's a part of our history that hasn't been done before. It's fascinating to see what a close-run thing it was, how different it could've been if Neville Chamberlain stayed in power."

So is it something that has a personal resonance with his own family past? "I think it's good for people to think about what happened within living memory, to the generation of their grandparents. Everybody's family has memories of the Second World War and a lot of people were incredibly surprised when we went to war. The summer was glorious beforehand and everything seemed fine and peaceful. That's how they were so easily manipulated."

It's certainly an unfamiliar part of the period we don't normally hear about. But aside from the idea itself, what prompted him to return to film?

"The reason I moved away from cinema was the distribution situation. A film I made in 1991, Close my Eyes, did very well in London and won awards, but it couldn't get on the circuit! If you have a hit like that and it still can't get major distribution, you need to work with Americans. But I didn't want to do that. So I found a way of doing my own stuff within television, reaching a lot of people. All the time, I was thinking about a story that could take me back to cinema - I always had an ambition to come back."

With a cast like this, it's no wonder he's happy to do his own stuff. But was it easy to get the people he wanted? They seem to fall over each other to work with him. "It just came together. Romola is an extraordinary talent. I think she is our next big star, our next Kate Winslet. But Julie Christie and Christopher Lee, too, were great - the kind of legends I used to see up on film posters when I was a boy! And Bill Nighy I had worked with before, on Gideon's Daughter, so I wrote that part with him specifically in mind. It's always a bit risky when you do that, but luckily he wanted to it and said yes!"

It's nice when they do that. Say yes. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of that going on. Bill Nighy and Romola Garai were whisked away after barely getting the chance to say hello. Maybe my clothes were too sexy. Maybe I looked so good they couldn't bear to stand near me (yeah, right). Then, everyone's heads turned. A ripple of screams wind-tunnelled down the carpet towards one man: David Tennant had arrived.

He was his usual sprightly self, sprinting up and down with athletic ease, eager to great the hordes of noisy fans. But as our eardrums started to burst, we realised: he was choosing them over us. Teenage girls got high fives, autographs were signed, but no questions were answered at all. Then again, we weren't screaming and throwing bras into the air. They were definitely the more exciting audience - at least the fans got some attention for once.

I put on my coat, covering up my stylish ensemble. Then remembered something: I'd forgotten my scarf. The perfect way to complete the outfit. If I'd brought that, he would've been forced to come over. I guess I'll never know now. I should probably just burn it. Just, you know, for closure. Thoughts of arson running through my mind, I switched off the dictaphone. It was time to go home.


For more pictures from the red carpet (including David Tennant), head over here.