CINEMA / The British are coming (again)

A year after `Four Weddings', another charming British comedy is a hit. Sue Summers meets the director of `Jack and Sarah'

THE SUCCESS of Four Weddings and a Funeral has cast a long shadow over the younger generation of British film-makers. Any new production with ambitions to show the British middle class at its most scatty is bound to be tagged Four Weddings and a Funeral II.

The director and writer Tim Sullivan was resigned well before its premiere to the idea that his engaging first feature film, Jack and Sarah, could well be nicknamed One Funeral, One Baby and A Wedding. There are inevitable comparisons to be made with Four Weddings in the antics of its middle- class thirtysomethings, who have effortlessly large incomes, and live in north-London terraced houses. And both films have the same backer, Polygram. Even the surname of the leading man is the same - not Hugh Grant in this case, but Richard E. So confident is MGM of the potency of this mixture that it has just announced an unprecedented money-back offer for cinema-goers who don't enjoy Jack and Sarah.

In fact, Sullivan's film - the biggest-grossing hit in Britain this week after Hollywood's Brady Bunch - has little in common with the Richard Curtis comedy which took the world by storm last year. Jack and Sarah is more of a comi-tragedy, about a man who loses his wife in childbirth and is left alone to bring up their baby daughter.

It took Sullivan four years to make Jack and Sarah, which germinated from an experience he had when working as a director at Granada TV. "A friend of mine's childcare arrangements broke down and his wife was away, so he brought his six-month-old baby into work," he says. "Until that day he had been just an ordinary bloke, but suddenly he was the centre of attention - particularly with the women. And of course, one of the first things they did was take the child off him, as though he couldn't cope.

"It just amused me - as did the fact that he immediately seemed to become more attractive to women. If you start from the basis that all men are inherently shits - which many women believe and I do myself - when you see one with a baby, he seems more vulnerable and almost like an exception to the rule. Which he isn't.

"By the end of the film my hero, Jack, is still as sexistly irresponsible as he was at the beginning. He is taking the nanny just as much for granted as he would a wife. There was no way I was going to let that character became a saint or a New Man. That would be real fantasy."

Sullivan, 37, is tall, dark and deadpan, with - though he hotly denies it - a striking resemblance to Richard E Grant. Yes, he lives in a north- London terraced house with wooden floors and a designer kitchen (which has marked similarities to the main set of his movie), and his baby daughter, Sophia, appears in the film. But unlike his hero, he has been happily married for the past six years. He doesn't claim to be a New Man: he says he is as much of a "shit" as the next man. But he is the one who works from home - within earshot of Sophia, now two, and Isabella, three - while his wife, Rachel Purnell, labours as joint head of programmes for the new cable channel, Live TV.

Born in Germany to a father in the RAF, Sullivan went to Clifton College and then to Cambridge - he read English and Law- just ahead of Emma Thompson. "In my last term, I worked on Chariots of Fire, providing extras for them, and I thought I was made," he says. "I spent my 21st birthday showing the film's director, Hugh Hudson, round Cambridge, thinking, `This is my introduction to the film industry'." Things weren't quite that easy. He had a spell on the dole before getting a summer job as chauffeur to Anthony Andrews, driving the actor to and from Granada's lavish production of Brideshead Revisited. "Its producer, Derek Granger, was intrigued, because I used to sit in the car all day, scribbling away. He learned that I was writing a script with Derek Jarman and encouraged me to go and see Granada."

Granada was then the ITV forcing-house for new talent. Sullivan was lucky enough to be taken on, and learnt his trade directing everything from farming programmes to Coronation Street. He made the drama-documentary Thatcher's Final Days with Sylvia Syms, and adapted both Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust and Where Angels Fear to Tread for the big screen, before Granada's feature-film division commissioned him to write Jack and Sarah.

Raising the film's pounds 2.5m budget was not easy. Potential backers disdainfully turned the project down on the grounds that it was too commercial - a judgement which only the British film and television industry would be capable of making. "I don't want to sound either arrogant or whingey - the twin traps for British film-makers - but there's no money from Channel 4, the BBC or any British television company in Jack and Sarah. Polygram made it happen and all I can say is, `Thank God for them.' It seems to me that they are doing as much, if not more, than anyone else in this country to push British film."

In retrospect, Sullivan is pleased that Jack and Sarah's original finance did fall through, because, had it been made when first planned, it would have been released in the same year as Four Weddings. "I wouldn't have liked that," he says. "Four Weddings was exceptional in every sense, really. It's hard to imagine a British film taking that much money ever again."

Nevertheless, he probably stands to benefit from the renewed belief in the commercial power of British films that is now being shown in America. Indeed he has already had approaches from Hollywood and was flown to the Cannes film festival for lunch by private jet. But can Jack and Sarah cash in on the Four Weddings fall-out? "That depends," Sullivan says, cautiously, "on whether the yardstick is going to be laid gently next to us, or used to beat us over the head."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice