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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
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.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor