When Jim Threapleton divorced Kate Winslet in 2001, it seemed he might become just another footnote in celebrity history. As Winslet's star rose ever higher, Threapleton disappeared from the public eye, leading to some speculation that his own career as a film-maker had stalled. "It wasn't fair," he says. "I was just quietly working as a commercials director and developing my own film projects."
His debut feature, Extraordinary Rendition proves he's no slouch. Inspired by the CIA's post-9/11 programme of "outsourcing torture", it tells the story of a college lecturer abducted from London and flown to an unknown country, where he is accused of being a terrorist and subjected to extreme interrogation techniques.
Threapleton hopes the film will add to the public debate on extraordinary rendition, but he was determined not to resort to political soapboxing. "We gathered as much evidence as we could on the subject, then I applied an artistic approach to it," he says. "The story became this Kafka-eseque tale about a man falling victim to faceless machinery."
Its cinematic sensibility is impressive considering it was shot for just £20,000. While Threapleton enjoyed the challenge of working on a shoestring budget – "There's a great energy surrounding a production on that level, and I had total creative freedom" – his next film will nevertheless be a bigger affair: shooting this summer, Threapleton describes it as a "Straw Dogs meets Lord of the Flies" thriller.
But will he ever rid himself of the "Mr Winslet" tag? He's not fussed. "I'm proud of the relationship and the way we moved on, so I'm not actively looking to lose it. If people want to use Kate as a reference point, that's fine; there's nothing I can do about it."
'Extraordinary Rendition' will be released on DVD on Monday and air on BBC1 at 11.35pm on WednesdayReuse content