Wide angle: The green, green grass of home
Saturday 04 October 1997
After Twin Town, Marc Evans's febrile debut, House of America is another attempt to update the cosy image of Wales with scabrous, Trainspotting- style grunge. No warm welcome in the valleys here, but you will find such national icons as Tom Jones and Sian Phillips cropping up in its story of madness, incest and cultural dislocation.
Phillips plays an unbalanced matriarch given to sly violence and pyromania. "It's always disconcerting, to say the least, to play someone who is mad," laughs Phillips, "but it's more difficult in a movie. On stage you can chart progress through rehearsal. On film, you're just doing snatches of the various different stages, often shooting them backwards."
Born in Wales, Phillips won a scholarship to Rada at 20 and has not lived there since. What was it like to return? "We were shooting the film in the rural west, very near where I grew up," says Phillips "At the time I was playing in A Little Night Music at the National, so I'd occasionally have to go there straight after the show. One night I fell asleep in the car. Hours later, the driver woke me up and we stepped outside. lt was pitch black but I knew exactly where I was. I said `I'm in Cwmllinfell aren't I?' and he said, `Yes, how did you know?' It was the smell, you see, the smell of my childhood. I was standing on a little patch of common where I used to stand when I was 15 years old. A very strange feeling".
But the Wales of Evans's film depicts a wasteland of open-cast mining and unemployment and the gothic, clapboard "House of America" symbolises the family's escapist dreams. For the cast, though, it became a nightmare. "The land around it turned into a swamp," says Phillips, "because it was Wales, you see, and it rains there almost all the time."
Despite such discomforts, Phillips "enjoyed the experience enormously because, although I am Welsh and I speak Welsh, I'm rarely asked to make films there."
In the past, Phillips has worked with the likes of Scorsese and Milos Forman. Not bad for a girl who turned down film contracts with Ealing, Paramount and Columbia while still at Rada.
"Things were different then. My teachers would have been appalled. It didn't take me a minute to decide that it wasn't what I wanted. I needed to learn how to act on stage. Anyway, the parts were very limiting; at Ealing it was all big skirts with petticoats and ponytails, and I've never been that kind of girl".
She even worked with David Lynch, on Dune. "I loved David Lynch. He was such a regular guy," recalls Phillips. "He wore the same white shirt buttoned to the neck every day, and he ate the same at every meal. Always chicken sandwiches. There's absolutely no trace of where those films of his come from".
Currently taking a rest from Marlene, her one-woman show, Phillips remains impressively busy, writing the first volume of her autobiography and doing a spot of filming for a Screen One - "I'm dead most of the time so it's rather restful. Kind people keep coming and warming the bloody water in my bathtub".
`House of America' is released
on 10 Oct
Life & Style blogs
Britain's kitchens so filthy that they present a health risk, says new research
Google Maps hides image of Android robot urinating on Apple in surprisingly insolent Easter egg
How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
KickassTorrents down: new Isle of Man domain taken offline just hours after launch
Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...