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Paddy Considine interview: 'I feel like my new film Journeyman has been rejected in many ways'

The actor-writer-director, the highlight of so many projects, follows up his acclaimed drama ‘Tyrannosaur’ with boxing tale ‘Journeyman’. We discuss the struggles his film has faced, his funny-man status and why he thinks he'd make a terrible Time Lord

Jacob Stolworthy
Monday 02 April 2018 11:45
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Considine calls ‘Journeyman’ a forgotten film but says he definitely wants to direct again
Considine calls ‘Journeyman’ a forgotten film but says he definitely wants to direct again

“People honestly think I’m the guy from Dead Man’s Shoes.”

Paddy Considine reclines on a hotel room sofa with the calm demeanour of someone who carefully processes his thoughts before they form sentences on his tongue. Just two minutes after meeting him, it becomes clear whoever’s in his company is never far away from a wry quip or observation. He couldn’t be further away from the vengeful brother he played in Shane Meadows’ 2004 drama.

The British actor-writer-director is a lot of things to many people: one-half of Hot Fuzz’s moustachioed detective duo alongside Rafe Spall; villainous priest in Peaky Blinders; the guy from Arctic Monkeys video “Leave Before the Lights Come On” (the treatment of which he wrote, in case you didn’t know); and writer-director of acclaimed 2011 drama Tyrannosaur.

In short, a staple of several high-quality projects to emerge from Britain over the past 20 years.

This week sees him add a second writing-directing feature to his catalogue with Journeyman – at first glance a boxing film, at second a whole lot more. Remove the gloves and at its heart lies a human tale about a family affected by the life-altering brain injury of middleweight champion Matty Burton, a role which saw Considine direct himself for the first time in his career.

“I thought of every reason not to play the part – I didn’t think I’d last the distance of both directing it and acting in it,” he admits. “But the only reason not to do it was fear. I thought, ‘It can’t be too hard; you’ve acted and directed – all you have to do is jump between the two.’ The only way you know is by doing it.”

If his decision sounds fearless, Considine assures me it was anything but, his laid-back exterior indicating a confidence that may not be as permanent as one would assume, much like Burton.

Trailer for Journeyman starring Paddy Considine & Jodie Whittaker

“Most times I do something that’s of any importance, there’s a bit of fear around it. I did a play for the first time and it ended up in the West End [Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman, the fastest selling play in Royal Court Theatre history, which later transferred to the Gielgud in 2017]. We were there for 16 weeks. I was terrified.”

He describes going “beyond logical fear” with Journeyman – the kind that can churn away at your soul should you balk at such an opportunity. Considine found himself splitting his time between a 12-week training course at Ingle Gym in Sheffield – where he shot the film – and spending hours with local occupational therapists to understand the impact of the brain injury inflicted upon Burton in the film. He describes the result as “the greatest thing” he’s ever done. Professionally or personally, I ask?

“I think it’s the greatest performance I’ve done, unquestionably. Absolutely without a doubt. People can make their own minds up but I know. I don’t praise myself much, but I had to watch this one.”

Not that he thinks his performance could have truly elevated the end product above what it became.

“I don’t believe that actors make films good. I’m not a big believer in that,” he informs me, his Burton upon Trent baritone failing to miss a syllable. “In my opinion, I don’t think anybody has ever transcended a film they’ve been in; it’s always been a good film and they’re brilliant in it. I’ve never watched a film and gone, ‘It were rubbish but they were amazing.’ Maybe I should see more films.”

Despite his heavy workload, getting Journeyman made was the easy part. Considine finished shooting the film two years ago but found its journey was destined for a different course to the one travelled by Tyrannosaur in 2011.

“I feel like the film, for the most part, has been rejected in many ways,” he tells me candidly. “Tyrannosaur went around the world – we won three awards at Sundance and picked up all these other festival plaudits. Then Journeyman comes along and nobody wants it; none of the festivals we’d been to and won at – none of them. I’ve no idea if they watched it and didn’t think it was very good or that it didn’t suit their agenda. Of if they just thought ‘Oh, it’s another boxing film and we’ve had enough of them.’ If they did the latter that’s a massive mistake.”

Despite rumours suggesting otherwise, Considine – who brands Journeyman “a forgotten film” – hasn’t been deterred from the art of filmmaking, stating confidently for the record that he “definitely [wants] to direct again.”

He elaborates: “It’s still early days for me as a director. It’s all hindsight but maybe I left it too long between Tyrannosaur and this. I don’t intend to leave it so long next time.”

Considine is assured by the fact he achieved everything he intended to with the final edit. “I didn’t want to beat people with this film,” he explains, positioning it – in this respect, anyhow – miles away from the tone of Tyrannosaur which follows violent soul Joseph (Peter Mullan) who’s offered redemption after a chance encounter with a Christian charity shop worker named Hannah (Olivia Colman).

Its bleakness is encapsulated by scenes of domestic violence, racial abuse and animal cruelty, with Considine’s gentle touch honing it into one of the best films of that year inspired by his very own Bafta-winning short Dog Altogether (2007). Despite its seminal performances, Tyrannosaur received no award recognition for its actors.

“I don’t know if the right films are awarded. I don’t really care,” he says matter-of-factly. “A lot of people told Olivia Colman she was going to get a Bafta nomination and I was the only one that was telling her she wasn’t. So when she didn’t, she was obviously disappointed. I said, ‘Olivia, they didn’t watch the film. It’s that simple.’”

Case closed. In 2011, shortly after Tyrannosaur, Considine found himself facing mounting struggles with social situations rendering day-to-day acts such as handshaking or eye contact a source of mild distress. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s and, later, clinician Dr Andrew Barton-Breck surmised he may have Irlen Syndrome, a condition in which the brain fails to adequately process visual stimuli.

“[Breck] was observing me and all my habits,” Considine recounts. “He asked if I’d ever been tested for Irlen syndrome. I was like, ‘What is that? Aspergers – now this. What the f*** are you talking about, man? What else are you going to give me?’ Eventually, I just got on a plane and said, ‘All right, if I’ve got this condition they keep telling me about, I’m going to go to California and meet the woman who pioneered it all.’ “

Considine’s venture culminated in the office of Long Beach resident Helen Irlen, an encounter which he deems “life-changing”.

Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan in ‘Tyrannosaur’

“She sat me down in a room for hours, put different filter lenses on my face – it was very transformative. By the time I walked out the room, I wasn’t anxious or angry or edgy. My friend [producer Diarmid Scrimshaw] noticed the difference in me that afternoon.”

He found his condition improved significantly after wearing purple filters which he now has on him all times. While not eliminating all struggles – Considine tells me he’s prone to forgetting lines if his concentration is low – the glasses make things more manageable than he could have imagined.

“It’s certainly taken a massive amount of pressure off me. I didn’t know what it was that I was experiencing and I was getting worse. I was finding physical contact with strangers uncomfortable like shaking hands. Everything was becoming unbearable because my brain was struggling to take in all this visual information. Even going to the supermarket was starting to get traumatic because I couldn’t focus on the things I was there to get. The world became quite a scary place for me.”

Breck died in October 2016 at the age of 57. Considine thanks him in the credits for Journeyman.

Away from dramatic roles, Considine is considered by many to be the funniest part in numerous films thanks to roles in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz and The World’s End as well as his improvisational flair displayed in early Shane Meadows film A Room for Romeo Brass – his debut. One such film was Spinal Tap-style mockumentary Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee (2009) following a rapper and his roadie who manage to lock down a supporting set at an Arctic Monkeys show.

Considine isn’t convinced by such reverence, despite receiving praise for his comedic chops by one notable figure: himself.

“It’s ridiculous how funny I find myself. There’s something beautiful in the quality of laughing and, god, if you can’t laugh at yourself you’re in trouble. I was trapped in a lift once in Toronto for nearly an hour and I remember the only way to amuse myself was looking in the mirror and doing accents and silly faces. I looked at myself and said, ‘Oh Paddy, I’ll never be lonely while I’ve got me.’ It’s quite a lovely line really. I might put it in my next screenplay.”

Considine with Rafe Spall (left) and Simon Pegg in ‘Hot Fuzz’

He thinks he’s shy of the eccentricity required to play a high-profile role set to be taken over by his Journeyman co-star Jodie Whittaker – the lead of BBC series Doctor Who.

“No, I couldn’t,” he replies when I suggest he’d make a brilliant Time Lord. ”You’ve got to be a different kind of actor for that role. You have to be brave – have that eccentric quality to the performance. It requires a certain amount of theatricality and I don’t think I’d ever have those kinds of qualities to bring to it. You have to jump the fences and do what David Tennant and Peter [Capaldi] did. That’s not in my DNA.“

He smiles. “Maybe I could turn up and eat everybody. If I get to kill Doctor Who, then I’d do it.”

Journeyman is out in cinemas on Friday 30 March. You can find a list of every cinema it’s playing at nationwide here.

Sal Thompson – photographer of the pictures you can see in the above black-and-white gallery – can be found on Twitter here.

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