Several years ago, I began watching more UK made films than I had previously viewed and reviewed. This was for two main reasons, one of them was because I felt that as a UK based film fan, who had embarked on his own podcast (which still runs to this day), and with my own growing social media and website audience, It was only right that I focus more time on films that were made in my own country. However the other reason was that in a very short space of time I watched 3 excellent films which were all made in the UK. One of which was a film I had never heard of called Hard Boiled Sweet, the first feature film by a Mr David LG Hughes, and featured a wonderful ensemble of actors including Scot Williams (TVs Liverpool One, Backbeat), Paul Freeman (famous for his role as Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark) , and Rene Zagger (from BBCs Grange Hill). Hard Boiled Sweets, a UK based film noir took a place in my heart and even to this day, its a film that I watch at least once a year and sits proudly on my DVD shelf.
Fast forward a year or so (or should that be chapter skip for the DVD generation) and I had the pleasure of not only meeting Scot Williams (from Hard Boiled Sweets) at the press evening for his stage play ‘Hope’ but I also met David LG Hughes for the first and up to now, the only time. (I did record a podcast with him a few years ago though. I really should give that a relisten) David is one of the best, a genuine down to earth talented individual and after watching Hard Boiled Sweets and meeting David. I began the lengthy time period of waiting for his next project. What would it be? Would it be a revisit to a film noir story? Well no, But this film will blow your socks off and that film is Of Gods and Warriors (previously titled Viking Destiny) and after a few special cinema screenings at the end of July, Its now available on Digital as well as DVD and Blu Ray (but trust me. If you can. See this film on the big screen. Its gorgeous)
Well, until I get to sit down and chat with David again, I sent him over the Spending Time With…questions which he very graciously took the time to answer inbetween putting the finishing touches to Of Gods and Warriors.
Here are the answers and im sure youll enjoy reading them as much as I did.
Many thanks to you David, and I cant wait to see all the projects you work on
When people ask you ‘so, what do you do?’ How do you introduce yourself?
It depends on the situation. If it’s a work event, then I tell the truth. But if it’s a stranger – especially one you are likely to be stuck with for a while on a plane or something – then I am prone to telling a little porkie. If you tell them you work in films it always leads to questions like, “ooh, what’s Brad Pitt like?”. And of course I haven’t the foggiest. So instead I’ll say I’m a double glazing salesman. After that I get left alone, because no one wants to talk to a glazing salesman!
Whats the first thing you do when you get on ‘set’
I grab a bowl of porridge from the catering truck (fighting the urge to go full English – or recently full Irish) and head to the canteen to hang out with the crew.
Do you have any traditions that you have when you are involved in a project?
Actually, I used to be really superstitious growing up. To the point where it actually was holding me back: what once was a comfort had become an obstacle. And I then finally I realised that it’s not about luck, or trying to get luck on your side. It’s about hard work. So now my only tradition is hard work and prep. I need to know I’ve done everything I can to make sure things will go smoothly. They won’t – film sets will always throw up challenges you could possibly predict – but if you’re truly prepared you’ve got a real chance of getting what you need.
What was the most recent book you read?
Hippos go Berserk. I have a 7 year old and a 2 year old – I haven’t read a grownup book in too long. I have the latest James Lee Burke book sitting there waiting to be read – I love his books – but just don’t have the time.
What’s one of your favourite current Television shows you are watching?
My wife and I binge. And loyal binge. We watch an entire series – and if we like it, all seasons of it – in one hit without moving on to another show. We actually watched the first 5 seasons of Games of Thrones that way. Every night it was: get the kids to bed and then plonk down in front on the sofa for 2 episodes. It was a glorious way to watch it, actually – to see the whole thing in about 3 months – totally immersive. We’ve just started Collateral on Netflix (we live in Sweden). Only one episode in, but I’m excited because Nathaniel Martello-White, who was in Hard Boiled Sweets years ago, is in it. He’s a brilliant actor – totally magnetic – and I’m so pleased he’s finally getting the breaks he deserves.
What’s the most ‘starstruck’ you have been?
Probably Guillermo del Toro. I was very fortunate to work – in a very small way – on 3 of his films: The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage (which he produced). A genius and a gentleman.
What was one of the most memorable films you saw as a child?
Probably the one that stands out is Flash Gordon. I remember going to see it with my parents and loving it – far more than Star Wars, weirdly, which probably says more about me than I realise! After seeing it one night my Grandma took me to the cinema the very next day to see a Star Trek film – maybe the first, maybe Wrath of Kahn. But I wanted to go and see Flash Gordon again. I just loved that football sequence, and Brian Blessed on that space jet ski, and Queen’s soundtrack. It blew my 6 year old mind. And to think it was directed by Mike Hodges who made Get Carter and Croupier…
What do you find the hardest part of your creative process and how do you deal with it?
Compromising – the eternal struggle for me is compromising between what I want to do and what the budget will allow me to do. There’s never enough money to make the film in your head.
What is one of the best pieces of advice you can remember being given and from whom?
It was a two part piece of advice, actually. From the great Sir Richard Attenborough. He said “number 1, work with your friends – because this job is too hard to not work with people you love and trust. And number 2, make sure your friends are really, really talented”.
If you could change one thing about the industry you are in, what would it be?
Piracy. The effect of – the so called victimless crime – is so monumental, especially to low budget independent film. It’s killing independent film.
Do you read reviews of projects you work on?
Yes. Even if it is like a form of self harm!
If you had to make a ‘bucket list’ of people you’d love to work with, tell me one name who would be on it?
It’s a long one. But at the top is probably Gene Hackman. I simply can’t think of any film ever that wouldn’t be better if Hackman had been in it.
Do you prefer day shoots or night shoots?
Nights. They can be brutal on the crew, but I love to see the big lights come out, and the quiet focus that comes to set. I also – being a film noir nut – prefer watching night scenes.
What is one of your most favourite locations you have filmed in?
A night shoot again – and I’ve filmed there twice: Southend Pier. The first time was with Ian Hart and Paul Freeman.
The second time with Paul again, and Philip Barantini, Scot Williams and Rene Zagger. It was brutal and exhausting and I loved it.
What film always makes you laugh?
It’s obviously not a comedy, but the humour in Goodfellas always gets to me. There’s a throwaway line – in the scene when De Niro is arrested and is being taken out of a bar in handcuffs – from one of the wise guys to the FBI agent: “whoever sold you that suit had a real sense of humour”. What a put down – I love that, and the film is full of them.
What film scares you?
Again Goodfellas – that moment when Joe Pesci pulls the gun on Spider. Even though you know it’s coming it gets me every time. One of the best things about The Sopranos early on was seeing Spider alive and well! Until, you know…
What film do you love that you feel most people might not be aware of?
It always surprises me how few people have seen The Grifters when I talk about it. I absolutely love – and have stolen – so much from that film. John Cusack – when he was the best young actor in the world – Angelica Houston and Annette Benning. I’m very fortunate, as I’ve become friends with Mick Audsley, who edited the film. Mick helped me on both Hard Boiled Sweets and Of Gods and Warriors – his input was invaluable. That advice of work with your friends and make sure they are talented is so true of Mick: he is the loveliest man in the world and also a genius. In your creative roles?
What is the longest day that you’ve ever had?
I’m not sure it was that creative, but straight out of film school as a junior editor I once did 36 hours non-stop rewinding Digi Beta tapes. Which is no record – I know so many who have had it much worse.
Do you have any ‘props or keepsakes from your films?
I used to have most of Paul Freeman’s wardrobe from Hard Boiled Sweets. But only because Paul basically wore my clothes in the film – we had no wardrobe budget (well, we had no budget for anything, truthfully!). Paul used to tease me and say, “David – you dress like an accountant”. I’d always reply, “please, the look is accountant chic, there is a difference”.
What is your proudest achievement?
Having made a 2nd feature film. Far more than having made a first, actually. Statistically the hardest film to make is not your first, but your second.
Have you ever gotten someone’s autograph? Which is the most memorable for you?
No. Though I am a huge fan of Chinatown and once worked for Polanski, and always wished I had got him to sign my framed Chinatown poster. I know it’s difficult to separate the artist from the person, but that film is magnificent. Actually, that’s not true. Martyn Ford – who is in Of Gods and Warriors – was recently on the cover of a magazine and I got him to sign my copy. So my autograph collection is so far exclusively the domain of Martyn!
Of Gods And Warriors is out NOW