The Mike Leigh method

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

EVER SINCE Mike Leigh moved into film and TV, he has de­vel­oped his films through a process of im­pro­vi­sa­tion.

“It’s a stan­dard pro­ce­dure with ev­ery film,” he ex­plains. “With ev­ery film I make, cer­tain in­for­ma­tion is held back from ev­ery ac­tor. The deal is they will only ever know what their char­ac­ter knows. So you hold stuff back un­til it is use­ful for them to know it.”

For ex­am­ple, in Vera Drake, (star­ring Imelda Staunton, right) the ac­tors play­ing Vera’s fam­ily did not know that she was an ama­teur abor­tion­ist un­til late in the re­hearsal process. “That al­lows them to be or­ganic and truth­ful within an ex­ploratory process,” he says. “Mind you, the process has changed over the years. It is chang­ing all the time. It is be­com­ing more com­plex and so­phis­ti­cated. In Happy-Go-Lucky we had to de­velop scenes that take place dur­ing the char­ac­ter’s driv­ing les­son. So, I was squat­ting in the back seat with a note­book. Very un­com­fort­able when you hit a speed

bump.”

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