The Mike Leigh method
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