Kevin Allen may not be one of the most famous filmmakers in the UK, but his career and his talent suggests he should be. As an actor he appeared in The Thin Blue Line, Trainspotting and French and Saunders, while as a director he is carving quite the reputation for himself with a string of indie films.
His latest project, Under Milk Wood, is the UK’s foreign language submission for the 2016 Academy Awards. Starring Rhys Ifans, Charlotte Church and others, it is based on the prose poetry penned by Dylan Thomas. Allen found a little time to answer a few of our questions about the movie, his career and the Oscars.
What is Under Milk Wood and what made you want to retell this story?
It’s a strange exotic fusion of classic prose poetry written by Dylan Thomas and it seemed a good time to revive it for his centenary year.
It’s not an easy watch, compared to a run-of-the-mill Hollywood comedy for example, so what do you think audiences will get from this?
It’s a very easy watch for quite a lot of people. Having said that, it’s an art house movie and not geared towards a mainstream multiplex audience.
Rhys Ifans and Charlotte Church are an odd pairing on paper. What were they like to work with?
I don’t see what’s odd about pairing two intelligent performers together. They are both comfortably anarchic in the way in which they project themselves. Charlotte is an inexperienced actor but very photogenic and a joy to work with and Rhys is Rhys, an old friend and a terrific actor who seemed the perfect fit for this movie.
Do you think it helps directing a film like this considering your acting experience? You must find it quite natural to direct actors?
This will be my 6th feature film … my acting experience certainly helps and I like directing actors, but it’s only one element of what goes into directing a film.
You have been an actor and a director for a number of years, but which do you prefer?
Directing … I haven’t acted since The Thin Blue Line. It paid the mortgage and I never really considered it a proper job.
Congratulations on being the UK’s foreign language submission this year. What was the selection process like?
I’ve no idea, it came out of the blue. Bafta made us the official UK submission and they have a good record with previous submissions. It’s a great shot in the arm for a small indie and I think we wait until Christmas to find out if we get down to the last nine.
Do you think there is enough emphasis on foreign language cinema in the UK?
Not sure really, there’s simply not enough emphasis on indie cinema set within our own culture across the board. Small films can’t get the screen/distribution space it needs to thrive and the British Industry, on the whole, is geared up to appease an American sensibility.
Did you see any other notable considerations you can recommend?
No, I have 4 kids, so very little time to watch films.
And finally, if you could remake any movie what would it be and what would you do differently?
I’d a have a crack at How Green is my Valley but attempt a visceral, authentic portrayal of the what the British Empire was built upon at the expense of Welsh coal and steel workers blood and suffering. Unfortunately, MGM have a ‘no remake’ policy with John Ford films. But there are stories set at this time that can be developed.