The Old Oak writer laments Ken Loach calling time on directing: 'It broke my heart'

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 27: Paul Laverty and Ken Loach attend
Paul Laverty and Ken Loach promoting The Old Oak at Canne Film Festival earlier this year. (Getty Images) (Stephane Cardinale - Corbis via Getty Images)

As Ken Loach’s latest film The Old Oak arrives in cinemas, his long-term writer and collaborator Paul Laverty has confirmed this is most definitely the veteran director’s final feature.

It’s nearly ten years since the Palme D'Or-winning filmmaker first announced his retirement, but Laverty tells Yahoo: “I knew it wouldn’t be [Ken's] last film then. Things are a bit different now.

“He’s just had his 87th birthday. It would be unfair for him to do a feature film again, despite his incredible energy and ferocious will.

"He’ll be doing lots of other creative things – I wouldn’t be surprised if he did a documentary. And I’d love to do another 10 stories with him, but a feature film is an enormous effort.

Read more: The Old Oak review: Ken Loach's swansong is typically disarming

"The glass is half full. I’ve done 14 films with him, so I can’t complain.”

The two have worked together for nearly 30 years and their 14th collaboration — The Old Oak — completes their unofficial North East trilogy, following the award-winning I, Daniel Blake, and Sorry We Missed You.

Dave Turner in The Old Oak. (Studiocanal)
Dave Turner in The Old Oak. (Studiocanal)

Laverty recalls the moment when it really sank in that The Old Oak was the end of their filmmaking partnership. They’d just watched the completed film for the first time and usually he would then give Loach a new script for their next project. Not this time.

“It broke my heart,” he says, adding that he’ll miss the adventure of starting a new story with Loach.

“There’s always a tingle with that," Laverty shares, before adding, “he’s my friend first. Always will be.”

Set in a former mining town near Durham, the film focuses on T.J. (local actor Dave Turner) and his struggle keep his pub going.

The Old Oak has seen much better days and when a group of Syrian refugees are placed in the town, he and one of the new arrivals start to believe the pub can once again become a thriving centre for the community and bring the locals and their new neighbours together.

Watch a trailer for The Old Oak

It was Turner’s first time working for Loach and he says, once he realised it was to be the director’s final film that “my mantra was that I didn’t want to let Ken down”

Both he and co-star Ebla Mari, who plays refugee Yara, loved making the film. “Ken nourishes your soul,” he remembered. But four years working in a pub before he became an actor meant that Turner didn’t have to learn what it was like to work behind the bar. “I can pull a decent pint,” he admits.

Both he and Laverty have witnessed the decline in pubs over recent years. And Laverty sees the growing number of closures as part of a much bigger issue.

Ebla Mari and Dave Turner in The Old Oak. (Studiocanal)
Ebla Mari and Dave Turner in The Old Oak. (Studiocanal)

“You see it in so many communities – the post office has gone, the bank has gone, the swimming pool has gone,” he explains. Young people, he believes, suffer in particular from the absence of places to “have fun, be creative and meet role models”.

The local pub, like The Old Oak, “was a place where people could meet and express their opinions” but they’re disappearing.

The Old Oak is in cinemas from 29 September.

Read more: Ken Loach