Stephen Frears says British critics are 'snobbish' about films like 'The Lost King' (exclusive)
Stephen Frears says film critics in Britain can often be 'snobbish' about films like his, which then go on to do very well in the USA and elsewhere in the world.
"People are very snobbish," Frears tells Yahoo. "I think the critics are in more of a mess than the filmmakers." He notes that he believes his new film The Lost King will 'do better overseas' than in its native market, adding: "British critics can't deal with [films like this]. Don't ask me why. There's a sort of snobbery."
Frears has teamed again with Steve Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope for drama — in cinemas 7 October — which explores history enthusiast Philippa Langley's crusade to locate the remains of King Richard III, which were eventually found underneath a Leicester car park in 2012.
Paddington star Sally Hawkins portrays Langley in the movie, with Coogan as her husband John and Harry Lloyd playing a manifestation of Richard III in the guise of an actor Langley saw playing the role on stage.
Read more: Stephen Frears discusses past plans for R-rated Queen movie
Frears previously worked from a Coogan/Pope script for the Oscar-nominated 2013 film Philomena and tells Yahoo he 'doesn't remember any arm-twisting' to work with the duo again.
"The truth is that it's a ridiculous story and, at the same time, it has these rather unexpected resonances," the 81-year-old filmmaker says.
The movie follows Langley and her friends in the Richard III Society as they seek to correct the historical record around the final pre-Tudor monarch, which they believed was shaped mostly by his villainous portrayal in William Shakespeare's play.
Watch: Trailer for Stephen Frears drama The Lost King
Frears says: "I'd never given [Richard III] a moment's thought. I don't think I'd thought about it for one minute. Then I realised how lazy I'd been. [The Society is] what people in England are like, aren't they?
"All Philippa ever said was 'don't put them in cardigans'. And they turned out to be possibly right [about Richard]. You make films and you discover the truth."
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In a glittering career spanning more than five decades, Frears has made films some accuse of sentimentality and twee Britishness. He's bullish when I put this to him. "I don't think the films I make are fluffy and sentimental. I don't know what the basis for that would be. Is that what Dangerous Liaisons was like, or My Beautiful Laundrette?"
As for his leading lady in his latest film, Frears says meeting Sally Hawkins in his kitchen quickly taught him that she was the right woman for the job.
He says: "I can see that she's both very vulnerable and made of steel, so I suppose that's an interesting combination since this film is about someone who's very vulnerable and ends up winning. You need to have both sides of the cake and she can do that — and fall in love with a fish or a ghost or whatever it is. She has that kind of imagination."
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Having done just about everything there is to do on the big screen, Frears doesn't believe there's a great alchemy to how he chooses projects and says he's often "on my knees with gratitude" when something clicks.
"I read the papers. I don't think anything more profound than that," he states matter-of-factly. "What's going on in the world at the moment — particularly in Britain — is so dramatic and ridiculous that it's hard to get anywhere else. What's in front of your eyes is just gobsmacking. I just sit there in disbelief."
Having made films about relatively recent history, including The Queen in 2006 and The Deal — about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown — in 2003, will Frears be turning his head to the recent chaos of Britain? He says: "Well I generally like about 10 years to have elapsed. I think you need a certain amount of time to see things clearly. I'd sooner wait a bit longer."
His next project will be "a job for HBO", followed by an adaptation of Jonathan Coe's novel Mr Wilder & Me, which focuses on the iconic Some Like It Hot director Billy Wilder and is told through the eyes of a fictional meeting with a Greek interpreter.
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He says: "I think that Christopher Hampton has written a script worthy of him, and Jonathan Coe's novel is worthy of him. I haven't got to the point yet of being terrified. If you didn't [get nervous] you'd be unnatural. I guess it puts a rocket up your a***. It's like a treat — a Billy Wilder film. I can almost reach it."
The Lost King is in UK cinemas from 7 October.
Watch: Steve Coogan and Stephen Frears on the making of The Lost King