by director Daniel Barber
Thank goodness for friends. Ben Davis, a British director of photography, phoned me to inform me of a film script he had read which he thought would be perfect for me to direct. “Get your agent to get hold of a copy immediately,” he said.
I did, loved it, but unfortunately another director, a certain John Madden, was already on board.
But the producer of that film, Kris Thykier, had another script he thought I might be perfect for.
“I loved your short film (The Tonto Woman), I’d love to work with you,” he said.
“Have a read and let me know what you think of it.”
“Oh, and tell me who you think should play the lead,” he shouted from his office as I was already descending the staircase.
And so I started work on Harry Brown, and was having lunch with Sir Michael Caine the following week. There I was in my best and only suit, sitting opposite a Screen Legend at the best seafood restaurant in London.
I was so nervous I could hardly speak. My mouth was as dry as sandpaper. I could only hear the beating of my heart, which was pounding so heavily I thought it might actually explode.
“Do you like seafood?” Sir Michael asked, whilst casually swirling a very fine white burgundy in an equally very fine wine glass.
I croaked a sort of reply and tried a smile. He looked at me with those extraordinary eyes, the eyes which had stared at me from more than a hundred films.
“Good, because this is the best seafood restaurant in London,” he said.
“‘er…um, what do you recommend?,” I asked, whilst trying to stop the menu in my hand from shaking.
“I always have the same things here, the seafood cocktail followed by fish and chips.”
I nodded, and said I would have the same as him.
A very smart waiter approached our table, and offered Sir Michael a polite smile as though without speaking, asking him what it was he would like.
Sir Michael smiled at me, looked up at the waiter, and said “We’ll have two of what I have.”
After about an hour I calmed down and Sir Michael said that he loved my short film and that he loved the script for Harry Brown and that he really wanted to work with me and that he thought I was very talented and that he would do as I asked as I was going to be the ‘Guvnor’!
I was gobsmacked.
He did have a few comments on the script which were very insightful, and when I said that I would try those thoughts out as we developed the script, I remember he smiled, and said that he would have a lot of ideas, but that most of them would be ‘Shit’ but there would be the occasional diamond of a thought in there.
I loved working with Sir Michael Caine. To work with him on what is only my first feature was a real honour and a blessing.
He is a master of his craft and massively experienced, but he was also extraordinarily generous with me and completely receptive to my direction.
I had a great cast and a great crew. Indeed I am a lucky boy.
Harry Brown is not Mary Poppins.
It is a powerful, visceral, emotive, and relevant piece that makes, in my opinion, valid social and political comment.
The story of a man brought to find justice in the only way he thinks he can get it.
Made at a time in Britain and throughout The World where there are so many social problems especially amongst the youth, where knife and gun crime are on the increase and drug abuse is rife. Everyday the News is full of such issues.
What do we do about it?
Where do we go from here?
Who has the answers?
Harry Brown is a warning.
This was my chance to make a first feature, one I felt could really stand out, would not go quietly, would hopefully stay with people long after viewing, and ask people questions of morality, and ultimately be as full on cinematic experience as I could muster.
I always knew it would divide opinion. Let me know your thoughts.