There are plenty of filmmakers out there who hope that they get some form of small recognition when they make their way onto the scene with their first directed feature length film. However, there’s few who end up getting as much national attention over their first film like Joe Cornish has with “Attack the Block.” The television writer peels himself away from his silver screen habitat and has successfully made his transition to theaters. It’s not an easy task, but in this case Mr. Cornish makes it look oh so easy with his short, sweet and completely kick-ass film.
Out of sheer luck I got the chance to talk to Mr. Cornish along with another fellow reporter. Normally when you talk to a writer/director who’s fresh out of the gate they tend to be a little stiff, slightly nervous but still ready and willing to talk. That wasn’t the case at all with Cornish who felt like a good friend than just another filmmaker that we only had a certain number of minutes to talk to. That mainly had to do with the first two minutes having to do with nothing but Prince, along with the fact that we all ended up sitting on the floor the whole time around a bongo-like table, talking to each other as if we were sitting around a campfire. Once the random music talk was out of the way, we got back into the thick of what is the wonderful surprise film of the year so far.
ShockYa: This is your first film, and this is most of your cast’s first film as well. How was that like on set? Was it one huge learning process for everyone, how was the set in general?
Joe Cornish: It was fun. You have to work really hard, particularly as a director, I didn’t have any of the fun. You have to be on it, on top of it from dawn til dusk. I think the kids had fun, between shots and when they weren’t in the scene, but I wasn’t part of it. When you’re a director making a first film, everyone around you will have made two or three films that year or will make two or three films that year, and they’ll have done it for years and year. You are the guy with the least experience, but yet you’re supposed to be in charge, so there’s immediate disconnect and problem.
ShockYa: Did you find a lot of these kids have to grow up really fast?
Joe Cornish: Of course, and it’s a front, they put up a front. And it’s all about your front and your reputation. Absolutely. That’s a response to being in a tough environment that isn’t policed very well and that society turns its back on, actively demonized a little bit. And you get what you wish for, if you call children monsters, they’re going to be monsters by the end of the day. The film is a reaction to that without getting to deep into that. Bottom line is that it’s a mean, lean monster movie, but those old movies used to have a little bit of fiber in them as well.
ShockYa: Do you have a complicated MPAA R rating? They’re all more touchy and picky now.
Joe Cornish: In the UK, we got a 15, it’s launge violence and soft drug use. Even those thing annoy me because sometimes they give away plot twists. If I’d seen Raiders and it had said “exploding head, melting head, one use of the word shit – wait, that was Temple of Doom – that would have rained on the party. Of course it’s important for parents to keep their kids safe from dangerous special effects (laughs).
ShockYa: The Score is really, really good, it was one of those instances when I got out of the theater I said “wish I had the soundtrack right now so I could blast it in my car.” You’ve got a bit of a musical background.
Joe Cornish: Kind of, that’s very flattering. I have done some songs, I could do more if I was insane.
ShockYa: There’s Makers over there.
Joe Cornish: (Laughs) I have a low alcohol tolerance so it takes very little for me to get drunk.
ShockYa: How much influence did you have when it came to the score?
Joe Cornish: It was an interest process because what I didn’t realize is that a film score comes in at the eleventh hour. It comes late in the process, it has a huge effect on the tone of the movie and the atmosphere of the movie, obviously it’s one of the most important things in the film. You read a lot of sotries about filmmakers who have to change the score at the last minute, famously with the Legend, and there’s lot of examples of scores being thrown out and a new guy being called in at the last minute. Famous unused scores, composers who have used the same cues in different movies.
ShockYa: You also hear about directors falling in love with their temp track. You can tell in Live Free or Die Hard, that they fell in love with it.
Joe Cornish: It’s noticeable on Kick Ass as well. But – again – I watched Raiders before, and if you listen to the Raiders score, it’s elastic, it fits the action, and the tempo get faster or slower as the action gets faster or slower and I wanted a score like that a slave to the action – a slave to the rhythm of the action as Grace Jones might say. (Laughs) I’m depressed by that joke, I’m depressed and sad.
ShockYa: Again, there’s Makers right there.
Joe Cornish: I’ll have to hit the bottle soon. And so I was really lucky that this brilliant guy named Steve Price – who worked on the Lord of the Rings movies and has been a brilliant music supervisor and has been the right hand man to a lot of famous composers he was ready to do his first score, he was willing to do it for less than he’s probably worth to get the opportunity to do it. We were really lucky that Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe from Basement Jaxx were up for doing it, and interested and available, and the pitch for the score was “imagine if John Williams and John Carpenter got together and got quite high and wrote the score.” And they really knocked it out of the park. The first thing that Basement Jaxx brought to me was that riff you hear when the gang are first walking down the street pulling the carcass, the little three note riff. And that was the first demo they brought to me. And I just thought “wow, they nailed it.” I was just really lucky.
ShockYa: The hype has been building on this one since SXSW, people have been raving about it, how is that for you?
Joe Cornish: I’m psyched, is the word, and the important thing is that this isn’t studio-generated publicity. The word hype has connotations of fakeness and artificial-ness. All we’re saying is if you like this movie, tell your friends and write about it on the internet and spread the word. Hopefully this is a genuine type of hype, a sincence type of hype, not a lot of money is being spent on promoting this movie, so if it is a success it will be a success because people like it, and I think there’s something cool about that. In a world where movies can live or die in a weekend, and often are based on the amount of marketing muscle they have.
“Attack the Block” is out in limited theaters right now. Check your local theaters to see if it’s playing in an area near you.