[NETFLIX] OPERATION MINCEMEAT PANEL (Colin Firth)

[NETFLIX] OPERATION MINCEMEAT PANEL (Colin Firth)

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00:03
hello everybody and welcome to this special conversation with the cast and crew of operation mincemeat i'm dave karger from turner classic movies and i'm absolutely delighted to be able to introduce seven members of the cast and crew of this wonderful film so we have with us two of the producers ian canning hi ian hi how's it going great chris ticker is with us hello chris hello the screenwriter michelle ashford hello michelle hello and three of the cast members kelly mcdonald hi kelly hi
00:34
matthew mcfadden hello hi and colin firth how are you hello hello how are you and the director is with us as well john madden hello john great to see you hi dave before we talk about the film itself this movie represents many different reunions of different people who have made wonderful projects together in the past colin obviously ian canning and his producing partner sherman produced the king's speech through seesaw films their company and it had been about a decade i
01:04
think since between these two films how much had you stayed in touch colin with ian and emil in the hopes of doing something together again um we've sort of we we haven't all together lost contact have we you know [Laughter] there was pigeons sent with notes and things like that wasn't very ideas we had a i think you can call it a habit when there are intervals in between but we were tending to approach each other with ideas um
01:34
which i think in this world a um ten years isn't actually bad going into you know in terms of finding the next thing ten years between second world war films i think it's probably probably appropriate it's probably the time that makes sense and to prove your point that 10 years is impressive think of how long ago it was colin that you and john were together on shakespeare love i mean that's over two decades um was that was that a nice reunion as well it was very nice john and i um i
02:06
think that we've had more contact not least because we live about three doors away from each other if one of us has an idea for the other it was hard for anybody to you know avoid i've made this attempt a number of times haven't we john we have we have yeah it's like lobbying a script over a fence basically and we've been sort of done out of it on several occasions having to do with schedules and so on um but uh yeah this one this one came good and then of course john and michelle you have the history together
02:37
from masters of sex which michelle created so i imagine there must have been a dialogue michelle continuing between the two of you oh yeah absolutely we became good pals when uh john graciously directed uh the pilot yes yes and then this is what she gave me actually when when we were just about to start shooting the pilot classes of sex she said this is a fantastic book and it says on the front if it appeals i promise you a fabulous
03:08
script honestly i said this it took us six years to get there but yes but i did john and i really hit it off when he directed uh masters of sex and this book i did i had read the book and i thought oh i can't think of a more perfect director for this and so yes six years later there we were and then kelly what am i leaving out well one can't seem to shake me per thing longer than anyone actually oh really yeah
03:44
this is how many times this is three four this is the hat trick yeah this third one okay so i love john that you just showed ben mcintyre's book operation vince me that's kind of the source material for this can you tell me how it entered your life and and what intrigued you so much well it entered my life in material form obviously this hardback that michelle gave me uh is was not a you know a story i was completely unaware of um
04:15
but uh i had not read uh ben's book which was you know a pretty um extraordinary experience because it's an extraordinary story to start with and he has a a gift really for lifting what could be a kind of dry account of espionage and endless detail into a kind of just an absolutely ripping read full of the most extraordinary characters and and he has a way a rather mischievous
04:45
way of telling the story and pointing you at the the irony the ironies and the absurdities of um the story and the whole idea of it frankly i mean my first feeling when i looked i said wow this is a challenge i mean it's a delicious challenge but a challenge really to kind of accommodate the the extraordinary range of moods and ideas and reversals and characters that it has in it and chris from your point of view i know this is i think the third film that you've
05:17
produced that john has directed so you have a great history with him what were you most excited to see john bring to this project yeah that's also a hat trick for me um i look like you know i i spend my life waiting to make films with john so i to be honest i would um i if i could only make films with john that would basically be what i would do um uh you know i think he has um a marvelous way with actors we have three wonderful actors here but i think he he's character-driven he is a tough
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task master for a screenwriter um in so far as he is incredibly involved in the script and i think um watching him work with michelle was sort of superb he's a director who who gets under the skin and is both incredibly respectful of um writing talent but is all about script um and we you know we wanted to make a film that was a i don't want to say it's an old-fashioned film but it's a proper movie movie you know we wanted to make a a a big film that was dramatic and characterful and i
06:21
don't think there's anyone better in the world than sean i want to ask the three actors about uh their characters because they're also intriguing in many different ways um colin i think what's really interesting about how we learn about you and montague here is that we almost learn more about his personal life before we learn about his professional life and i think that's a really interesting way to get an audience invested in the character even before the the plot of the movie you know the spy plot i mean is set in
06:51
motion and i was very intrigued by the scenes early on in the film where we witness him with his wife and family and see the kind of friction there and and the dynamics there what interested you about playing montague in kind of these two different realms the the personal and the professional the personal life of spies is something that has interested me before i don't know i obviously not an authority on any of it um most of us don't know what the
07:23
personal or professional life of spies is i i think there's a singular difficulty in which you can't if you're if you're doing something secret you can't share you know with your family you know you can't you can't come home and describe your day at the office and uh i think that puts a particular pressure i mean i've actually spoken to people who had to do you know i've played it actually quite recently played another navy officer whose work couldn't be
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shared and um you know i think it clearly puts a lot of pressure um on everybody concerned there's a line in uh in tinker taylor soldier's spy which tom hardy has and they're trying to persuade him to come back from the cold and do the job and he says this line had over all the screenings this line got a big laugh when they speeded screened it for spies apparently they actually showed the film that the mi5 headquarters screening room
08:25
and there was a line which got a laugh only in that screening and nowhere else which is he said if i do this for you i want out i i want a life i don't want to end up like you lot and it brought the house down you know because it hit a spot with with that particular audience i didn't get a laugh anywhere else and so i think that's just the clue as to um i think the sacrifices and how painful it it must be and i think there was something that in our story
08:56
it was important to kick off with that you know just the personal investment of the personal sacrifices that spies have to make but also it is a profoundly personal story i mean it's you know what do you think it's about a corpse who is also a human being and uh and all the moral questions that uh circle around that matthew i was really intrigued by charles chomley and he's this man who is very dedicated to his work but he also has these other
09:26
pressures coming at him you know he he is kind of asked to spy on his own co-worker but he he seems conflicted about it what struck you about playing those different sides it's just great i i i enjoyed all that i mean he's he's he's sort of um he's incredibly bright i mean deeply deeply clever chumly but terribly socially awkward and sort of quite lonely and that was fun to play um
09:57
and yeah and the sort of the conflict between the sort of triangle between colin and kelly's character and me was sort of worked very nicely with all that with the backdrop of this awful pressure of the operation and everything so yeah it was great it was great it's really interesting what colin is talking about there's no reflected glory even for them you know they couldn't not only could they not speak to their families about it but there's no sort of sense of sort of strange strange thing that spies go through and they i don't think chumley ever spoke
10:29
about it ever or montague um to anybody and kelly jean your character gene i think is is maybe the audience's way into the story because i i just find her so relatable she's someone who is ambitious but is able to navigate the world of her job in a in a way that doesn't feel super ambitious she does it with charm and i found that really interesting that she she has the wherewithal to get in the room but to do it in a way that feels
11:01
right what did you love about her the most i loved exactly what you're saying i loved how um vital she was and charming and um and i think from ben's documentary um it was interesting actually to hear about these women that worked in mi5 and how how they all you know it became this passion everybody wanted to be involved in this um this story and sort of to to sort of bring something to the table
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and so jane's character is kind of i think an amalgamation of a few of those women and she got the prized sort of you know she got to be the photograph and the wallet the wallet litter and then and i think um it was like winning a competition or something i'm in the office michelle did you get a sense in your research of the script when you were learning about the women who worked on this mission in in these organizations in general for someone like gene a character like gene
12:03
what would the bigger obstacle have been her her the status of her position what level she was at or her gender which would be harder to overcome in a way well you know women played actually a very vital role uh uh in the war especially in this area of of espionage and all the women that were working at bletchley decoding and um what what was interesting is they because so much of this was hidden i think in a way it allowed women to
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to attain more kind of status and and and position in these in these operations because it was so much of it was not uh known and so in a weird way without being in public view i think women got to do more and be involved more in these operations than they would have been if it was all on the up and up and um i thought that was fascinating and the women involved i mean there's so many wonderful stories about women that were
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vital to war effort operations and a lot of them are untold ian when you think back to this production what do you remember as being kind of like the biggest logistical challenge was it scheduling this sprawling cast that i'm sure was pretty busy because you shot this all pre-coded or was there a particular set piece or a department that that required a lot of your attention i guess we we did have to ultimately which i guess was my fault because it was my idea that we we had to do the landings
13:37
um on on on the beaches so um from my perspective that was sort of an essential part because the story is so much about the intelligent private people in the private rooms but actually what they were responsible for was from such a ludicrous idea to something that they achieved that was so spectacular really needed to sort of land that kind of i guess the peril that all of those guys went through when they hit the beaches so i would say that that was recreating that within our sort of limited budget was
14:08
was something that was important john how would you rank those beach scenes as far as just the scope of it compared to you know and anything else that you've done where does that rank so when you get to the very last part where you know this is something was going to happen anyway this invasion um it was somehow we didn't really have to work at it we i mean obviously there was a huge scale issue involved in it we took over unfortunately not a sicilian beach but what a beach in south devon uh which was
14:40
a huge landscape where the you know massive lighting rig i remember the the production um head of production at seesaw said wow you've got a lot of kits here you know we had huge movers and uh you know caterpillar machines and all everything all over the place um so it it that itself was um it's sort of you know when you get to those places it's like doing the fifth act of a shakespeare play you know exactly how to play it if you got the first war rats right and
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and the stakes were so clear and so um so felt i think um even by the guys who were running up and down the beach you know countless times in freezing temperatures so it was uh yeah it was it was a challenge but it was a good challenge matthew and colin the relationship between your characters is obviously very fascinating and multifaceted because they are teammates if you will but then there's this suspicion
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they're even competing for the same woman what was that like to play colin all those different levels and layers of the relationship at the same time as you say the intrigue is less of an onion because there's there's a intrigue within the intrigue um they they ask you know there's the enemy out there and then you know the conflict that then develops between these two characters um and just they're keeping secrets from each other and there's espionage in their
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relationship uh uh not just secrets but betrayals and you know it reminds you of just how many fronts this war is going on in you know there's the the the obvious ones that in this case they're fighting the germans and then russia which is an ally but still to be suspected you know by the high command and one set to spy on the other and of course you know [Music]
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my character has a brother who was in fact um a lot loyal to soviet russia and something that they foresaw would be a problem later and then it's the deceptions that they um play on each other over the romantic side of things but then is it their own character are they beginning to are they competing to inhabit this construct as a real person which is quite interesting for us as actors because in a way they're doing
17:17
what it's rather like they were making a movie they have to sort of pick it to pieces intellectually but they also it's you know they feel they have to they inevitably fall into it emotionally and try and get into it like an actor with a part you know um so that was that was a lovely sort of melding of the two the idea really that sits at the center of the whole film and the center of the story is a fiction it's a fiction that is created on which an enormous amount depends uh and uh
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the the inevitably as the story unfolds the line between fact and fiction between truth and fiction becomes ever more difficult to discern particularly for the people in it and they disappear into their own fiction i mean that's literally what happens um and and not surprisingly we're you know and there are analogies obviously in the making of a film similar things happen or have been known to happen and actually that sort of intensifies the experience of making it but it michelle was very very alive to
18:19
the idea that sits in the material as well which is that you know as matthew's character observes all the time everybody seems to be writing novels and the 20 committee which was the heart of wartime espionage was literally bursting at the seams with novelistically inclined you know crossword puzzle solvers and detective fiction writers it was quite extraordinary so that the whole idea of the creation of fiction and storytelling
18:49
is this unseen current in the whole film i love the idea of having the character of ian fleming future james bond narrate this film and i also love his inclusion because it allows for these moments that a james bond fan will love where you kind of see the gears turning when he sees a gadget or what when did that idea come to you as being a structural framework for you well in terms of the structure that was something that john and i were talking about for a long time
19:19
so his narration came about late in the game but when i when i read that book the one of the main things i was drawn to was the fact that ian fleming was the architect one of the architects of this plot and i thought that is brilliant i mean honestly the fact that the guy who created james bond was at the center of a real spy story that he created and then that led to him going wow this
19:50
is such a fertile area i'm just going to start writing about it is i just thought that was just fabulous and and as john said so many of the people who worked in real life in these spy operations were writing spy novels it just showed that the grip of spy stories on us i thought that ben's book was a valentine to spies and spies stories and how they have such a grip on us from you know james bond austin powers too we
20:20
just keep coming back to this material because it really grips us somehow and i i felt that his book was a valentine so i loved that ian fleming was at the center of this and then the more john and i were talking about it we thought well from the man who ended up writing you could argue the definitive spy stories of our time let's make him tell this story and that seemed really fun to us matthew would you say your scenes with colin were one of the highlights for you it's very difficult when someone drinks in the
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morning um but it's also the highlight in certain ways it was joyful i had i i hadn't worked with colin before i worked very happily with kelly before also with an enormous moustache what you had the moustache matthew [Laughter] no it was a real thrill it was a real thrill he's um he's a supremely lovely man and a supremely brilliant actor um and i on and so it was very it's very nice we we both played one part um jane austen part so that we had that connection colin's much much older than
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me so i've watched [Music] in all seriousness i've watched colin in things like tumble down and month in the country when i was forming the idea of going maybe going to drama school and the idea of maybe trying to be an actor and so it was quite a formative um experience watching him in those things and then so to work with him all these years later it's lovely since you mentioned it matthew were was there any discussion on the set of this film that kelly you were essentially choosing between two mr darcy's you know can i just say at this
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point on paper it's like gene leslie oh all these men are you know hesitant but the real romance was between man you can call it i don't know what you're talking about michelle i want to ask you and john about the challenges of weaving in the the kind of war plot elements of the film among the interpersonal elements and it's very seamless the way you both did it and you feel like both sides of
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the story you're getting equal love and you're never feeling like oh i want to go back to that it's always kind of it comes back at the right time how was that was it like almost mathematical to make sure that in the script and in the film that too much time didn't go by or too many pages didn't go by where you weren't attending to one side of the movie that took a lot of work uh the book is huge and sprawling and you know uh i certainly had a go at it for a while and then john uh
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uh joined me in this process and no this took a lot of work to figure out how to weave these stories and make it feel seamless because it wasn't no it was it was very complicated and um the script did go through a lot of different iterations trying to get the tone right as john was saying you know when you read ben's book it's parts of it are just absolute lunacy you know like slipping on the banana peel comedy
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and then and then some you know with the enormous weight of a very real world war happening so that that took a lot of work to try and figure out how to get the tone right what their relationships were like how to include the the humor without you know completely derailing the rest of the story so yeah it was a complicated one for sure you know the task really was to make sure they weren't alternate it didn't have alternate values those two different things i mean there was
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obviously a story that was moving relentlessly forward which was the creation of this uh fiction uh and the task really was to make uh both sides that's to say the personal side the personal elements that are involved in in the creation of that belong to and point directly at the story that was emerging that took quite a while to kind of figure out exactly how to do that but um but in other words they sort of weave
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and braid together they're not like oh well now we've spent too long in the emotional world let's come back and deal with some you know hardcore espionage it it really didn't unfold that way and i don't think it did in reality either so it's really about making them belong to one another i just wanted to say one shout out that that it was an extraordinarily interesting film to edit and to score uh the editor victoria boydell and i worked for a very very long time remotely from one another rather like
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the situation we're in here about 150 miles apart and never in each other's company so we were sort of you know experienced in the film inch by inch and then tom newman who wrote the score became involved uh you know some way into that process but then very intimately involved because the way musically we weave our way through it i think has an enormous amount to do with the way the stories the different aspects of the story go here chris one of the things that i love so much about
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this movie is the depiction of this kind of wartime fabulous social life that we get glimpses of in in this movie these supper clubs and all these just so antithetical to what you think would be going on during a war when when you think back to the actual production what were some of the challenges uh in making sure that that felt right and authentic but also pretty fabulous actually one of the things that was really tough was to do blackout london and to do a london that it was much dirtier and
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seemier and blacked out than than it is now it's actually it's interesting i think we've i hope we've been successful but quite a lot of second world movies look great but all the buildings are bright and shiny white because everything's been cleaned over the last 50 years whereas actually at this time in the war everything was dirty not just from wall but from the hundred years that preceded it and coal and dirt so it was it was challenging to do that blackout london and it was wonderful to be able to sometimes open the door as you know as they did in 1943 into this sort of
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underground world not just the underground world of room 13 and the the the spooks themselves but actually this social life where the people who were in london at that point the war was going on but it was quite far away so although they were we you know i think um kelly says it in the movie when she says you know we're like moles you know this idea of sort of wandering around town with little likes to you know not being able to sort of and scurrying but then actually having an exciting time in in in their social life i think again also to michelle's point um
27:13
it was quite a sort of interesting sexy time because you know there was strangely women were having were being given opportunities and jobs they wouldn't have there was a there was a sort of world where some of the the sort of slightly more stayed mores of the pre-war years were being wiped away because the you know people were under pressure so that was super exciting the um uh gargoyle club is in fact uh the original gargoyle club is in the uh it is now where there is a soho house in
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london so so the dean street townhouse in uh london soho was originally the gargoyle club in the in the 40s and so although we didn't take many cues from from that there's it was it was quite fun to sort of imagine that that that's a similar sort of crowd and atmosphere for the 40s were there so there was you know it was super it was exciting ian am i right that you you all rapped kind of just in time in march of 2020 yeah i think um there was that sort of
28:15
i was back in london i remember chatting to chris on the phone and chris saying i think we're going to come back to a very different london aren't we and i said i think you are and then literally that changed in the next three or four days it was it felt like a sort of um a tide sort of that was coming towards us and it was like would you be able to safely get to the end and and complete the film so yeah there was there was there was definitely drama around that it felt like the world was changing around us as we were coming to
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the end of the shoot it feels like operation mincemeat was the last job before the world changed forever kind of thing and it sort of has made it even more you know we had such a ball we just had the best time like i've never had a better time i think just sitting around in strange sort of dusty old rooms and directors cheers with a bunch of actors colin i want to ask you and matthew about the humor in the film because it's it's throughout and it it's it's something you wouldn't necessarily think you would find in a
29:17
movie when you hear about this movie but it works and i'd just be curious to know how you and matthew and john and you all kind of talked about it and played it to make sure that it felt uh appropriate but also uh funny enough to still be these moments of levity i think john alluded to it a bit and which is why michelle's script so brilliant is that it's the the amateurish and the abs the amateurishness of of what they were doing was sort of is part of that is part of
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the seriousness as well you know and the absurdity of it you know i think mitchell caught this absolutely brilliantly and uh because it's it's also you know humor can be very specific to a culture um it could be i don't know certainly you know british culture can be of that area can be seen as quite specific but it could be uh different depending on class for all i know the air force has a different sense of humor from the navy um but i think that it's how you handle
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things so if you're an extremist or you're frightened or the stakes are incredibly high um it it it's possibly your only recourse you know particularly if there's been conflict between the two people concerned so when you get things like i may vomit i may vomit with you it's from it's from that part of you that's gonna vomit you know they mean it uh but what else can we say it and now we've done everything we're gonna have and all we can do is wait to see if uh
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you know civilization is going to be saved or not um there's a sort of desperation that underlies a lot of the the humor and like any humor you know you just have to play the reality of it it's not like well let's have some gags now because this is a tough story for people to stomach i mean it isn't it's just the way the story unfolds and if it's working it pulls an audience into a relationship and understanding of that ian how did the netflix of it all come about netflix came we were in post-production um
31:20
you know as john said during the the pandemic we had john editing from one room and then um victoria like on a washing machine editing her bits but um uh netflix came in i guess we had we had made a sort of longer promo that had um got out into the sort of business you know industry and so therefore we started to get calls and and then they went from there but they've been very passionate supporters of it so it was it was good to get them on board and
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so passionate about it in the us colin let me finish with you this i feel like this is such a great only in england kind of story i don't know if you would agree with that and i also know that you've been away i think you're in the united states you're filming uh this hbo show that you've been doing for a while i don't know if it makes you feel homesick watching this movie or talking about it or thinking about it but it really does seem like a quintessential only in britain kind of story doesn't strike you that way too one of the things that this touched on for me was that world war ii was not a full gone conclusion
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i know we all know that but we don't really know it it was written it's it's part it all feels inevitable that it that it had it ran the course it ran right now we're at the end of the generation who who lived through it as adults you know i think the character of the nation that we're talking about um would probably be very different today had things gone differently well i congratulate you all on making a rousing and massively entertaining so thank you so much to the whole crew ian cannon chris ticker michelle ashford john madden colin firth matthew mcfadden and
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kelly mcdonald it's so great to be with you all today thanks so much

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