This is an extract from an interview with Michael Winterbottom published in El Pais on 23 March. It is translated from the Spanish by me, so may not be perfect.
Winterbottom always has three or four projects in hand. This day in March is no exception. A monitor in his London office is showing rushes of A Mighty Heart, about the murder in Pakistan of the Wall Street Journal correspondent Danny Pearl. The film is based on the reconstruction of the facts published by his widow, Marianne, played by Angelina Jolie. The director is also supervising details of the imminent filming of Genova, to be shot on location in Italy with Colin Firth. And meanwhile he looks toward the future, to 2008, when he expects to complete a trilogy with the actor Steve Coogan. The English humorist performs a triple role in Tristram Shandy and is the narrator of 24 Hour Party People, the frantic exploration by Winterbottom of the musical insanity of eighties Manchester.
“We want to do a comedy about torture”, he states, without avoiding the boldness of his objective. He is working already on the script, based on Murder in Samarkand, the biography of Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan who lost his job and diplomatic career to denounce the connivance of Tony Blair’s government in cases of torture of terrorist subjects.
“There is a connection among these three movies, that relates to aspects of Steve. The structure, the form and the tone of the narrative are similar. Also the feverish passion for people, the love of ideas and a sense of humor that pricks pomposity”, Winterbottom explains.
As a person, Tristram Shandy has entered the English popular vocabulary to describe people of brimming imagination and absurd ideas. The book was also viewed as unfilmable. In “A Cock and Bull Story” Winterbottom resolves the problem by making a film about a film, that is to say, about a group of filmmakers who try to adapt the novel.
“The book is not based on a traditional concept of narrative. It disperses in multiple directions, with no straight line, and interspersed with passages very tangential to the central story. It is one of the aspects that most attracted me to the project. Movies, in general, are incredibly conservative as to structure and form. Here I deliberately avoid falling into a lineal structure, as I also did in 24 Hour Party People and I want to do again in Murder in Samarkand”, explains the director.
Lourdes Gomez, El Pais, 23/3/07