Iris Interview at BIFF: Joanthan Teplitzky, Director of The Railway Man (UK/Australia, 2013)

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Meredith McLean attended the Red Carpet Opening of BIFF 2013 and had a chance to speak with Jonathan Teplitzky about “The Railway Man” and it’s screening at BIFF.

Hi, it’s lovely to meet you.

Hi I’m Jonathan

Nice to meet you, Jonathan. I’m Meredith, I’m from the AU review and The Iris. First of all, how was the reception at Toronto Film Festival?

Well it was huge. Toronto was like a ten minute standing ovation. A great two and half thousand people watched the film. They seemed to really engage and connect with the emotional landscape of the film. It goes to some dark places but also some incredibly light places. It was fantastic, the response that we got.

I read Patti Lomax was surprised as well by Kidman’s performance. Did you expect that reaction?

I don’t think she was surprised by it but when you get told someone is playing yourself in a film it becomes a daunting prospect. I think she probably found it, from what Patti said to me, to be pleasantly relaxing watching herself be played on screen. She was able to understand it’s a film, not a real life. Also, she and Nicole built up a strong bond and strong friendship. Patti had a real affinity with Nicole.

How did everyone handle the passing of Eric Lomax?

Well it was a very emotional thing because we were all in different parts of the world when it happened. It was very hard because we’ve all worked with his life story for such a long time. A lot of people said to me it’s a shame he never got to see the film but I don’t think he would ever watch the film because it would’ve probably been too traumatic. But thrilled doesn’t even describe how he felt about the film being made. That was the important thing; that he knew it was being made. He came on set a few times. It was sad for all of us. We got to know him very well and he was an intricate part of our team for a long time.

I can imagine. And you’ve been a screenwriter yourself before so what was the relationship with this screenwriter Frank Cotrell-Boyce? Did you interact much or fight over the process?

Not at all – we didn’t fight over anything. But you know, the relationship between writer and director is a dynamic and creative one and hopefully it was that. Frank’s a lovely, lovely man and very communicative and he knows the screenplay is never the end result. The screenplay is a document or a stepping stone to a film. You work with the director because the screenplay goes through various stages. We worked very closely on it for a long time.

And what was it like to work in a new setting? Because all your previous films have been Australian characters.

It was more or less exactly the same as working here. When you get into the meat of working on a film it’s just like any day on the set. You just get into and enjoy it. You’re so focused on everything the location doesn’t really matter. The location is supposed to help you tell the story and that’s what you’re keen to do.

Well, thank you for that. I’ll let you talk to- oh. No, it’s just us now.

Everyone’s buggered off.

I was going to say I’d let you say the same answer to several other people.

Oh, I’ve already said the same thing plenty of times today, plenty of times the last two months.

What’s the most interesting question that caught you off guard?

I don’t know really. What’s great about this film is because of what it’s about you never tire of talking about it. Its about big themes, big emotions with great actors so in a way it’s not boring. I’ve worked on it for so long now that to talk about it is very easy. Every time I talk about it I find something else. We’ve spent years on it and you think back many years, all the things and reasons for doing things and you can’t conjure them all at one time. So suddenly I’m talking to you and I think of something I haven’t said to anyone else.

That’s good to hear. Alright, well I hope you have a great night.

Thank you

Best of luck with the screening and I might see you at the after party.

You will indeed. Thanks again.

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The Railway Man screened at Brisbane International Film Festival and opens in Australia on Boxing Day, 2013.