Oscar-winning actor Jim Broadbent sees dearth of films about his generation
Jim Broadbent poses for reporters at the premiere "Cloude Atlans" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Andrea Baillie, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014 3:31PM EDT
TORONTO -- Oscar-winning actor Jim Broadbent says there's a dearth of realistic movies about his age group, which is part of what drew him to his new project, "Le Week-End."
Opening Friday, the movie follows long-married couple Nick and Meg Burroughs (Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) as they return to Paris, where they celebrated their honeymoon 30 years earlier. Longstanding grievances, financial and familial tensions --and a chance encounter with an old acquaintance of Nick's (Jeff Goldblum) -- soon deepen the cracks in their already fractious marriage.
With a tone that veers from darkly funny, to cautiously hopeful and at times outright depressing, the film is getting raves -- with many pointing out the rarity of seeing older characters depicted so candidly onscreen.
"I don't know if there are a great deal of films that are really reflecting my generation in a totally honest way," Broadbent, 64, said in a recent telephone interview from London. "I think (some have) a lot of sentimentality about them, films about the golden years and how glorious it is to drift into a gentle retirement. But I prefer this rather more honest and hard-headed approach."
Director Roger Michell ("Notting Hill," "Venus") notes that the film industry is simply catching up with a societal trend.
"I think old people are getting younger, and old people are getting richer and old people have more time on their hands than they used to," he said.
"I think that old people -- as is described in the film -- are more ambitious for their lives. They want a third act in their life, which they now can have. They're fitter, they have more spending power, they can travel, they can take Viagara, they can have lovers. They can start again. ... and that's unimaginable for people of my parents' generation."
With a screenplay by Michell's longtime collaborator Hanif Kureishi, "Le Week-End" was shot in just a few weeks, with many scenes shot on streets filled with actual passersby rather than extras.
Broadbent, who has frequently collaborated with British director Mike Leigh (whose projects involve months of improvisation) found the brisk shoot invigorating.
"I like it very much when it's quick. I think my own tempo is more suited to the quicker filming process, particularly in something like 'Le Week-End' where we shot largely chronologically," he said. "You keep your energy and you keep your focus and you rattle through. And it suits me."
Broadbent -- who won an Academy Award for 2002's "Iris" -- needed no time to bond with Duncan. He'd already played her husband in TV's "Longford."
The actress is revered in Britain, although she is less familiar to North American audiences (the New York Times recently ran an article about her under the headline "Just Another Great Role for What's-Her-Name").
"We get on brilliantly," Broadbent said of his co-star. "It was a delight ... when we knew we were going to be working together again. ... When I read (the script) I could just hear her saying it."
Michell, meanwhile, had directed Goldblum in 2010's "Morning Glory" and soon realized he wanted him to play the mysterious Morgan.
"When we were writing that part (it) started off as a French person, then it became briefly an Indian person and then it became an American person and very soon it became Jeff's voice even though we hadn't cast Jeff, it became Jeff in our mind's eye."
Added the director: "He jumped straight away and he's just marvellous in it ... and was just so committed to the whole process and the oddness of the script and the complications of the characters."
While Michell says he hasn't read the glowing press coverage surrounding the movie, there's one message he clearly wants to get out: "Le Week-End" is not just a movie for old people.
"This film appeals to people of all ages. Anyone who's been in a relationship with anyone else for more than a week will recognize so many things (about themselves)," he said.
"I don't think it's about old people at all. I think it's about people people."
Said Broadbent: "I think it's nice to celebrate the difficulty of keeping a marriage going ... they work at it even if it means putting up with some unpalatable home truths occasionally. Which makes uncomfortable viewing perhaps. But I think they're a likable couple, perhaps. Which helps."
"Le Week-end" opens Friday in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver; March 28 in Ottawa and Charlottetown; April 4 in Waterloo, Ont., and April 25 in London, Ont.