Submarine, the film based on Joe Dunthorne’s Swansea coming of age novel of the same name, is out now. Buzz caught up with Writer and Director Richard Ayoade at the Welsh premiere.
WORDS: SUSIE WILD
With his afro and geek-gangly height Ayoade is instantly recognisable off screen. It is not especially surprising that the 33-year-old got mobbed by fans when filming the school scenes of Submarine in Swansea. As a comic actor he has starred in a string of hit TV comedies including The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh, and Nathan Barley. A chance meeting with Warp Films saw him directing music videos for the Artic Monkeys, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Super Furry Animals, Kasabian and Vampire Weekend and then taking on Submarine, his first feature film. The story sees 15-year-old protagonist Oliver Tate trying to cure his father’s depression, save his parent’s marriage and seduce his pyromaniac girlfriend. What first attracted Ayoade to the Curtis Brown Prize-winning novel Submarine?
‘I liked Joe’s book. I thought it was funny and I liked the tone of it and the character of Oliver. I was going to do a tank film, kinda just mainly tanks. It was going to be about two tanks, you know like Herbie Goes Bananas, but with tanks. Disaster struck, we couldn’t get the tanks. That week I got Joe’s book, because I was obviously down as the tank film hadn’t worked out, so to cheer me up I read Submarine. I was initially disappointed about the lack of tanks in it. My first drafts of the script were tank heavy.’
‘I’ve done stand up here, to massive acclaim, it was very popular, it changed the way stand up was done across the globe from then on. . . Is this the opportunity for me to make a casually racist remark that is repeated in an Ann Robinson way? I’m known for my casual racism so hopefully it’ll just slip out naturally at some stage. No, it was great filming in Swansea, and Barry. South Wales is really quite a beautiful place, a good place to film, and everything looks interesting and the light is very good – not too harsh, soft clouds.’
What films influenced the way he shot Submarine?
‘Badlands, Taxi Driver, The Graduate, Rushmore, The Squid and the Whale and Flirting, which is a great film.’
Acting, writing, directing – Ayoade has tried his hand at all three, but which one does he enjoy the most?
‘I like directing and writing, but I probably like writing best because everything is possible when you are writing something and then you slowly encounter the crushing jaws of reality. I guess the reason that I prefer writing is that there is something pleasing about the solitary nature of it. And then directing. And then acting because I’m just not very good at acting.’
But you’ve won awards….?
‘Oh those? They weren’t for my acting ability, more for loudness.’
Ayoade’s next film is going to be an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s doppelgänger novella The Double set in contemporary America. The story is in a similar vein to Black Swan, and sees government clerk Yakov Petrovitch Golyadkin’s mental deterioration as his exact double enters his life and begins to take over.
‘I’m adapting The Double with another writer, Avi Korine. It is not going to be a very faithful adaptation, as the book is very hard to adapt, so we’ll circumnavigate that by not doing it properly, but Dostoevsky is a great writer. It is hard to do a particularly accurate adaptation of anything, as you just end up with very long films. I’m just about to start looking at it really.’
So your first two films are both adaptations, are you planning on writing any of your own features from scratch?
‘No, I’ll just be ripping other people off, ideally. Yeah. Passing other people’s stuff off as things I’ve done. I mean if everything I did was an adaptation I wouldn’t feel all bad about it. Perhaps I will only make films out of Joe’s books from now on. Hopefully he can write ten more quite quickly.
If they are anything like Submarine that won’t be a bad thing. Submarine is at cinemas now. Watch it. More here:warp.net/films/submarine