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Going for gold (again)
An interview with film director, John Madden, conducted at the 2010 Ischia Global Film & Music Festival by Timothy E. Raw

Oscar-nominated director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) once again takes aim at Oscar gold this December with his award-baiting, Academy shoe-in, The Debt, a remake of the 2007 thriller from Israeli writer/director Assaf Bernstein. Let's hope his latest is more big screen bullseye, than Killshot, a film with a production history so notorious (and candidly discussed in our interview) it would have toppled most careers.

The Debt's trailer evokes nail-biting suspense and nothing in either Captain Corelli's Mandolin or Proof would have John Madden leaping to the minds of many as an ideal fit for the material, though when you look past the marketing and focus on the heavy-weight cast, his selection as the director of all that Oscar-nominated talent makes perfect sense. He's already had experience working with the cream of British film industry talent, directing Judi Dench in Mrs Brown, so there's lots of potential in seeing what he can do with titans like Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson.

The plot of this political thriller revolves around three Mossad agents – who track down and kill an escaped Nazi war criminal in the year 1965. Thirty years later, when a man claiming to be the very same war criminal they supposedly killed announces himself, the agents are called back into service. Two timeframes featuring two different casts as the younger and older agents. While flavour of the month, Sam Worthington (Avatar) is the member of the younger cast currently drawing most attention, I'm anticipating the arrival of Jessica Chastain (little seen festival film, Stolen and New York stage starlet of the moment), already tipped for big things before she's even known to the general public, starring in both this and Terrence Malick's long awaited Tree of Life, later this year.

It's been a rocky road for Madden since the days of Harvey Weinstein winning awards with his chequebook and Shakespeare in Love – not a slight on the film itself but the era with which it'll always be associated. Captain Corelli's Mandolin may have been a bestseller, but its adaptation was far from the hit it was expected to be, garnering a cool reception from audiences and critics. Proof, despite its successful theatrical run (which Madden also directed in London) sank without a trace, and Killshot was a film almost impossible to see, and those who did gave it savage reviews. Such reactions were unfair in all three cases in this writer's opinion, but The Debt looks to be a way for Madden to recapture his reputation as a director of prestige, award-winning fare.

Five months ahead of The Debt's December 29th release stateside, I sat down with Madden who graciously gave up a sizable chunk of his time to discuss each of these films in depth, as well as his life before film, directing both TV (Sherlock Holmes) and radio (Star Wars).



Exclusive interview with John Madden, conducted at the
2010 Ischia Global Film & Music Festival by Timothy E. RAW.

If you are unable to play the video click here.


John Madden

The Debt (2010)
Killshot (2008)
Proof (2005)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Mrs Brown (1997)
Truth or Dare (1996 TV)
Inspector Morse (4 episodes, 1990-1995 TV)
Prime Suspect: The Lost Child (1995 TV)
Meat (1994 TV)
Golden Gate (1994)
Ethan Frome (1993)
The Storyteller: Greek Myths - Theseus & the Minotaur (1991 TV)
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes - The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (1991 TV)
The Widowmaker (1990 TV)
After the War (5 episodes, 1989 TV)
The Return of Sherlock Holmes - The Priory School (1986 TV)
Grown-Ups (1985 TV)
Poppyland (1985 TV)
The Pigman's Protege (1982 TV)

article posted
15 August 2010