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In the Loop - Armando Iannucci Q&A

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David Thair | 17:52 UK time, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

In the Loop
Fans of The Thick of It, rejoice! In The Loop, the new film from the team behind BBC Four's awesome political satire, goes on general release next month. It details the lives of UK and US politicians who find themselves embroiled in the lead-up to a possible war - particularly Malcolm Tucker, the sweary 'Director of Communications' who finds the situation increasingly difficult to control.

Last week BBC staff were treated to a preview screening by director/co-writer Armando Iannucci (last seen on this blog grilling Stewart Lee), and he stuck around afterwards to answer questions about how it was made.

Here's what Armando said about various things:

The Real Washington

"I've seen Washington depicted as sinister and conspiratorial, or noble and virtuous, but I haven't seen it shown as rubbish - and my experience of going there is that it is a bit rubbish, but on a grand scale.

It emerged that Washington is run by 23 year-olds who have unbelievably awesome
powers if they're in the right place and the right time. We met a 22 year-old that was sent to Baghdad to help set up the constitution, and a 23 year-old who was given the Central American budget to look after."

The Golden Rule

"The golden rule in Washington is 'never leave a meeting'. If you leave a meeting, you leave power. If you go for a toilet break, something might be decided that has massive implications and if you're not involved in that decision-making process, you won't be allowed to carry it out. 
 
When she was US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright taught her staff what she called 'bladder diplomacy': how to last in a meeting for up to six hours without having to go to the toilet.
 
It's basically like the British Government, only bigger. I came back thinking it was both quite amusing and quite scary that that is really how the world is run."

Moving to the Big Screen

"Because it was a film I had to keep telling myself not to take on the traditional tricks, (or) feel tempted to open with a beautiful sunset, swooping music and an overhead shot of London. I didn't want to do that because I wanted to cram in as many funny moments as possible and not have the comedy dampened by being too ponderous with the technique.

I deliberately wanted to pace things differently while trying to keep the spontaneity of the TV show, where we try to shoot in order, so that the cast are suffering the story as it goes along - so that by the end of it if they look exhausted, it's because they actually are.

I don't want the audience to feel there is a film in the way of what they're watching. I want them to feel they're eavesdropping on a parallel world that we're not really meant to be seeing."

Improvisation

"At the end of every scene I'd ask the cast to put the scripts to one side and to improvise. Inevitably you end up shooting a lot of stuff that never quite makes it because it's a bit shapeless, but every now and then, things pop out that you just couldn't plan.

As with The Thick of It, fundamentally 80 - 85% of [In The Loop] is script - and the script is massive. I was told after I started filming that a film script is normally about 90 - 100 pages long. This was 245."

'Little people' can make a difference

James Gandolfini in In the Loop

"After reading a lot of the diaries and biographies of those involved [in the war in Iraq] on this side and in Washington, it struck me that the whole thing was either horrendously awful or highly amusing, or probably both, in terms of the farcical nature of it.

The film isn't saying it's all going to happen again, but the reason we kept it unspecific, not mentioning the country [to be invaded] was Iraq, is that we wanted it to feel very much of today - really try and demonstrate, hopefully in an amusing way, how these things just sort of happen; it's the cumulative effect of all the little people who can make a difference but who don't think they can, so they don't say anything."

Political reaction

"The number of politicians who have said to me publicly that 'it's shows like The Thick of It that put people off politics is massively outweighed by the number of politicians who have said to me in private 'in real life it's a lot worse.

I imagine the main critique [from politicians] will be 'oh, it wasn't like that' and 'there are lots of good people in Westminster' and both of those are true because this isn't a documentary, nor is it purporting to be fact. It's an entertainment and politicians must never confuse fact with fiction."


Thanks to Ananda Pellerin for the transcript.

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