Saul Dibb tells BBC Film Network about how he came to direct the big-budget feature and his approach to making a period drama in a non-heritage way.
London gang culture was the focus of Saul Dibb's debut feature Bullet Boy in 2004. It was a bold project in many ways, not just because of its realistic portrayal of kids with guns, but because Dibb chose to cast erstwhile rapper Ashley Walters in the lead role. Fortunately, the gamble paid off. Walters went on to scoop the Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer and Dibb earned a nomination for Best New Director at the British Independent Film Awards.
In fact, Dibb had been honing his craft for a few years by that point. He'd made a handful of documentaries including the award-winning Lifters (2002) following the lives of incorrigible kleptomaniacs. A year later there was Easy Money (2003) exploring the troubled personal life of porn star Violet Storm. More recently, Dibb found acclaim with the BBC miniseries The Line of Beauty, charting the exploits of a middleclass gay man (Dan Stevens) who aims to live the high life in Thatcherite Britain.
Keira Knightley and Hayley Atwell parade more of Michael O’Connor's magnificent sartorial creations.
Dibb's latest venture sees him return to the big screen with a much bigger budget. He directs Keira Knightley as The Duchess an 18th century ancestor of Princess Diana whose marriage made her subject to great public scrutiny and personal misery. The story highlights the parallels between the lives of these two women, separated by nearly 200 years of Spencer family history. It may seem like an unusual career choice for Dibb, but on the contrary, he tells BBC Film Network why The Duchess and Bullet Boy are not so different, and why corsets in films don't necessarily equate with stifling formality.
The Duchess was released in UK cinemas on Friday 5th September 2008
Stella Papamichael | Published 4 September 08