Getting Direct With Directors...
Nick Broomfield
No.6: Nick Broomfield

Notorious for courting controversy with documentary features like Kurt & Courtney, and Biggie And Tupac, filmmaker Nick Broomfield takes time out to shoot the breeze on matters ranging from modern farming to Norman Wisdom. He's recently unveiled his latest doc, Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer - an inside look at the last days of death row inmate Aileen Wuornos.

Why did you become a director?

Couldn't think of anything else to do. It's something I wandered into. I was always very interested in history and politics, and so making documentaries was a way of finding out about people and places. It's a bit like being a contemporary historian, but you have a connection with people. You're in an incredibly privileged position. You don't have to really take what the newspapers tell you, or radio programmes, or whatever. You can meet the people, and probably as a documentary filmmaker, you have longer than anyone else. Sometimes if I do a film I'm in a place for three or four months, which is much longer than a journalist or anyone else gets. As a documentary filmmaker you have to love being in strange places, and meeting strange people, and making lots of new friends. And being quite open in many ways.

What do you think you would be if you weren't a filmmaker?

I always had a fantasy - I'd love to be a farmer. But given the state of farming nowadays I'm not sure. I love being outside, and although I'm pretty hopeless at making things, I'm quite good at making things grow. And I just like the routine of the seasons. I think it's just very rooted, isn't it? Literally - farming. It's very immediate, but I think it's also pretty stressful. Actually my best friends are farmers, but they've had such a terrible time. I think this government almost has this policy of closing down small farms. They're totally broke all the time. But it's a nice idea.

ivans xtc

What other director would you like to see at work?

I spent some time with [Pier Paolo] Passolini when I was a film student and I really enjoyed that. I think maybe [Stanley] Kubrick would have been great. But of course he's dead now. Paul Thomas Anderson I think would be interesting. And I think Bernard Rose did a tremendous job with ivans xtc. I think it would be quite fun to watch him.

What was the last movie you paid to see?

The last one I saw was Sexy Beast on DVD. I thought it was crap. I thought it was a flashy piece of crap that was about nothing, and I couldn't understand why anyone liked it.

What was the last movie you walked out of?

I would have walked out of Sexy Beast, but it was in my living room. There were some other people watching it too, so it was difficult to leave.

Do you believe in God?

No I don't - not in God as such. I believe that there's a goodness out there, and I think there's goodness in everybody. We should probably all try and have a good dig around and find out where it is.

Who's the most famous person you have in your contacts book?

The most famous person? That would have to be my son.

What's your favourite movie quote?

I think that Peter Sellers film. I can't remember which Pink Panther it is, it's... You know, he goes into the inn and he says "Does your dog bite?" And he says "No" and then he strokes the dog and the dog bites him. And he says "I thought you said your dog didn't bite", and he said "But that is not my dog". So, "That is not my dog."

Which filmmaker do you consider the most underrated?

Most underrated? Hmmm. I think probably somebody called Leon Hirszman, who was a Brazilian filmmaker. He made features.

Which filmmaker do you consider the most overrated?

The most overrated? Hmmm. Probably Spielberg.

Who's the biggest pain you've ever worked with?

Other than myself... BBC lawyers.

What's the dumbest question you've ever been asked?

The dumbest question? I can't even remember. I've probably put it out of my mind.

Have you ever asked a dumb question in the course of filming?

Yeah... I just can't remember.

Do you believe in test screenings?

Yeah. I show them [my films] lots and lots of times.

Have you ever changed a piece of work on the basis of a test screening?

Yeah. Often.

How seriously do you take reviews?

Oh, reviews? I don't really, but I take test screenings pretty seriously. I mean reviews are a bit late in the day. You've done it, so I think you have to be thinking about the next one.

What's your biggest regret?

My biggest regret is probably not doing a bit more work on the script of the feature I did [Diamond Skulls, starring Gabriel Byrne]. I think it was the one time I waived my judgement a bit. Instead of really doing that work, I went ahead with something that was a bit half-baked. I should have stood out for more.

There are five minutes left till the end of the world - what do you do?

Well, you'd obviously go and find your mate and have a good time.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

To follow your heart.

And what's the worst piece of advice you've ever been given?

Ummm. I think I just forget all those things.

Who would you most love to work with?

I don't know.

What film makes you want to spit?

To spit? Probably Black Hawk Down.

Dr Strangelove

What are your three favourite films and why?

Probably Dr Strangelove. It's brilliant. It's funny, it's really about something. It's about the nuttiness that could almost explain what is happening now. And then, maybe something like My Life As A Dog, which again is very witty and funny. It's very sensitive - an amazing portrait of a group of people and this young kid who's going through a tragic time in his life. But it's really brilliantly done and completely compelling. And maybe I'll choose something like ivans xtc, because I think it's the way to the future. That way of working - basically non-actors and quite improvised - that's probably the way I would choose to work.

And finally, what do you think of Norman Wisdom?

Nothing. Pretty indifferent... I don't know Norman Wisdom well enough. I don't know him as a person. I haven't seen him in anything recently. I sort of remember him when I was a kid, and I don't really remember him well enough. I seem to remember Bruce Beresford doing something with Norman Wisdom. I can't remember what [Beresford made a film sans Norman called The Getting Of Wisdom in 1977]. But, I don't want to... he might be a genius for all I know. I just don't know enough to answer the question.

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