Which other artists do you admire the most?
David Lynch. I met him for the first time the other day, and it was like meeting my guru. He was sitting at a dinner table and I felt odd standing above him, so I ended up falling to my knees so that I could be lower than he was. In Hollywood everyone goes round giving each other slaps on the back – and he wasn’t like that at all. In fact, I’m not sure that he had seen any of my films. But he did tell me that he liked my waistcoat.
Will British film survive the axing of the UK Film Council?
Yes, it will. The fact that the production arm has moved to the BFI is vital. It has been such an important foundation for experimental film-makers, like Derek Jarman and Peter Greenaway, who weren’t interested in commercial gain but in pushing boundaries. I hope that’s something that will be reinvestigated.
How did rave culture influence your work?
Dramatically. I think that the rave generation was looking for some kind of further understanding of our place in the world, and that can’t help but have an influence on our lives and work.
What work of art would you like to own?
Does an artist need to suffer to create?
An artist needs to live to create, and to live means to suffer.
What’s the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you about your work?
I was once called a hack, and when you put as much emotion into a piece of work as I do, to be called a hack is really heartbreaking. It was on the internet – everyone’s a fucking critic these days.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
To have a shower every morning. My father-in-law Ravi Shankar told me that. It’s a good way to start the day.
What’s your favourite film?
Blue Velvet changed my life for ever. It was like I’d always read Chaucer and suddenly discovered Charles Bukowski. It made me understand that there is poetry of sublime ecstasy and dark terror, and it spoke to a side of me that hadn’t been reached before.
Which films do you wish you had made?
Born: London, 1972
Career: Got his break with Nature Boy (2000), a Bafta-winning miniseries for the BBC; his first film was an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. He went on to make Atonement with Knightley; she also takes the title role in his forthcoming adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. His most recent film, Hanna, is out now on DVD.
High point: “Opening Venice Film Festival with Atonement. Making it was such a lovely family atmosphere: we all lived in a house together, and everyone put so much in.”
Low point: “When I left college I though that I would be immediately embraced by the film world and instead found myself sitting in a squat for three years not knowing what to do with my life.”
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