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TSR Exclusive: 'Submarine' interview with writer/director Richard Ayoade

Having previously directed some episodes of "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" and that Pulp Fiction episode of "Community," Richard Ayoade finally dives into feature filmmaking with his debut, Submarine. The Sundance hit tells the coming-of-age story of a young boy named Oliver, who meets an off-beat girl named Jordana while going through his own domestic problems. I sat down with Ayoade to discuss his cinematic influences, what he was like at Oliver's age, and more. Submarine opens in Chicago on June 10, 2011.

Oliver wishes that someone would make a documentary about his life. What would the reviews of your documentary be like?

It really depends on how well it was made.

How well do you think it would be made?

I imagine poorly. It could only be of limited interest. So I guess [the reviews] would say, "Why was this made?" I don't think it would be a theatrical release.

What would it be about?

Really nothing. This is it. This is more interesting than it normally is.

Have you learned anything about your movie since starting this press tour? Has anyone said something that has really struck you about your own movie that you haven't thought of before?

There's only such an atmosphere of glibness and sincerity that I've engendered that any type of profundities are chased out of the room. There are things you think about, but I think it's very hard because the essential sort of [factor] of "Should people bother to go see it" is very rarely a sort of uninfected discussion. That's a sort of element that is drearily inescapable.

I heard that one of your favorite films is Louis Malle's Zazie dans le Metro.

Yes, it's one of them.

How has that influenced how you see the world in terms of filmmaking?

It's just sort of Louis Malle. He's often criticized for not having a style, and I like that. He disappears in things. I think with that film it's just that it could have anything in it, he could have someone shot and get up and that was okay. The music is brilliant. Films have a life in them, or they're just dead.

So you appreciate the more lively aspect of Zazie? The randomness?

Not so much the randomness, because in a way that can pull quite quickly, but he obviously always has a lot of affection for his characters. It's one of the least mean films you could possibly see. It's really affectionate, and it's really joyful watching it.

What are your favorite Louis Malle films?

Le Souffle la Coeur and The Fire Within I liked a lot. I like a lot of films, Au revoir les enfants and My Dinner with Andre. I really like Milou en Mai. So funny. The music is brilliant.

There are a lot of tracking shots in Submarine. What films feature your favorite tracking shots?

I'd say Weekend (by Godard). There Will Be Blood has some great tracking shots. But Weekend is the winner for me. Le Mepris is also good, by Godard.

Amongst the people thanked in your credits, Michael Cera's name is listed. What contribution did he make to this movie?

He read the script. He made comments.

Did he read the script as a potential actor?

No. I met him through Edgar Wright. He liked "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace." And I think it was when [Jonah Hill and Michael Cera] came overseas for Superbad.

Did you ever consider playing a part yourself in the film?

No. People would probably be angry at the acting. That was never in the cards.

Do you have saved Polaroids from when you were younger?

I didn't have a Polaroid camera, I always wanted one. They were expensive. During the film they said that they stopped the creation of film for Polaroid cameras, so we got the last batch of film from Italy literally from there. I guess there are tons of cameras, but just no film.

What was your own interaction with the opposite sex like when you were Oliver's age?


What were you doing other than talking to girls?

I don't know. Science? Schoolwork? Chores? Being transported to and from locations. General living. All of the stuff that didn't involve girls.

How did you get Alex Turner on the project, and did he write songs that weren't used?

No. Initially we were thinking of doing covers, with the hope that he might write a couple of songs. It felt too much of an imposition to expect him to write five songs. But I had done music videos with him. I asked him a long time ago, maybe a year before we started filming.

When you were writing the script, were you listening to anyone music in particular?

Georges Delerue. John Cale, actually.

His solo stuff?

"The Island Years."

How do you feel that Submarine builds upon its influences?

It may not ... I have no idea. In a way its that Oliver has directed a film, so his influences can't be weighted on mine, because he's fictional. But it wasn't like I'd go, which I do, "I really like John Ford films, let's put some John Ford stuff in here." It was more the kind of things that felt appropriate, for how he'd like to be seen. The new wave felt very connected to that youthful self-regard. I wouldn't necessarily say it doesn't transcend its influences. Who knows. But I don't know what does. I'm trying to think [if] anyone has transcended Griffith's influence? There's an idea that comes down to commerce, that everything you get is an improvement. "The card that you have that you were told is pretty great, is pretty bad. Because this card is really great." Everything is getting better and better.

Would you prefer to see more blue or red in the world?

[After a long pause] I like blue. No reason.

Quick Questions with Richard Ayaode

Favorite fruit? Mango.

What did you have for breakfast this morning? I was at an airport, so it wasn't indicative of a regular breakfast. It was some kind of cinnamon pretzel. It was dense.

If you could be someone for 24 hours? Someone in a really terrible situation, so I can feel really smart when it happens to me.

Favorite summer movie? Star Wars.

Age of first kiss? Could be anywhere between eight or twenty-eight.

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