Indie British film 'Submarine' gains U.S. buzz

Updated: 2011-06-27 09:46


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It may be in a different league to U.S. summer blockbusters like "Green Lantern" and "X-Men: First Class" but a small British indie film has impressed US critics and hopes to parlay its praise into bigger audiences.

"Submarine," which is opening in U.S. cities throughout June, is the quirky, coming-of-age tale of 15-year-old Oliver Tate as he loses his virginity and deals with his parents' marriage.

Produced by Ben Stiller, co-starring Sally Hawkins and set in Wales, the film has an 86 per cent approval rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes, which collates critics reactions.

Director Richard Ayoade, 34, an English actor and comedian known in Britain for his role in "The IT Crowd" TV comedy, spoke with Reuters about his directorial debut and how the film attracted the likes of Stiller and Alex Turner of "Arctic Monkeys."

Q. What did you love so much about the story, adapted from the novel of the same name?

A. "The main thing is the character of Oliver Tate and his voice. It felt like quite an original character -- one who is well aware of all of the tropes and cliches of coming-of-age dramas and seeks to circumvent them by his knowledge of the world...And who felt that he would live a more considered and better life than everyone else, because he has somehow mastered it. But that didn't really translate into reality."

Q. What other coming-of-age tales were you inspired by?

A. "I like John Hughes films, I liked 'Dawson's Creek', 'The Graduate' and 'The 400 Blows' and all the French new wave films like 'Billy Liar' or Eric Rohmer films that often have a coming of age element. Or in books, JD Salinger stuff or 'Huckleberry Finn'."

Q. How rare is it to find a character like Oliver?

A. "As long as people are original there is no reason why characters should not be original. There is a real hunger for novelty."

Q. How important was it to have Ben Stiller attached?

A. "It has been tremendous. I think it works when someone like Ben knows he is interested in all kinds of films and has a reputation for being interested in doing good things. His production company got hold of the script and he read it and he liked it."

Q. We see a lot more stars in small films these days. How important do you think that is to have a star attached to the film or in the film?

A. "There are many levels as to the effect of a star's involvement. One is economic, people are more likely to fund it if someone they have heard of is in it and people are probably more likely to see it, depending if that star is suited to that film."

Q. And Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys -- did he do the music in the film for love or money?

A. "I imagine it would have been virtually nothing. I don't think you can compensate him for what he did...In many ways I was lucky because I knew Alex and I could ask him."

Q. Are you on Hollywood's radar now?

A. "I imagine, given I had done nothing in terms of film before, (that) I am more on it than before! (But) I don't think I have had what you would imagine to be a Hollywood power lunch."


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