Ahead of NYX UK’s season of Simon Rumley films in December, the award-winning director talks candidly about therapy in filmmaking, his past fear of contracting AIDS/HIV and being kicked of out BAFTA.
Q: Simon, how pleased are you that NYX UK, the country’s only free-to-air horror channel, are presenting a season of your films?
Very! I've spoken to a few festivals over the years to do a small retrospective of my films, but it's never panned out. So, it's great to see all the films curated and playing under one umbrella.
Q: A tricky question, but which is your personal favourite?
Ha. Indeed. Impossible to say, of course! I love them all (which I wouldn't say about every film I've made) and they all have different qualities and, actually, I'm proud of the fact that they're all so different from each other - visually, stylistically, narratively, aurally.
Q: Is it true that THE LIVING AND THE DEAD is partly influenced by events in your personal life?
Indeed, it was 'inspired' by watching my mother die of cancer which happened only a few months after my father died of a heart attack. I wrote it initially as a nightmare, a way of trying to communicate the emotions I went through during this time. But as a few investors read it, I made it more grounded in a reality before going to the nightmare/crazed extreme that it does go to. But yes, it was a kind of therapy for me and very cathartic.
Q: RED, WHITE and BLUE is a controversial film which you described as a horrific descent into revenge, terror and tragedy. What inspired you to make it?
Well, this was also personal in its own way and came from my fear of contracting AIDS through having one-night stands. Back then, 2009, when I wrote the script, AIDS/HIV wasn't quite the death sentence it was in previous years, but it was still close. I also loved the reaction to The Living And The Dead which we premiered in Rotterdam and then played at many non-horror festivals. The question I got from almost everyone was 'Is this a horror film?' I liked that duality of the film's existence and wanted to do something similar with RWB - a horror film which isn't obviously a horror film...
Q: One of the powerful themes of RED, WHITE AND BLUE is the relationship between sex and death – which you again take on with ‘Bitch’ in the horror anthology LITTLE DEATHS. What drew you to the story?
Well, as above, but with RWB, I wanted to get across that contradiction of doing something that is supposed to be very enjoyable (sex) being also something that could kill you. With Little Deaths, the story is more a perverse revenge story so less about the death aspect and more about how love goes bad.
Q: Your short film THE HANDY MAN, draws you into the world of serial killers. Was it this theme that attracted you to the project?
The theme and the well written script. I didn't write it, but it won a British Short Screenplay Competition as judged by Kenneth Branagh. It was a neat, twisted, twisty, self-contained script which was a perfect vehicle for two great actors. It also had that timeless American Gothic feel to it and reminded me of paintings by Grant Wood and Andrew Wyeth. It was very evocative, therefore, too, and I felt we could have a lot of fun with it.
Q: What was it like directing Greta Scacchi?
Fantastic, as you'd hope and expect. She was a great collaborator, asked good questions, brought her own identity and interpretation to the character. As with all world-class actors, every take was compelling, and the hardest thing was deciding which ones not to use rather than which one to use.
Q: You’ve been described by Screen International as one the great British cinematic outsiders. Does this chime with you?
Ha. Well, it's nice to be called 'great'. And I'm thinking that some of the other great British cinematic outsiders would include Ken Russel, Powell and Nic Roeg. They were all summarily ignored by the greater part of our industry and if I'm lumped in with them, then very happy. And, yes, given the amount of support I've received from the industry at large, it does chime with me, and I was even kicked out of Bafta because I was too busy writing/producing/directing RWB in Austin to pay my membership on time.
Q: You’ve just written your first novel, THE WOBBLE CLUB. Are you pleased with the reception?
Yes, very much so. It turns out it's a lot harder to get 'official' reviews for novels than it is for films but so far, the few I've got have been overwhelmingly positive which is gratifying. And I recently received the first reporting and have already sold half the first print run in about five weeks so much better than I was expecting!
Q: it deals with the very tricky subject of eating disorders. How challenging was it balancing sensitive issues with a darkly comic undertone.
Well, I was reading Martin Amis' The Information during some of the writing and that was quite informative in its own way. A lot of his humour comes from word play and there's a fair amount of that in my novel but it's also been fantastic to hear people tell me they've had laugh out loud moments with The Wobble Club. There's a laconicism to the humour, I think, and it's never directed at the characters; I wanted them to maintain their dignity throughout.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
Well, I have a few films in development/at casting stage. A couple are horror, a couple revenge type thrillers, a crime noir. Come January, I'm hoping to return to novel-writing if none of the films happen and that's more obvious horror than The Wobble Club...
Fri 8 Dec @ 21:00 – RED, WHITE AND BLUE (2010) *Channel premiere
Fri 15 Dec @ 21:00 – THE LIVING AND THE DEAD *Channel premiere
Fri 22 Dec @ 21:00 – LITTLE DEATHS (2011) *Channel premiere
Following all three films is a special presentation of THE HANDY MAN.
Freeview 289, Channelbox App, Roku, DistroTV