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A Q&A with 'This is England' director Shane Meadows

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Shanemeadows_lFilmmaker Shane Meadows is not exactly a household name in America. At a Tribeca Film Festival panel, which he attended with screenwriter and collaborator Paul Fraser, Meadows was introduced as “one of the greatest British film directors whose films you haven’t seen.” But across the Atlantic, Meadows, 35, has spent the past decade making critically admired low-budget films which detail, both comically and dramatically, the working-class social landscape in which he was raised. Last year he scored a box office hit with his ’80s-set feature about skinheads, This Is England. Meadows’ latest project, Somers Town, which screened at Tribeca, is another gritty tale — albeit one that is technically an advert for Eurostar, the company which operates the high-speed rail link between London and Paris. Meadows is also a huge fan of short films, of which he has made around a hundred: he mentioned that he was even planning to make a spoof sci-fi movie the next day called The Baconator, inspired by Fraser having returned from a fast food emporium with a sandwich of that name.

After the jump, EW talks to the Meadows about whether or not he was joking about his hammy mini epic, the demented-sounding Hollywood projects he has turned down, and the violent event which made him think twice about pursuing a life of crime.

addCredit(“Shane Meadows: Jon Furniss/WireImage.com”)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: “Are you really going to make The Baconator tomorrow?”
SHANEMEADOWS: “Yeah. It’s going to be Fraser going round New York with a bigpair of shades and a cloak, eating bacon sandwiches. It’s just going toamuse me.”

EW: “I would never have thought that Somers Town was an advert for Eurostar if I hadn’t known beforehand.”
SM:“I wouldn’t have done it if it was ever going to look like that. I saidno about three times. Then Fraser sent me the script and said he’d hadno interference [from Eurostar] whatsoever. I read the script and I wasblown away. I said, right: f—ing final cut, cast approval, I can makeit any length I want, there’s going to be no smiling train drivers. Itold them all of that. I basically did enough so that they’d never wantto work with me. And they said yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It was kind ofeasier than working with a film company.”

EW: “Has The UK success of This Is England [see the trailer below] had much of an effect on you professionally?”
SM: “It’s had an enormous effect. I’ve been known as critically acclaimed director who never makes money.So, suddenly, to get a film that’s been profitable — when that happensyou can start to pull the bigger ideas out of the drawer. I’ve not beentreading water, but I was starting to think that I wasn’t going to beable to show what I can achieve with a bigger budget.”

EW: “Your next project is a movie about boxing called King Of The Gypsies?”
SM: ““I’m writing it at the moment with Paddy Considine (who starred in andco-wrote Meadows’ 2004 film Dead Man’s Shoes [see trailer below]). It’s easily going to bethe biggest thing I’ve ever done. Who knows, if that’s a success, theworld’s my oyster. I might be on the old Indiana Jones trail, man [laughs].”

EW: “Would you like to work in America?”
SM: “I would, but more in a kind of Coen brothers capacity, rather than awheel-me-in-to-Hollywood-and-watch-me-fail kind of a way. I’ve alwayssaid that, unless someone in my family had some disorder where theyneeded a million dollars for an operation, I would never do somethingthat I didn’t think was right for me.”

EW: “Has anyone ever called you up and said, hey, would you like to direct, say, American Pie 5?”
SM: “I’ve been sent concepts by people. ‘It’s like BadLieutenant-meets-Weird Science.’ I’m not joking. It was like Bad Lieutenant, but they weredesigning s— on the computer. And I got one pitchwhich was ‘It’s about a guy chasing a guy.’ And I laughed and said, ‘Soit’s a guy chasing a guy? And that’s the whole idea?’ ‘Yeah — imagine,like a Wachowskis movie!’ So, I didn’t bite on that cherry.”

EW: “That sounds worse than The Baconator!”
SM: “Yeah, yeah. And The Baconator’s fine because it’s just six people in aroom watching it and laughing their heads off. But this was going to bereleased!”

EW: “By your own admittance, you hung out with some pretty bad,criminal-type people when you were a teenager. What stopped you goingdown that route yourself?”
SM: “It was really one act of violence. I (thought) I wanted to be ahappy-go-lucky armed robber. Completely. Some kids are drawn tofootballers and some kids are drawn to the mafia. I didn’t know thereality of it. I was 11, 12, 13 years old. And then someone f—ingshowed me the reality of that situation. Which was someone’s head beingrammed into the corner of a room so that the head couldn’t move andthen being stamped. When that happens in front of your eyes and you’reholding the coat of the wild f—ing monster whose eyes have rolledround in their head…. That really changed my life. I pretended that Iwasn’t bothered by it. But I went out and cried my socks off. For along time — for weeks — it consumed my life. When you see someoneknocked out and they’re out almost before their head’s twisted, youknow. So, that person’s completely done with — and the beating hasn’teven got going! That’s horrible, and it’s cowardly, it’s disgusting.But positives came out of that. It’s created a whole career really.Because I was going down a certain path. But I had that warning signal.”

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