Director Mike Leigh discusses film at ArcLight

Variety Screening Series: Los Angeles

Film: “Happy-Go-Lucky” (Mike Leigh, Momentum Pictures)

Q&A: Director Mike Leigh

Director Mike Leigh says his latest picture, the offbeat dramedy “Happy-Go-Lucky,” as an “anti-miserablist film.” “We really have a great deal to sit around and be gloomy about,” said Leigh. “It is not the world that people of my age dreamed of. But there are people out there getting on with it, rolling up their sleeves and being positive… not least among them are teachers… and that’s what [“Happy-Go-Lucky”] is about.”

Lead actress Sally Hawkins has received a healthy amount of Oscar buzz for her turn as Poppy, a spunky, endearingly naïve elementary school teacher. Leigh planned “Happy-Go-Lucky” with Hawkins in mind; the pair worked together on “All or Nothing” and “Vera Drake.” Said Leigh, “She’s extremely intelligent, versatile, energetic and funny but also extremely serious. She is the consummate character actor.”

Many of the audience’s questions focused on Leigh’s rehearsal technique, which involves months of improvisatory sessions with actors prior to the shoot. “We work very, very slowly,” he said. “I work individually with each actor irrespective of the screen time of the part to create a character in three dimensions. So by the time it comes to [filming] they are very solidly in character. There are very strict rules. I do not want the actors to try and be interesting, to try and fill spaces, to try and make interesting material. I just want them to be real and react in as real a way as possible.”

“Happy-Go-Lucky” opens Oct 10.

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