LONDON — A relaxed and eloquent Paul Greengrass delighted auds at a London Film Festival Q&A event on Monday, where the “Bourne Ultimatum” helmer was honored with the Variety U.K. Achievement in Film Award.
Prize — dished out on stage by Variety’s Ali Jaafar — celebrates artistic contribution to the U.K. film industry and international cinema.
“Making films is like making souffles, so many things can and do go wrong,” Greengrass said, adding that “the most important thing is that if the souffle doesn’t come up at least make sure you are the cook.” The comment related to Greengrass’ deep frustration at the occasional failure of his work when he had not commanded enough directorial control, a situation he described as “the absolute pits.”
Mulling the relentlessly kinetic nature of his work, Greengrass joked that “he must have been dropped as a baby,” before stating that the art of direction is “blending the two forces that are always in play — the force of order and the force of spontaneity.”
He likened helming features successfully to top level Formula One driving, speaking of the “perfect moment” when the driver is at the top speed possible, without the car spinning off the track.
Greengrass spoke at length of his eternal debt to Granada Television, which he joined as a researcher at age 21, and reminisced fondly about how early trips to a troubled Northern Ireland to make “World in Action” docs forged his identity as a filmmaker.
Speaking of his experience of making hard-hitting docudramas and features about shocking real life events, Greengrass said “you can’t say it is the truth but you can say it is truthful.”
Clips from “The Murder of Stephen Lawrence,” “Bloody Sunday” and “United 93” punctuated the 90 minute Q&A session with Jaafar, which drew a packed house of appreciative LFF festgoers.
Greengrass passionately defended the decision to make heart-wrenching Sept. 11 examination “United 93,” saying that “film shouldn’t be disenfranchised from the national conversation. It is never too soon for cinema to engage with events that shape our lives.”
Event ended on a light note with an opportunistic Maltese journalist using the brief open Q&A session to offer Greengrass her unsolicited action adventure script.
Later in the evening, Laura Linney and director Tamara Jenkins were on hand to introduce an LFF gala screening of “The Savages.”