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Richard Ayoade: Comic’s sensibility anchors ‘Submarine’

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As a comedian-turned-film director, Richard Ayoade cites Woody Allen as his greatest inspiration. But it wasn’t Allen’s comedies that first lit a spark for Ayoade, whose debut “Submarine” was picked up by the Weinstein Co. at the Toronto film fest.

“At school, I had a friend whose parents were both psychiatrists, and I was introduced to Woody Allen through them,” he recalls. “So the films I started watching were the serious ones. Most of my interest in film came from simply finding out what Woody Allen liked: directors like Bergman, Fellini and Kurosawa,” he explains.

Perhaps Ayoade’s love for Bergman explains why his own work walks a fine line between laughter and something darker. “Submarine” is a sly coming-of-age comedy, told from the perspective of a 15-year-old with a wide vocabulary and a surfeit of self-belief who’s trying to manage his parents and seduce the girl next door.

The hero of Joe Dun-thorne’s source novel isn’t entirely likable, which Ayoade admired. “Very often in coming-of-age material, it gives the author’s somewhat rose-tinted view of himself when young, with his faults excused by youth,” he says. “This felt different. ‘Submarine’ isn’t a flat-out comedy. Even films as violent as ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Badlands’ are two of the funniest films ever.”

Ayoade is a passionate student of cinema, his conversation thickly peppered with movie references and quotations from great filmmakers. His own path to features came through writing, directing and performing comedy shows during his university studies, then at the Edinburgh festival (where he won a Perrier Award) and on Channel 4.

As an actor, he appeared in cult British sitcoms “The Mighty Boosh” and “The IT Crowd.” Directing musicvideos for Warp Films led to the chance to adapt “Submarine.”

Ayoade is heading further to the dark side with his next project, a version of Dostoevsky’s “The Double,” to be set in contemporary America, which he’s co-writing with Avi Korine (brother of Harmony).

Looking for the next big thing
Age: 33
Homebase: London, England
Inspired by: Woody Allen
Reps: Agents: Hugo Young, Independent Talent (U.K.), Philip Raskind, WME (U.S.)

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