John Simm, Shirley Henderson and Michael Winterbottom tell Gabriel Tate about their new drama
Michael Winterbottom’s new drama, ‘Everyday’, casts John Simm as Ian, a prisoner interned for an unspecified crime, and Shirley Henderson as Karen, his wife and mother of his four kids. Tender, powerful and shot over five years, it combines formal experimentation with emotional engagement in the best traditions of Winterbottom films such as ‘Nine Songs’, ‘A Cock and Bull Story’ and ‘24-Hour Party People’. Here, the director and stars tell Gabriel Tate about how the project came about and the impact it has had on them.
The concept of ‘Everyday’
Michael Winterbottom ‘When you’re working on a fiction film, you tend to shoot over seven or eight weeks, so you have to use quite conventional techniques to show time passing – wigs or, with children, using different children. I thought it’d be interesting to allow those children to grow up within a story about duration – trying to make a fake process feel true – and how to survive a prolonged separation.'
John Simm ‘It was such a fantastic idea and no one knew how it was going to pan out. It became part of our lives for five years.’
Shirley Henderson ‘Michael wanted it to be a love story over five years, so we could develop it as we went. He never really told us what he wanted it to do, so we found it as we went along.’
The themes of ‘Everyday’
MW ‘I wanted it to be about the separation, family life, love and relationships, how they’re built around the routines that are the heart of family life. If you’re taken out of it, can the emotional side of family life survive? Each time we filmed, we thought about the next phase. The structure was always around a series of prison visits, where the same things happen but where we could accumulate little details and change the meaning of the visits.’
Filming in prison
JS ‘We filmed in a lot of different prisons. It was a real eye-opener and very claustrophobic. All the prisoners said the same thing about the worst moment: when the door shuts for the first time in your cell, and you think: Oh my God.’
MW ‘Visitors’ waiting rooms aren’t that exciting or attractive to film in, but that’s the story. It gave us a real sense of how things work.’
JS ‘I got on with everyone. Swaggering down the prison corridor, I’d get “Get back in your time machine, you knobhead”, which would bring me back down to earth again! And I can relate, in a very small way, to being away and missing my kids. I’m used to being away for months and getting these upsetting phone calls about missing a birthday. It must be magnified for Ian.’
SH ‘There are so many doors to go through in the prison, then dogs, and it stilts you, emotionally. You feel you can’t let go. And then, as we visited more and more, the emotions kicked back in.’
Issues of crime and punishment
MW ‘When you hear people talking about short sentences, I think those people should spend some time in prison. A week is an incredibly long time in there.’
SH ‘From the family point of view, you feel guilty going in [for prison visits], the rules you have to adhere to. But you get used to it and having to be part of this guilt.’
JS ‘People say it’s cushy being in prison. It certainly isn’t. It’s horrendous. And being wrenched apart from your family – there’s nothing worse than that. And for it to be your fault… These are awful things to have to carry around and try and make right in these pockets of time you have together. Ian has a lot of time to think about it and Karen hasn’t, she’s got to get on with the practical side. It’s much, much harder for her, because of him.’
'Everyday’ airs Thursday November 16, 9pm, C4. Read the Time Out review here from Friday November 9.