Paddy Considine: interview

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When Paddy Considine works with his friend Shane Meadows you know what you're going to get: insecure bullies who discomfort you as much as they amuse you. So it is with 'Le Donk

How did the character of Le Donk first arrive?
‘I’ve had him for over ten years. I did impressions and came up with characters even before I was acting. It was just a bit of an in-joke between me and Shane. We made a few short films with him but it never really amounted to much. We had one last window of opportunity for him, which was backstage at the Arctic Monkeys gig in Old Trafford. It just became a last-minute thing, let’s go up there and see what we can come up with. There wasn’t a script. There wasn’t even a story. We just made it up as we went along. It was shot in five days, so I just put my head down and cracked on with it. All I had to do was stay in character.’

How much of yourself is in Le Donk?
‘I don’t think there’s a lot really. Close friends haven’t turned around and gone, “Oh, we’ve finally seen the real you.” When I’m Le Donk I can let all my spiteful shit out. There’s a lot of disillusioned people who are ready to piss on your parade, and Le Donk is one of those people. People like Le Donk have tried it with me, to give me their philosophy on things and convince me that I’m not very good. We gave him a heart in the film, but really he’s just a total shitbag.’

So you didn’t find yourself going method and behaving that way off set?
‘I do it anyway. My wife does Le Donk! He’s been around so long.’

So what made you think this character could sustain an entire movie?
‘I was actually worried it was too much of an in-joke, people weren’t going to find it that funny. But we managed to find a story. Shane was auditioning people to play off Donk when Scor-Zay-Zee came in with actual talent, so it became about getting him on stage at Old Trafford. We were able to exploit him.’

Our resident hip hop expert was impressed that Scor-Zay-Zee was in the movie.
‘We were on YouTube the other day and his songs had thousands of hits. This guy’s serious business! He’s a lovely unassuming guy, and that was great. He wasn’t competing. He was just being himself. Le Donk is a juggernaut; if you start to compete with him it goes wrong. He runs the show. So we needed somebody who was a little bit passive but could hold their own.’

He wasn’t worried that he was going to come across as Donk’s stooge?
‘No, he didn’t care. One day I actually took him aside and said “Dean, I’m so sorry I keep referring to you as Honey Monster, but it’s not quite me. Le Donk takes over and all this stuff spills out. If it upsets you, tell me and I won’t do it anymore.” He just went, “It’s all right, mate. I find it quite funny.”’

So have you and Shane Meadows got it down to shorthand by now?
‘We always did. It’s a mad one really. I think “Romeo Brass” was the only film where I needed his reassurance. I had no idea what acting was or what I was doing. But the shorthand was there even then. It’s just always the way I’ve worked, if I trust somebody I’ll give them everything. And it’s not an indulgence. It’s not to the detriment of other actors. I think anyone who has worked with Shane would say how creative the whole process is. But we do have a little bit of something extra there. Something that’s ours.’

Do you ever get on each other’s nerves?
‘Oh yeah, man. Constantly. Well, not constantly, but we’re both pretty full on and every now and again you have to take a little step back out of each other’s worlds and regroup. It’s not to the detriment of our friendship. It’s just the way it is. But it’s fine, we’re big lads.’

Shane has said that he’s committed to staying and making movies in Britain. Do you think he gets a vicarious kick out of you going off to Hollywood?
‘Yeah, possibly. I think it’s different for an actor. You can go all around the world and work. To some degree you can as a director, but your work is different. You work three years on a project. But yeah, I shoot the shit with him about my adventures.’

How was it when you first worked with people like Ron Howard and Matt Damon?
‘It’s a strange one, man. I felt really far removed. Although a part of me thought: Well, I’ve obviously got some degree of talent, I was kind of adrift in it all. For a long time I felt like I didn’t belong, I thought about maybe not doing this much longer. That loomed over me for a while. I’ve acted for ten years on my emotions, and sometimes I’ve hit the target and sometimes I’ve been very wide of it. I’ve come off films exhausted, going: Fucking hell, I can’t cope with this much longer. I was losing it, and fast. I was thinking: I’ll just leave quietly by the back door. It’s all right when I’m doing “Dead Man’s Shoes” and I own that character from the top of his head down. But on other films I was thinking: I like this part, I wanted to do this part, why am I struggling?’ There’s something missing from my game.

So how do you get out of that kind of rut?

‘I’ve started to go back and educate myself. Learn a bit of theory. I’ve been working with a coach. Guys like Brando and Anthony Hopkins – they’re the greatest actors as far as I’m concerned, but they do their homework. I didn’t know any of that. I just thought: Yeah, Pacino’s great ‘cos he’s got It. You don’t see the hours of work these people put in before they get to the set. That’s what I was lacking. I had no respect for it. But I think I’ve come out the other side of it.’

Do you worry that if you make your process too methodical you might lose some of the spark?
‘I can’t do that. I’m brave enough to put my hand up and say, “I’m getting some help,” but I’m also smart enough to go, “I’m not trying to be anyone else”. I’m not trying to change my game. I’m not going to start becoming some clockwork actor. I just want to improve the bits of my game that I think are lacking. But the only thing that matters at the end of the day is the work. That’s what I’ve come to realise. Who are you trying to please? Just do the work and have faith in it. Whether it’s a small film like “Le Donk… ” or a big budget movie. I don’t do “Le Donk… ” for charity, I do “Le Donk… ” because it’s a part of my work and I want to do it, man. It’s not a statement. Somebody made a comment, “Paddy has done ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’, he should be off to Hollywood.” Who the fucking hell on Earth are you? Work is work.’

And what about your directorial debut, ‘Tyrannosaur’?
‘It’s looking positive. The hope is that we start shooting in the first quarter of next year. It’s been a funny year for finances, but we might be back on the map. I’m a bit of a charity case when it comes to directing.’

Read our review of 'Le Donk & Skor-Say-Zee'.

Author: Interview: Tom Huddleston



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