Let's talk about the Olympics. How are you juggling that with 'Frankenstein' and promoting '127 Hours'?
'It's a bit hectic at the moment, to be honest, but I've got a team together, a small team of people just like you'd make a film with, really, but it won't be film based, it'll be live based. And the key things are obviously I'm not going to try and build on Beijing, because how could you? We can't, and you wouldn't want to, so we're going back to the beginning. We're going to try and give the impression that we're rethinking and restarting, because they've escalated since Los Angeles in 1984. They've tried to top themselves each time and you can't do that after Beijing. The stadium is not a work of art in the sense that the Bird's Nest is or even the Johannesburg stadium for the football, but it has something remarkable about it, which is that it has the same number of seats as Beijing but it's half the size. It's very intimate. It's like a porcelain bowl.'
So you'll be keeping it modest?
'We're going to try and make it more personal, a bit more intimate.'
Who chose you for the job?
'I imagine it was probably Steve [Stephen Daldry, executive producer of the event].'
So he was involved first?
'I imagine Stephen probably said, “I can't do it, but I'll oversee it, and why don't you get in so-and-so?” I said yes immediately. No hesitation, and I don't regret that, even though I'm nervous about it now.'
The global nature of your films must help? You've shot 'The Beach' in Thailand, 'Slumdog' in India, two films in the US.
'That profile helps for sure. And obviously the glamour of the Oscars, the “Slumdog” thing, must help. I can imagine a lot of people in live theatre thinking, “Why the fuck does he get asked to do it? What about us who do this kind of work all the time?” Fair enough - and I'll try to employ you if I can!'
A couple of colleagues have suggestions for the opening ceremony. Can I run them by you?
'Yes! Not that I can confirm any of it!'
How about an egg-and-spoon race?
'A very noble British tradition…'
The same person wants to see references to the Hundred Years War and the invention of the hovercraft.
'The hovercraft! Very good! There are some amazing inventions when you start to look into it. The most significant of course is the world wide web, which is what's his name? He's still alive…'
'Yes… Is there anything that has more significance to our daily lives than that?' The world's your oyster, then… 'Except you can easily drown in that kind of stuff, and you've got to avoid the danger of what we call “muffin moments” - which are like “muffin movies”, which celebrate the past in a rather affectionate way and could get us lost in pageantry very easily. We've got to be careful. I think we've got a confidence as a country where we don't have to go: “Look at us!” We need to be a bit more idiosyncratic than that. If you take a loud pride in anything, people will rightly shoot you down.'
Our Music editor wants you to say 'yes' to anything with a shred of dignity and 'no' to anything 'urban'. For the latter, he gives the example of 'gangs of stage-school kids speed-graffiting the 2012 logo'.
'I can't speak about the 2012 logo, although I have my own thoughts about it. Yes to the shred of dignity. It's interesting: I think music will play a big part, and I've been thinking a lot about how strong our pop musical culture is, you know? There's so many different strands of it. You've got to remember that actually what the opening is about is saying, “Welcome to the Olympic Games in London” - because the games are important - not the opening ceremony! I keep trying to remind people of that.'
Sure, but you'll have a huge TV audience for that ceremony.
'You can't really think about it - if you try and think about whatever they say the viewing figures are… four billion people, or something, you can't, it becomes incomprehensible. So 80,000 in the stadium is big enough. We'll make it for them first and see how the telly gets on after.'
You live in east London, don't you?
'I do: I live about a mile from the stadium, I always have done. I'm proud that investment is going into that area, because it's about time. It was the lungs of London in the Industrial Revolution, when London was forged, and we're still living in the shadow of that in some way. I think there'll be an acknowledgement of that.'
Well, good luck with the whole thing…
'Thank you, we'll need a bit. I'm very relaxed about it now, but I'm sure that won't sustain for very long.'
When does it kick in for you?
'The first big step is that we have to do a 20-minute presentation on computer for the International Olympic Committee in March. So that's why we're working on it now, because by the time we're done with “Frankenstein” it'll be March already and we'll have to give them our central ideas, and then they have to give them the nod. Then the IOC will make their suggestions, and there's a lot of politics as it has to go before the Government and the Mayor.'
Does this rule you out of doing another film before the Olympics?
'In theory, yes!'