Jessica Hynes - we chat to the British actor turned director of 'The Fight'
Jessica Hynes is one of Britain’s foremost actors. Roles in Son of Rambow, Magicians and the Bridget Jones series have left a writerly mark, fittingly rewarded by her televisual writing credits on Asylum, Spaced, Lizzie & Sarah and Up The Women. Hynes has just released her debut film, a liturgical look at the power boxing holds on a mother of three. Starring Alice Loew, Anita Dobson, Shaun Parkes, Christopher Fairbanks and Sally Philips, the film exchanges Hynes’s penchant for comedy with stark introspection for a naked drama, lightened with moments of gratifying levity. She discusses the film with Eoghan Lyng.
• This is your directorial debut. How was the transition from writer to director?
Well, it took a long, long time Eoghan. When I started writing I thought I might like to direct one day. And then this happened and that happened and eventually I hit forty and thought “you’d have directed by now, so it’s not going to happen”. But I kept my mind to it and thought I could direct. So I brought it to the financiers with a script for a micro-budget film and pitched it to them as a first time director to back it. I felt the best way to go about a first film was going with a micro-budget. Maggie [Monteith], who was with the company , said yes to it and it went from there. It’s been about two years since it was conceived or put together. I first put it forward in January 2017 and we were filming June 2017. By October 2018, it was being shown at the London Film Festival and now March 2019, it’s on general release.
• For a film of this scale, was the lower budget an aid?
From the start, I was conscious of ways of getting it made. I based it in my home town and made choices like that, creating and conceiving it as a low budget film. I really enjoyed the process of it, it seems like a short time, but in reality it took a very long time, maybe twenty years, but two years for this film [chuckles]. Writing it, I knew it was going to be a low budget film.
• You attracted stalwarts Anita Dobson, Christopher Fairbanks and Russell Brand to participate in the film. How did they respond to the casting?
I can’t take too much credit for that. Noel Clarke, who is one of the producers of the film, he fought very hard to get the cast we got. Really instrumental. He ensured we got as good a cast as possible and I’m very, very happy with the cast we have. It was down to his tenacious nature we got who we have and I’m so thrilled and amazed. Anita was so enthusiastic to the story, she really invested in it. She is so magnetic in it. It’s a revelatory performance.
• The Academy Awards were criticised this year for their lack of female directorial recognition. How would you encourage more female directors to get their voices heard?
Well, I think if you feel something instinctively, whether as an actor, a writer or a technical camera crew, if you find a story that you feel so strongly about, I would say allow it to happen. Don’t rule it out. Keep at it and you will get your break. Keep hoping for it, if you keep hoping you will triumph. It could take a long time, but keep at it.
• On the matter of hope, was hope a theme you intended for the film?
I guess hope is a theme, you could say that. I was saying earlier today life is like all your hopes and wishes, and the fight not to be smashed by reality. It’s there in Tina, who is the main protagonist, she keeps focusing her energy to triumph.I wanted to write a character who turns to amateur boxing as a way of fighting her demons. The ending is quite hopeful, I guess, the journey was very important. Rhona Mitra was great in her part as Amanda, that brooding anger was in the script and I think that Rhona really brought that into the performance. It’s a cathartic journey for her, as well, I think, for the audience.
• The main family is a multi-racial one. Was that an area you wished to explore in your writing?
That was something I thought it worked for the script. It was what it was and something that I think worked for the film. It wasn’t really anything more than that, just what it was, I suppose.
• Would you care to disclose any future projects?
I think I’d like to do a comedy next, yes, a comedy. This one wasn’t really a comedy, it was very dramatic at points. It took something of a miracle to make this film, so I think I’ll need a miracle for the next one. I’m toying with an idea for a comedy at the moment.