10 Things You Might Not Know About The Making Of Filth
Director Jon S. Baird and James McAvoy give us some insight into this latest Irvine Welsh adaptation.
1. Baird decided to make Filth because he saw it as a challenge.
Jon S. Baird: “Without sounding sort of wanky I just thought it was a big challenge. There had been a few attempts to adapt the book previously, that hadn’t seemed to have worked, according to Irvine anyway, and it was always my favourite Irvine Welsh book. I just really wanted to give it a go and I felt that if you could make this despicable character, not necessarily likeable but certainly followable, then that was a big challenge and that’s where it sort of started from.”
2. Both Baird and Irvine were original unsure about casting McAvoy in the lead.
Jon S. Baird: “When we first met that was the thing that [McAvoy’s understanding of the character] really clicked and gave myself and Irvine the spine tingle because it was a spine tingle. When James came into meet us and we didn’t know how it was going to go, but I knew I had Bruce Robertson when James told me the reason that he wanted to do this movie was because of the underlying issue of Bruce’s mental state. We talked about experiences that we’d both had growing up with that... and when I realised that he understood that, that was it. That was it, we were done.”
3. McAvoy knew what he wanted to do with the part as soon as he finished the script.
James McAvoy: “It’s only happened a couple of times with me, it’s only happened two times before really where I’ve finished the script and thought to myself I know exactly what I want to at least try and do to an audience with this part, and how I’m going to try and do it. I was aware immediately that if I didn’t get this part I’d be absolutely gutted.
“This very rarely happens to me, it happened on Atonement and it happened on, weirdly, The Chronicles Of Narnia, but I read the script and the performance I’ve given is pretty much the performance I wanted to give.”
4. McAvoy tried to put on weight to play Bruce.
James McAvoy: “I tried to get really heavy for it [the part], he [Baird] wanted me to get really heavy and I did try but my body rejected that after a while. I drank a hell of a lot, not to look in any way but to... because one, I had an excuse and I was allowed to feel like shit. So I’d be sitting in my home, on my own going like ‘yeah, I’ll have another whiskey’, ‘yeah, I’ll have another beer, and another whiskey, and another whiskey and then another whiskey’.
“It was sort of useful to come into work every day feeling like I hate everything. I hate myself, and I hate my shoes and I hate the colour of these fucking chairs, they’re hurting my eyes... and it was great because I got to turn up looking like absolute hell and that felt right. So, yeah, I drank a lot and I ate a lot of pies.”
5. Baird actually rejected some better qualified people for Filth’s crew.
James McAvoy: “John did something brilliant for somebody with a very low budget and only a second feature film as a director. He rejected a lot of people maybe who had better credentials for people who really responded to the material. So it ended being that the entire crew where people who loved this script and who desperately wanted to make it.
“He also made sure everybody had the script because sometimes on films not everybody knows what it’s about... but everybody knew what we were trying to make, and everybody felt very, very connected to it. So we had this core of a large amount of people who were all pointing in the same direction.”
6. Filth isn’t meant to be a Scottish film.
James McAvoy: “It never felt like we were going to try and make a Scottish film. The source material is a product of Scotland but I've always held that Irvine would write the way he writes, wherever he was going in the world - Irvine is Irvine. People don’t speak like that in Scotland, people don’t act like that in Edinburgh, it’s his take on it.
“So, I never felt like we were going to be totally Scottish. We could have been much more colloquial, we could have been much more idiosyncratic in our dialogue and our dialect but it wasn’t about that. It was about the story; it was about this man’s head.”
7. Author Irvine Welsh has said the film is better than the book.
Jon S. Baird: “I hope this doesn’t sound wanky but the first thing he [Irvine] said to me when he saw the film was ‘It’s better than the book’. That was a very humbling thing for a writer to say to someone who’s adapted his material and he’s gone on record to say how much he likes James’ performance and how James’ portrayal of Bruce Robertson is more like any other character that’s he’s written, who’s gone on screen... so, unless he’s lying, he’s been very supportive.”
8. He also did a cameo which was cut.
Jon S. Baird: “He came and he did a cameo in the film, which has been cut out because although he’s one of the best writers around he’s certainly one of the worst actors.
“When he first saw the film I was more nervous about him freaking out about his cameo being cut, so when the credits started to role I was like, ‘Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, what’s he going to say?’ and I said ‘Look I’m really sorry’, and he says ‘What? What? What?’, and I say ‘I’m sorry for cutting you out’ and he said ‘Oh, I never noticed’.”
9. Starsky And Hutch actor David Soul appears in the film singing Silver Lady.
Jon S. Baird: “There’s a load of soft rock ballads in the book and I thought there’s absolutely no fucking way that I'm having soft rock ballads throughout my film. We got rid of that quite quickly. In the book there’s that scene where they’re in a car and they’re singing... and it was suppose to be a different song but Universal Island Records, who were doing our soundtrack way back at the very beginning, they were sending me loads of different ideas of music tracks and David Soul’s Silver Lady came through, and the lyrics when you listen to them are quite actually relevant to Bruce and Carol’s story.
“I phoned up Irvine because I wanted to check with him because he’s very particular about his music and I said: ‘What do you think of Silver Lady by David Soul?’, and I was expecting him to say ‘Fuck off’, and he said ‘That’s what I sing at Karaoke’. It was Irvine’s favourite Karaoke song and he said ‘Not only that, I know David Soul’. Ten minutes later I had emailed David Soul, arranged a meeting, met him and I said ‘You’re not really going to understand what I want you to do but trust me this is going to be good fun’.”
10. Bruce’s ‘un-PCness’ is not the shocking thing.
James McAvoy: “The thing I enjoyed the most is taking these things most people don’t say or do and not just saying them, and enjoying the fact that I got to say it, but saying them and hopefully making you guys stay with it. Maybe enjoy it; maybe find it funny because that’s creating conflict in you guys. Also then knowing that I'm maybe being vulnerable, then I’m being maniacal, then I’m being down right fucking horrible but knowing that right at the end of that scene I’m going to try anyway make you feel something unexpectedly.
“I did really, really, really enjoy it but it would reductive of me to say that I just enjoyed being un-PC. There’s a purpose for his [Bruce’s] un-PCness and that is to not prepare you for maybe profound or emotional scenes, so they shock you a bit more. Weirdly the shocking stuff isn’t what we’re looking to shock you with, we’re looking to shock you with the fact that, hopefully we’re going to make you feel for him. That should be the shocking thing. Not forgive him or like him but feel something for him.”
Filth is out in the UK on 4th October 2013.
Last updated: 31/05/2018 00:34:36