Archive for Stephen Poliakoff

Stephen Poliakoff on Glorious 39 (2009)

Posted in Features with tags , , , , on November 24, 2009 by cultfriction

Glorious 39 marks Stephen Poliakoff’s return to the silver screen after a ten year absence. Having had a lucrative career in both stage and television his reasons for staying away from film weren’t entirely by choice mostly due to the state of cinema in the UK. “I didn’t mean to stay away from the cinema as long as I had due to commitments in television both here and in the United States. One thing is that I’ve been disappointed over the distribution of films in the UK in the last couple of years. It was awful in the 90’s. Stuff made by Ken Loach and Mike Leigh just had a few prints and then faded away. Only few people would see the films on screen until they were shown on television and even then they were screened at two o clock in the morning so nobody would really see them. In the 90’s I made a film called Close my eyes with Clive Owen which was a great hit critically by winning awards but it didn’t break out of the art house circuit so I felt that the Americans deal with it a lot better. But now in the past few years it’s got a lot better, there are more British distributors for British films.  I’ve been waiting a while to come back to the silver screen until i found a story i really wanted to tell.”

Poliakoff is one of a select brand of writers who have elevated television dramas to an art form. After finishing university he was the writer in residence at the National Theatre and from there he has written over twenty stage plays and over a dozen television dramas. After winning a plethora of awards and recognitions he has returned to the cinema with a story that touches one of Britain’s darkest hours in history. Glorious 39 is set in the heady summer before the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany. Although his research into the period was entrily accurate having poured over the dairies of noted politicians and establishment figures of the era he stresses that the plot of the film is entirely fictional.   “Yes indeed the secret service were very active against people who were opposing the policy of appeasement, they had a ferocious campaign of dirty tricks played against them and they were all spied upon, homes were watched, phones were tapped, private lives were monitored for blackmail purposes so for those dramatic purposes I’ve heightened it. It is a fictional thriller but it is based on events and situations that were going on. For a wider truth it does highlight how close we (the British) were to doing a deal with Hitler, in a sense letting the Nazis have total control over Europe leaving the UK a puppet state of the Nazi Germany. I thought it was a really good way of telling this suspense story because if things had played out differently, I, as a Jew, and many others wouldn’t be here today.”

Set against this backdrop of political intrigue, Poliakof has created a heart stopping thriller which centres on one wealthy family, the Keyes – who fear that their way of life will be lost forever if war breaks out. The adopted, eldest sibling Anne (Gari) is a budding young film actress who stumbles into the dark world of political conspiracy where she cannot trust anyone, especially her own family. Along with her Poliakoff has employed a stellar cast of British screen heavyweights to tell the story. “It was extraordinary, wonderful to have such a cast in the film, a mixture of legends such as Christopher Lee, Jenny Agutter, Julie Chirstie as well as up and coming bright actors and actresses. The burst of young talent such as Romala Gari, David Tennant and Juno Temple is very exciting to work with given that they will be the future stars of British Cinema.”

Poliakoff is not a man to work with other peoples material. Having come from a theatre background, he finds more control when it comes to working with his own writing. “I’m sure one day I will shoot someone else’s script, my wife is a very successful writer, she dramatised the screen version of Emma and Jayne Ayer so there’s a possibility that we will work together. I do have a lot of ideas of my own and I prefer to work with my own scripts. If im offered an incredible project then I will take it but I have to say having been offered a lot of work nothing has really grabbed me enough for me to give up my own work.

Poliakoff offers us some firm advice for any aspiring writers out there who want to break into the world of writing.

“I think always try to be individual, try not to copy whats out there becasue the last thing people are looking for are pale immatations of whats there now. But what they are looking for is someone who has a zing of freshness about them so its always good to be original. That is the quickest way of being successful.”

Glorious 39 is released in cinemas nationwide on the 20th of November 2009.