I certainly never questioned whether you were actually from there or not!
That’s great. Watching the film, when I first saw it, I sort of thought “gosh, that’s me”. Richard has managed somehow, with the help of all of those brilliant set designers and costume designers, to transport us all. I did feel like we’d all made a departure. I felt that authentiticy and that we had created that world, which I think is down to everybody who worked on the film. I know Richard worked very hard at trying to slavishly recreate those scenes and those memories.
One of the most impressive things about the film is how well it evokes the time period and location. What was it like for you to walk into those locations for the first time and be transported?
I remember walking into the Cradley Heath high rise and forgot that an art department had been working in there. It was shocking. I thought “how did they find this place?” I’ve worked on so many film sets and, when it’s brilliant, you think they’ve found this perfect place. But of course the wallpaper, the tears in the wallpaper, every single tiny thing you look at, somebody has beautifully recreated. I was utterly shocked and totally convinced by the magic trick. You see the art department working silently around you when you go in and you realise that everything has been reconstructed beautifully. I felt very excited and proud to be a part of it.
I want to ask about something that has been discussed around the film – the ‘poverty porn’ aspect. The film, I think, does get past that. Was it something you were all aware of while you were making it?
I wasn’t really aware of it and I think that came from Richard. I think he really properly tried to look at it in an emotionally detached way. There was no emotion tied up with what he was trying to recreate, so there was no social or political comment going on in his mind. There was no agenda. All he was interested in doing was recreating a time and a moment. To us, I thought it all felt very beautiful with the artwork and the wallpaper and the attention to detail. I thought we were honouring something that he had gone through and part of his life.
So I didn’t feel there was any glamourising or sensationalising of a period. I just felt he was trying to recreate a series of memories as authentically and in the most detailed way he possibly could. I certainly didn’t feel like I was in that world of shock and horror and glamourising that sort of ‘poverty porn’ as you put it. His agenda was not to make something political.
As a British independent film, it’s interesting to discuss this with the current arguments around streaming and theatrical windows, with cinema chains getting involved. Do you think Ray & Liz is a film that would benefit audiences if they were able to see it on the big screen?
That’s an excellent question. I think this is a difficult film to watch and I’m not quite sure what people take from it when they watch it, because I am so tied up in it emotionally and personally. It’s hard to see it objectively. I know that the more you put in and give to it, the more you get back. I know it’s tragic and very disturbing to watch. I do know that, on a very basic level, there’s an enormous amount of love, warmth and humour in it.
I think my lasting memory of it will always be Richard’s joy in making the film and the laughter that would accompany most takes and scenes every day. I remember Jason [Richard’s brother] coming in to record his scene. He walks below and gets an ornament dropped on him. He came to set to shoot that and him and Richard were there, which was double pressure for us because they were both there. There was huge laughter when they were gathering around the monitor to watch scenes of Ray spitting out of the window. There was love and laughter and joy.
At first, when we did the film, I thought it was a very serious, earnest and difficult film for Richard to make. But when we pushed him about the emotion, I think he almost thought it was irrelevant. He was looking to cleanly tell this story and he had great joy and no judgement towards these characters. I think going to see this movie for the love and warmth is great for audiences.
SEE ALSO: Read our Ray & Liz review here
Ray & Liz is out in UK cinemas now.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.