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We speak to the director of Bunny and the Bull : Paul King

We speak to the director of Bunny and the Bull.

Fans of The Mighty Boosh rejoiced at the news that series director Paul King was turning his gaze to the big screen. Featuring predictably great comic turns from Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt and Richard Ayoade, Bunny and the Bull is sure to please the legions of Boosh obsessives out there. But King is by no means playing it safe in his transition to feature directing, as he explained when we met this week.

Did you always imagine yourself as a film director, or is it an ambition that's evolved over time?

It's been a bit of a circuitous route, but I'm very happy to have got there in the end. There's something a bit weird about being so determined that you're thinking 'I will make a film regardless of circumstances or quality'. It's something to approach once you can do something a bit interesting. I wasn't obsessed with the idea as a five-year-old!

Did you feel under pressure to deliver The Mighty Boosh: The Movie?

No, and I hope I haven't. For a start I couldn't. It'd be nice to be able to churn out comedy gold like they do - I don't write that show. But I think I've used some of the visual ideas and taken them a bit further. The film has more of a serious side to it. It's basically about someone dealing with mental health problems! You can argue that the Boosh is about that, but it's generally a bit more fluffy and surreal, whereas this is about somebody processing their past.

And how did the story evolve? Was it quite tightly scripted?

A lot of the gambling addiction stuff comes from Simon Farnaby. His granddad was a big gambling addict and alcoholic - I feel a bit bad saying these things but it's all in the public domain! After his granddad died they discovered in the back of his wardrobe this fake panel and a tunnel through to the pub next door, literally Shawshank style. And on his deathbed he sent his son to put money on a horse.

So the heart of the story came from something which I thought was funny and sad, and potentially interesting movie territory. There haven't been a lot of gambling films, and they tend to be about cool people with systems. I wanted to do something about how it's actually a bit bleak.

Did you find yourself modifying your directorial approach? Did it feel like a natural transition from TV?

It didn't feel too unnatural. It wasn't like we suddenly went up a budget level, or I was suddenly dealing with stars. We shot it all on HD. So a lot of things were quite familiar. I really tried to give everything we did visually a rationale. It starts out like a kids' show, because it's about someone who has to construct the story of his life in order to move on. He gets all his memories out of a box and tries to turn them into a convincing narrative. I wanted the visual backgrounds to really inform what we're supposed to think of him. So it starts very simple and gets much more fragmented. It's Citizen Kane really - trying to make the filmic style reflect your character, and it's something done so seldom, certainly as ostentatiously as in this film. So hopefully it's not just wilful European frippery, it's got a bit of weight behind it. But who knows?

And what has been your experience of the UK film industry in general? You hear so many horror stories about funding and lack of support. Presumably having a popular TV show under your belt helped?

I suppose so, but at the same time this isn't The Mighty Boosh movie, so I don't know to what extent that's going to help when it comes to the release. Certainly it did help open doors, in that the Boosh doesn't look like The X Factor, it looks at least halfway towards a film. I think there are endless schemes and helpful things for British filmmakers. What there isn't is endless money. I think we tend to hide behind money as an excuse. Obviously lots of our best filmmakers over the last 30 years deal in this kitchen sink, gritty realism, to the extent that it has sort of become our exported genre. But at the same time we have amazing visual people. I know Gilliam's a bit of an honorary Brit, but he is if we believe in allowing immigrants to become British, which I certainly do! Our art scene is so amazing and extraordinary, and obviously a lot of video artists are now crossing over. Steve McQueen's Hunger was absolutely breathtaking. I don't know how much money they had for that, but not a lot. So we don't all need to make films set in council estates about people shagging their parents!

How did you feel about presenting the film to a UK audience for the first time?

I shat myself basically! I wasn't too nervous until I got there and it was all red carpets and flash bulbs and people shouting my name. There was a picture printed of me and my girlfriend and it was captioned ‘Director Paul King and unidentified companion', as if she was a prostitute from 19th Century France! So it was all quite weird.

Paul O'Callaghan  London Film Festival Dailies

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