Interview with Jonathan Lynn

published 19 June 2010
written by Karo

Jonathan Lynn has been working as an actor, director and author for the past 40 years, with his tenth feature film Wild Target starring Rupert Grint as Tony alongside Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt and Martin Freeman.

Jonathan Lynn took the time to answer our questions in the middle of the rehearsals for his new play “Yes Prime Minister”, which will open in London in September.

Jonathan Lynn’s website What attracted you to the film?
Jonathan: I had been interested in it for years. Originally the English language rights were owned by Mirage, in Hollywood. They sent me a video of it which I thoroughly enjoyed. I think they also sent me a script that I didn’t care for – but honestly it’s a long time ago, and I hardly remember. Years later Martin Pope bought the rights, and wanted to make a British film. Lucinda Coxon had written a good adaptation and Bill Nighy, whom I have admired as an actor, was attached. How much, and in what ways, did the original film ‘Cible Emouvante’ influence your work? Some scenes are very similar, while others are quite different, so how did you decide what to keep and what to change?
Jonathan: It influenced me a lot. It’s a good film. I wanted to be faithful to the spirit of it. But there were problems in the story that had not been resolved, and solving those problems led to the changes. How did you end up voicing Roger the Parrot?
Jonathan: Somebody had to say his lines on the set, so I did. It worked! What is your favourite memory of shooting Wild Target? And why?
Jonathan: No special favourite moments. How did you (and the cast) prepare for the shoot? Did you spent time rehearsing before the actual shoot? How much time did the actors get to train for the shooting sequences? Did Rupert train for the scene in which he is training with the sword in the garden, or was that improvised?
Jonathan: Like most films, we had a stunt co-ordinator. And an armourer, who takes care of the guns and ensures that everything is safe. He taught the actors how to use the guns. I think Rupert did a little work with the stunt co-ordinator with the sword, but the scene was basically improvised. In terms of general preparation, we had a about a week’s rehearsal on an empty sound stage at Twickenham Studios. This was a big help because we were on a very tight shooting schedule. Initially, Helena Bonham-Carter was attached to play Rose. Did you make any changes (regarding the script/look/character) once Emily Blunt replaced her?
Jonathan: Not really – at least, none that I can recall. Why did Tony get to have a beard? Were there any other looks discussed, and was it intentional to give him a different look from Ron Weasley?
Jonathan: He wanted to. And yes, we wanted Rupert to look a little older and a little less like Ron Weasley. Those of us who have already seen Wild Target as well as the original had the impression that Tony was the character who was most different to the original Antione. Why did you decide to make those changes? What did Rupert himself bring to the character?
Jonathan: The way that Tony was hired in the original film didn’t make sense to me, Martin or Lucinda. We re-structured it, and I think it works much better. Rupert is an excellent actor and what he brought to it was his strong screen presence. Also, his sense of innocence. How was the dynamic between Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt and Rupert Grint on set? Was there any similarity to their characters?
Jonathan: It was excellent. Bill and Emily were old friends already. They got along well with Rupert, who is a very nice, easy-going, charming person. It would be hard not to get along with him. Rupert told us that he was sent the script: Whose idea was it to cast Rupert, and why was he chosen for the part?
Jonathan: It was Martin Pope’s idea. He was chosen because he was so obviously right for it. I met him and was instantly excited by the idea.

[ATT: Spoiler ahead! Highlight if you don’t mind reading this! 😉 ] In the last scene, we get to see the trio 3 years later. In your opinion, did Tony complete his ‘apprenticeship’, and start working as professional killer? Or did he pursue a safer career?
Jonathan: In my opinion, yes – he completed his apprenticeship and is now the breadwinner for the household. But…who knows? What is, in your opinion after working with him, Rupert’s strength as an actor compared to others?
Jonathan: His presence, his simplicity, the honesty in his acting and the confidence which which he approaches his work. Would you like to work with Rupert again? And in what kind of role would you like to see him next?
Jonathan: Of course! But I don’t know what it would be? What are your next projects? Do you have any other films coming up, or will you return to theatre?
Jonathan: My new play, YES PRIME MINISTER, which I wrote with Antony Jay, is due to open in the West End of London in the autumn. I shall be directing it. After that, maybe another film.

Thank you very much to Jonathan Lynn for taking the time for this interview!

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