Arts Etc: It's Shallow, Sellable, and, like Mr Bean, It'll Probably Go Down a Storm ; Mel Smith Left the Sketch Shows Behind Years Ago, Says James Mottram, as the Former Comic-Turned-Director Shapes Up for His Latest Film
James Mottram,, The Independent (London, England)
It's strange to think of Mel Smith in the same league as such British directing talents as Mike Newell and Roger Michell, the men behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. But there he is; the Chiswick- born comedian, whose pudgy profile - along with that of his long-term sketch-show partner Griff Rhys Jones - became an institution in the 1980s. His reinvention was complete after directing his third movie, the 1997 Rowan Atkinson comedy vehicle Bean, which became the third-highest grossing British film ever.
Now promoting his latest film, High Heels and Lowlifes, the 48- year- old Smith has a commercial nouse more commonly found in Hollywood than Soho. "Well, now. I hope you're right. Consciously, I have no idea whether that's the case or not. I certainly think I come from a background to whom accessibility is very important. One of the things I learnt doing loads of television - much of which was fuck-all use to me - was to open things up to as many people as possible, without being dumb. Making sure you don't leave too many people behind, but making sure that it's not obvious, is what I do."
He speaks of his work on the script with screenwriter Kim Fuller for High Heels and Lowlifes - a female buddy-blackmail movie with Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack - in rather bullish terms. "We toughened it up, muscled it up," he says as if he took it down the gym. Amenable rather than spectacular, High Heels and Lowlifes, as Smith points out, is no shoe-in but more a word-of-mouth movie. He adds, oddly given Driver's presence, there are no big-stars in it. He calls Fuller's script a good yarn several times and admits he saw an opportunity to make a London-set film that had some zip and was sexy.
He confesses that he doesn't really like the majority of films made in Britain - claiming that not enough time is spent on script- development. One suspects that this gung-ho attitude stems from his time spent in Los Angeles, after his first feature - the 1989 Emma Thompson-Jeff Goldblum romantic comedy The Tall Guy - had proved a cult success. Hired to direct the noir-infused Radioland Murders for George Lucas, who had been developing the idea ever since he directed American Graffiti, Smith now claims no project will ever be as difficult.
"I learnt an enormous amount," he says. "It was a flop, and probably deserved to be. It was hell …
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Publication information: Article title: Arts Etc: It's Shallow, Sellable, and, like Mr Bean, It'll Probably Go Down a Storm ; Mel Smith Left the Sketch Shows Behind Years Ago, Says James Mottram, as the Former Comic-Turned-Director Shapes Up for His Latest Film. Contributors: James Mottram, - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: July 15, 2001. Page number: 8. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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