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5 Questions with John MacLean of Slow West

It was an absolute pleasure to discuss the film Slow West with writer-director John Maclean, who says such interesting statements about his film, with a Scottish burr, things like, “It was like a premonition really, this will become romanticized and this will disappear.” We sat down with MacLean in a comfortable chair and discussed Game of Thrones, Michael Fassbender, Voltaire and why he loves coming to Canada.

Scene Creek: Tell us about the Game of Thrones connections, two of them.

John McLean: Yes, Liam (Cunningham) in the short, I forgot about that actually and The Hound from Game of Thrones, Rory (McCann), I’d love to work with him again. He’s been in a lot of films that people don’t…what was the one after Shaun of the Dead? Hot Fuzz. He plays the guy who wanders around saying one word (Yarp!). He pops now and then. Michael (Fassbender) actual recommended him, he was like what about Rory for the Dad and I was like yeah! Great!

SC: You had worked with Michael before?

JM: I worked with him on two shorts, one I got one day with him and one I got three days with, made sure that went well, and the feature he agreed to do and I wrote the role of Silas for him. You know, it’s the triple whammy, he’s one of the best actors in the world, his support for the project attracts the funding but also great actors and great cast. It was a very kind thing for him to do, because I was untested, it was a leap of faith on his part.

SC: Did you need to make any concessions?

JM: I think that I’m happy that I got to make the film I wanted to make. I got only three days with Ben Mendelssohn, instead of three weeks that I’d like, and my rehearsal time with Michael was cut short because he’s so busy.

SC: What was your biggest takeaway from watching with an audience?

JM: It’s really tough in the edits. I don’t know how people make comedies, because you look at stuff and it’s like no longer funny. An audience of your friends or funders, they don’t laugh. So to hear laughs at the first screening, and gasps you know, oh!!!!

SC: How do you see the twist of the film?

I think that in the sense of a tragedy, or you know, what is destiny, it kind of seem always like his purpose was not to save the damsel in distress, but to get another couple together that is more purposeful. I kind of thought about The Shining, you know, the dude in The Shining who’s spends the whole film getting back to the place and then gets an axe to the chest. Like Don Quixote and Candide, you know, the optimist.

SC: How does it feel to show the film in Canada?

JM: It’s great to be back in Toronto, we were last here ten to twelve years ago, playing The Phoenix. Still feel an affinity, when you come over the border to Canada, it still feels that the humour and the negativity, it’s the way that Scottish people are too.

Slow West opens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this Friday