Stephen Frears on the snobbery of British film critics


The lost king, directed by Stephen Frears and starring Sally Hawkins, Steve Coogan and Harry Lloyd, is in UK cinemas from October 7. (Pathe)

Stephen Frears says film critics in Britain can often be “snobbish” about films like his, which then do very well in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

“People are very snobby,” Frears told Yahoo. “I think the critics are in more trouble than the filmmakers.” He notes that he believes his new film The lost king will do “better overseas” than in its home market, adding: “British critics can’t handle [films like this]. Do not ask me why. There is a kind of snobbery.”

Frears partners again with Steve Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope for the drama – in cinemas October 7 – which explores history buff Philippa Langley’s crusade to locate the remains of King Richard III, which were eventually found under a Leicester car park in 2012 .

Paddington Star Sally Hawkins portrays Langley in the film, with Coogan as her husband John and Harry Lloyd playing a manifestation of Richard III as an actor Langley saw playing the role on stage.

Read more: Stephen Frears discusses past plans for R-rated Queen movie

Frears previously worked from a Coogan/Pope script for the 2013 Oscar-nominated film Philomena and told Yahoo he “can’t remember any arm twists” to work with the duo again.

Stephen Frears says UK critics often have an unfair view of his films.  (Wireframe)

Stephen Frears says UK critics often have an unfair view of his films. (Wireframe)

“The truth is that it’s a ridiculous story and, at the same time, it has these rather unexpected resonances,” says the 81-year-old filmmaker.

The film follows Langley and his friends at the Richard III Society as they seek to correct the historical record around the last pre-Tudor monarch, which they believe was shaped primarily by his villainous portrayal in William Shakespeare’s play.

Watch: Stephen Frears Drama Trailer The lost king

Frears said, “I had never given [Richard III] a moment of reflection. I don’t think I thought about it for a minute. Then I realized how lazy I had been. [The Society is] what people look like in England, right?

“All Philippa said was ‘don’t put them in cardigans’. And they turned out to be possibly right [about Richard]. You make movies and you find out the truth.”

Read more: Study finds film critics are out of touch with audiences

In a stellar career spanning more than five decades, Frears made films charged with sentimentality and twee Britishness. He’s optimistic when I ask him that. “I don’t think the movies I make are fluffy and sentimental. I don’t know what the basis for that would be. Is that what Dangerous Liaisons was like, or My beautiful laundromat?”

Sally Hawkins meets her portrayal of Richard III in The Lost King.  (Fireplace)

Sally Hawkins meets her portrayal of Richard III in The lost king. (path)

As for his leading woman in his latest film, Frears says meeting Sally Hawkins in his kitchen quickly taught him she was the right woman for the job.

He says: “I can see that she’s both very vulnerable and made of steel, so I guess that’s an interesting combination since this movie is about someone who is very vulnerable and ends up winning. You have to have both sides of the cake and she can do that – and fall in love with a fish or a ghost or whatever. She has that kind of imagination.”

Read more: Behind Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge’s Lasting Appeal

Having done just about everything there was to do on the big screen, Frears doesn’t believe there’s great chemistry in the way he chooses projects and says he’s often “on his knees in gratitude ” when something clicks.

Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan play Philippa and John Langley in The Lost King.  (Fireplace)

Sally Hawkins and Steve Coogan play Philippa and John Langley in The lost king. (path)

“I read the papers. I don’t think anything deeper than that,” he says evenly. “What’s happening in the world right now – especially in Britain – is so dramatic and ridiculous that it’s hard to go anywhere else. What’s before your eyes is nothing short of staggering. I’m just sitting there, incredulous.”

Having made films about relatively recent history, including The Queen in 2006 and The deal – about Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – in 2003, will Frears turn to Britain’s recent chaos? He says, “Well, I usually like that about 10 years have passed. I think it takes a while to see things clearly. I’d rather wait a little longer.”

Philippa Langley, originator of

Philippa Langley poses for photographers as the face of King Richard III is unveiled to the media. (Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)

His next project will be “a work for HBO”, followed by an adaptation of Jonathan Coe’s novel Mr. Wilder and mewhich focuses on the iconic Some like it hot director Billy Wilder and is told through the eyes of a fictional encounter with a Greek interpreter.

Read more: The best films about the queen

He says, “I think Christopher Hampton has written a screenplay worthy of him, and Jonathan Coe’s novel is worthy of him. I’m not to the point of being terrified yet. [get nervous] you wouldn’t be natural. Guess that puts a rocket in your ass. It’s like a treat – a film by Billy Wilder. I can almost reach it.”

The lost king is in UK cinemas from 7 October.

Watch: Steve Coogan and Stephen Frears on the making of The lost king


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