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Gareth Rhys Jones -on the making of "Bodywork")
Gareth Rhys Jones wrote the first draft of Bodywork whilst he was midway through another script. He spent six days working on a rough draft of Bodywork to take a breather from his other project. Gareth and his business partner Simon Decker were so taken by Bodywork that they decided to develop it as their first feature, Gareth directing and Simon executive producing.
Bodywork was inspired by Gareth's experience of being ripped-off by a second hand car dealer.
Gareth says: "I had recently bought a car and it blew up after 3 miles so I took it back. They fixed it, and it blew up again after 30 miles. So I took them to court and won. But still I didn't get my money back. The bailiffs couldn't get the money back. They said the only thing you can do is follow these people around and take photographs so they'd know when to pounce. I didn't want to do that, but I kept thinking, what if?
Bodywork begins with an ill-advised car purchase, it progresses to a court case against the car dealer, and then Gareth's imagination takes over as Virgil the hero is elaborately framed for murder by his best friend Alex, and then goes into hiding with Tiffany's bizarre family of car thieves.
Throughout the film the audience is taken to and from a white room, which later reveals itself to be a hospital waiting room, where seven key characters sit taking turns to tell how their paths crossed Virgil Guppy's.
Gareth says: "I wanted to show how the other characters in the film were individually affected by the hero and his journey. The film is all about Virgil, but I didn't want any supporting characters to be there as window dressing. Virgil passes through everybody's life and touches them all and they all change somehow as a result of the meeting. I wanted to show both sides of the relationship to make them fully-rounded characters."
Gareth wrote the part of Tiffany for Charlotte Coleman, although she was completely unaware of this fact until the movie had been completed. Gareth says: "On the Friday night I had written a page describing the film, on Saturday I went to Camden Market and saw Charlotte sitting in a cafeI said to the friend I was with 'that's Tiffany.' I don't think Charlotte believed me when I told her."
Simon Decker, a qualified architect and experienced businessman with a background in the international oil industry, raised the film's budget entirely from private investors and Bodywork is produced through Automatic Pilot, a subsidiary of Simon and Gareth's film company Wolfmoon Film.
Gareth and Simon then joined forces with producer Richard McGill. They had known of each other for some time and felt that Bodywork was the right project with which to begin their collaboration.
Richard says: "Bodywork was just so different from other British scripts I had read and had been offered. It made me laugh out loud. So I really wanted to produce Bodywork and to work with Gareth, right from the very first draft."
The first character to be cast was of course Charlotte as Tiffany. Gareth and Richard sent a script to her agent before they had a casting director on board the film. It was when Charlotte accepted the role that they really felt the film would be made.
Gareth says: "It was important to me that the main female character was not just a love interest as you so often find in films. Whenever I watched Charlotte I felt that she was a strong, funky woman with an enchanting air of frailty about her. And that's Tiffany - she's a very likeable and sympathetic character."
Although the script was initially inspired by real life events, the characters are completely fictitious and the hero Virgil Guppy is certainly not modelled on Gareth himself.
Gareth says: "Virgil is an everyman, rather than anyone in particular. He's like all of us when life just gets a little bit too much, except with Virgil it goes way past the gas being cut off and your boss giving you a dressing down."
"I chose Hans Matheson, apart from his obvious acting talent, because he had that fragility and vulnerability that makes you believe what Virgil is going through and to sympathise with him. I think he pulls it off brilliantly."
For the part of Alex, Gareth wanted an unknown actor. Gareth says: "So many times in a film, the bad guy comes on screen and he's so powerful or famous that you know part of the experience for me." it's him. I wanted somebody unknown and understated who the audience would not consider as the protagonist until I wanted them to. A friend of mine had been in an acting class with Peter Ferdinando and had told me he was really good, so we looked him up. I loved the idea that he was unknown."
"The fact that Clive Russell plays Billy Hunch and Michael Attwell plays the car dealer is great because they are powerful, well-known faces, so hopefully they will mislead the audience for a time." Gareth says: "Clive walked into the room and he just was Billy Hunch. So we made a decision immediately. I learnt a lot working with the guy"
Richard had worked previously with Grahame Fox who plays Billy Hunch's sidekick, Danny. Richard says: "Grahame is great because he has a very physical and comic on screen presence. As soon as we saw him and Clive Russell together, we knew he was perfect for the part."
Virgil's girlfriend Fiona is played by Beth Winslett who Gareth cast in her first feature film role. Gareth says: "We had seen several other actresses for the part of Fiona, but in the audition I felt she would be able to bring something different to the role - it's not something I can define. I just knew she could never be predictable".
Lynda Bellingham is cast against type as the middle-aged prostitute Poppy. Richard says: "Obviously Lynda has a huge credit list, but she was still known to me as the 'Oxo Mum'. It was great to see her in such a different role and doing it so brilliantly."
Gareth says: "As a first time feature director it was invaluable to have experienced actors such as Lynda in the film. She was so professional and delightful to work with. The same goes for Clive and Michael."
Other key supporting roles are played by Peter Moreton and Jeremy Clyde. The part of Dolittle, Tiffany's streetwiseyoung son is played brilliantly by Jordan Maxwell. Gareth says: "Jordon was a natural, eerily composed and weirdly mature for a nine year old, Peter Moreton couldn't be more different to Buddy Leer, what a good actor and Jeremy Clyde, well having him in a film makes it seem proper some how."
Gareth and Richard assembled a crew that features experienced film industry names, such as Casting Director Sara Bird and award-winning Associate Editor Tariq Anwar, alongside new talents such as DOP Thomas Wuthrich and head of make-up Tara Smith.
Filmed on location in the East End of London for seven weeks it was an intense shoot, with a considerable number of locations and a big cast - not a typical feature film for a first time producer and director. Gareth says: "Obviously it was exhausting, but overall I loved it. Working with the actors was the most rewarding Richard says: "Producing a feature was exhausting and it was frightening to know that the buck stopped with the three of us. But Gareth, Simon and I worked so well as a team that any problems we came up against were dealt with quickly and amicably. Some things were beyond my control though - we were plagued by freak weather conditions and even had snow right in the middle of our biggest stunt scene. Anyway, we got through it all"
When Bodywork was complete Richard organised a screening in London for sales agents. Leading independent sales company J&M Entertainment saw the film and immediately made Wolfmoon Film an offer. J&M took the film to Cannes and have sold numerous international territories, including Japan, US, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, CIS, Poland, the Middle East, Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei and all Latin American territories. David Nicholas Wilkinson's Guerilla Films have acquired the UK distribution rights and are releasing the film in October 2000.
They say: "It has been an exciting process and it has been thoroughly rewarding, especially to see the film released in the UK. We will continue to work together after Bodywork and already have two more projects in the pipeline."
from the Guerilla Films site Back to the Bodywork page