When actor David
Rasche came into the room, I knew this was going to be a different
kind of interview session just as In The Loop is a different
kind of political comedy. The 65-year-old Rasche was supposed to be
joined by director Armando Ianucci and fellow thesp Zach Woods to
conduct an intimate roundtable with four of us Ė but because Rasche
was early Ė or on time Ė for us, our conversation was transformed,
much like the shambolic supposedly "secret" committee meeting
organized by Rasche's character, the gung-ho American warmonger
Linton Barwick (a cross between Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld) got
transformed and provided a sort of pivotal moment to the film. In a
similarly chaotic fashion, Rasche alone spoke with a couple of us
before settling down with his fellow Loop-ers and provided
some pivotal moments of his own.
Now distributed in the States, the British-produced film debuted at
the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and, in New York City, at this
year's Tribeca Film Festival. Based on Ė or rather, taking its cue
from Ianucci's smart and snarky look at the inner workings of
British politics The Thick of It (kind of like The Office
for politicos) Ė In The Loop follows Cabinet minister Simon
Foster (Tom Hollander) through a series slip-ups that gets him
involved in the ever-twisting gyre of intrigue that's leads to
getting a war started in the Middle East. Sounds familiar...
The film starred some of the series' regulars such as Peter Capaldi
(reprising his foul-mouthed communication chief Malcolm Tucker) and
American additions such as former Soprano James Gandolfini as
a war-reticent General Miller. Within this context, bumbling
assistants and loose-tongued associates screw up and screw each
other to a dry, droll, parodic effect. The film certainly doesn't
view previous British and American administrations as the pinnacle
of political achievement.
In light of this summer's health care debate with the right stirring
the pot, the film serves as a reminder that the politics of
diversion, derision and destruction as expressed by the opposition
party goes on. So when a film like In The Loop offers this
refreshing and engaging alternative take on the inner workings of
the political universe, it becomes a must-see to add perspective.
In light of the health care debate with the Right
stirring the pot, the film serves as a reminder that the politics of
diversion, derision, and destruction as expressed by the opposition
party goes on. So when a film like In The Loop offers this
refreshing and engaging alternative take on the inner workings of
the political universe, it becomes a must-see to add perspective.
Certainly, it hit some resonant note; the film garnered an Adapted
Screenplay nom for writers Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando
Iannucci and Tony Roche.
Though Ianucci (also the primary writer and producer) with Woods
(who plays Chad, a very funny American adjunct) finally arrived,
what was supposed to be more of a roundtable, turned into a unusual
back-and-forth of banter.
Was that just the roll of the dice that you ended up playing the
bad guy, Linton Barwick?
Well you know, they made it a little bit harder in this movie [from
the television show]. But that's for Armando [to explain].
How did you see it?
I had a few rejoinders that were excised.
You did it so well. You have this way of doing it so that you
donít come off as just mean.
That sinister thing is there [though].
Is that you or in the script? I canít believe all the things that
Armando threw in there.
Itís terrific eh? Funny as hell. The timing was great; it's global
politics. As a matter of fact, I had a friend, Mike Reiss, who was
one of the producers of The Simpsons, who said that he
thought there are arguably more funny lines in this movie than in
any movie he can remember.
But is it too complicated for Americans to get?
Iíve been in tons of audiences like in Seattle [at the film
festival]; there were 3,000 people, all Americans, and they just
were howling with laughter.
I saw it with critics and they didnít laugh as much as I imagine
an audience would. I was angry at them in a way but I thought it was
Really? Iím surprised because I have not seen that audience. The
only audiences Iíve seen, big or small, have [been with the public].
donít even realize some of the lines are really funny until it hits
you later; it's so deadpan, and youíre so perfectly deadpan.
Itís really funny, I have to tell you, Iíve been involved in two
international projects in the last little bit and itís absolutely
remarkable what we bring to it. Like I did this Brazilian film and
people are all saying ďOh, we donít like you because you did so and
so and so and so,Ē and I said, ďWhat are you talking about?Ē And the
same thing with this; with the British press, the Americans were
almost completely ignored and all they could see is the Brits, and
now here youíre asking me [about my character]; we see the
Americans. Itís funny, what we bring.
were you a blend of?
I was going for was a combination of John Bolton and Donald Rumsfeld
and Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice. All those imperious, belittling,
condescending, right? Remember all those press conferences? It was
like, "Do you really have to act like that? Do you really have to be
so belittling and condescending?"
You added the imperiousness brilliantly.
I mean all of them, like David Addington [Cheney's legal counsel and
chief of staff]--do you remember him?--they were all so unpleasant.
Evil, evil people.
No, but as unpleasant as a person [can be]. In the hearings, talking
over you, not listening, belittling your point of view, remember
Condoleezza Rice? ďUh Senator.Ē Relax, Condi. Anyway.
I was at a Times Square New Yearís Eve with a press pass and John
Bolton came to there. No one else had a problem talking to me,
Regis, Chris RockÖ But Bolton had a phalanx of security; you
couldnít even get 20 feet near him, and it was like, ďWhat the
fuck?Ē And he did not crack a smile the whole time.
Theyíre so self-important. Same thing with Cheney; heís doing
something that no American politician in the history of the union
has ever done, that is breaking the silence [after a new
administration has taken over] and starts screaming about you knowÖ
And the reason is, ďOh well whatís happening is so important, and
Iím so important, I just have to.Ē Well you know, Dick, I donít know
if youíre that important.
Itís interesting seeing us filtered through a British cultural
lens so that you see Americans in a whole different light.
Oh yes you do. Itís a British film, from a British point of view.
Donít tell Armando I said that. But I think clearly it swung that
wayÖ I donít think he knows it, maybe he does or not.
The most disappointing thing for you about it was that you didnít
get to be in every scene with everybody else, because there are so
many good people there.
They had to cut a lot. I used to be but... Youíll have to ask
Armando, and I donít mean to misquote him, but I think he said that
he got to the end of editing and knew stuff had to go so he cut his
four favorite scenes and then all of a sudden the movie worked. Iím
afraid I was in a couple of those scenes. His first cut was four
Did this film feel like it had almost theatrical quality?
I never thought of that.
Without all the locations, it would have been interesting to see
it with everything else taken away, and on a stage. Because thereís
such smart, snappy dialogue, it reminds me of a lot of those British
playwrights, you know [like Alan Ayckbourn] or somebody like that.
It does kind of have this beautifully fluid languageÖ
Well the story goes, as Armando will tell you, there was a special
guy. No not Tony [Roche, one of the screenwriters]. Iím pretty sure
is the guy was Ian Martin who provided, oh, additional dialogue. He
specialized in swearing; you know all the crazy [British] swearing?
Iím serious, they call this guy up; that was his specialty. When he
would say ďIím going to rake your bone and Iím going to stab you in
the heartĒ and all that stuff. ďI will hound you to an assisted
suicide,Ē I mean I donít know which ones. ďWhat are you in a Jane
Austen novel?Ē and all that, a lot of that stuff--specifically that
was what he was good at.
Do you see a difference between British and American humor? Is
there something that doesnít translate well?
Except for people like [play/film writer-director-producer] David
Mamet, who I think is the exception that covers both bases Ė Armando
is funny as hell but a lot of his humor is really verbal. Itís in
the words, really itís not that itís a joke but itís the combination
of words. Theyíre a little more verbal than us, donít you think?
Weíre more situations, sight gags, stuff like that. Well the nice
thing about this too is there really arenít any jokes. There are no
like, jokes. Itís behavior and situation. Although I donít want to
misquote Armando, but I think he said that when he went through the
film while was editing and any line, no matter how good it was, if
it sounded written, he cut it, because he wanted it to sound like
you really were overhearing [them talking].
You canít lay it on the director, itís all your fault. There are
so many places where you are silent, so itís all in your look,
gesture, the walk forward, or walk over here, or look at this.
Tell him about how wonderful that is.
You got it down with just enough of the restraint Ė as everybody
did in this film.
Iíve been watching those [Bush administration] guys on television
for eight years. I mean, just it's appalling, appalling, appalling
behavior. And itís obvious that now that weíve had six months where
weíve learned you donít have to do that. We have Joe Biden, we have
Barack Obama, and I donít see it. We have all the cabinet officers,
you know, like Leon Panetta [current CIA Director], theyíre not
The Republicans seem like whiny children now...
Absolutely. I think it was the fact that we ended up with the
opposite of what they claimed. It seems to me that what weíre
learning is that rather than strong men, they were very weak, and
when 9/11 happened they all went [weird noise] and they started
doing all this kind of extreme stuff because, unlike Roosevelt and
those guys who saidÖ "Hi." They were really weak little boys and
they did all kinds of bad things. It didnít help anything, right?
Weíre finding out about all this eavesdropping, the effect of this
was like, not much.
To what degree do you think weíre living in a democracy?
Itís pretty hard to say that we are anymore. Itís not that, itís
when we find out the influence of the banks and corporate America;
we see now that when the banks can throw $25 billion in propaganda
you canít fight it. I was reading thereís a new organization thatís
trying to counteract it, but itís really hard. When they have
everybody on TV, the only news stations, itís like how can you fight
it? It's the same thing with the government; how can government
regulators, when Goldman Sachs and all these people hire hundreds
and hundreds and hundreds of the finest MBAs from Harvard,
Princeton, and Yale to find out how to get around the laws, we donít
have the money to hire people who are smarter than them to keep them
from screwing us.
Did you need to read a lot of stuff?
I told you already; Iíve been watching these bastards for eight
years on television, shaking my head, thinking, ďOh my god.
Whenever you see politicians they always seem so dry and boring.
Well they all arenít. Rumsfeld wasnít; he was a performer, the
ultimate performer, who really enjoyed getting up there in front of
people. Which was part of his problem Ė that he got carried away and
was under the mistaken impression that everything that came out of
his mouth was a gold nugget and in fact, I think that was not the
Iíve heard of the analogy of politics to wrestling. When you
watch wrestling on TV thereís so much tension and conflict but
outside of thatÖ
Thatís why President Obama, when he frames the argument of abortion
as to let us respect each otherís opinions and then go from there,
then the whole thing starts from a new spot. It doesnít start from I
hate you and you hate me.
You grew up in Chicago right?
Well I never really grew up; I "enlarged" in Chicago.
Where are you from originally?
It was a joke; you didnít get it. I said I never really grew up but
I enlarged. I was in Belleville, Illinois which is down-state but I
spent a lot of time in Chicago.
Youíve got roots on the Obama side, but thereís also classic
Not only that but Rumsfeld is from Chicago. Oh yeah. I know this
personality type. My father was a little like that. Seriously.
Thereís this kind of stubborn, like that last line where he says
ďWell there were some pretty scary moments at some point right?Ē and
I said ďNo there werenít.Ē remember that? That could be my father,
ďNo. No. No.Ē
How would you describe or define patriotism at its core?
The last refuge of scoundrels. Who said that? Jefferson or... I
canít remember. Benjamin Franklin? [ed. note:
Samuel Johnson said ďPatriotism is
the last refuge of a scoundrel.Ē]
scoundrels. Thereís the man who played the good scoundrel. [Woods
and writer/director Ianucci enter the room.]
Iím afraid Iíve used your best material.
worry, He blamed you for enough things that youíll now have to
defend yourself sufficiently in order to survive.
Iíll dig deep.
for you Armando: using a global stage here, did you find it
different in your British comedy, as opposed to American comedy in
regards to delivery, timing, and so forth?
When we made the film there was no American money in it; it was all
UK funded, so weíre not making it for a specific market. I just
thought weíll just do what we do and go for it really. Part of the
process is very collaborative and itís not like the Washington cast
are just slotted in to the script. I think when we were casting you
saw very early drafts of the script, I filmed the casting process so
I when I went back to London I was able to show the writers and say
ďThis is Linton. This is Chad.Ē Then they were able to see who it
was and how they behaved. We sat an analyzed you so then they were
able to write, because I always like to cast really early so when
weíre writing we know exactly who this person is; what he looks like
and how he sounds and whatever. So theyíre able to write around the
actors. We then came out to New York for a week and did a whole
rehearsal process and a workshop and improvisation process with a
writer coming out as well but with a British cast coming out. So the
whole writing process starts evolving, itís fairly organic really,
and I also said to you ďLook, this is how weíve written it but if
you think thatís not how he would say itÖĒ
I donít really remember that.
throwing it at you; itís like itís all your fault.
But I remember you never turned up; it would always be some excuse.
What he did, we all speculate the reasons why but, the way it was
shot was that I mean I think we were basically expected to say the
words that were written which were usually pretty damn good so it
wasnít like you didnít want to, and often times the rhythms and the
words that were written were the best rhythms for the presentation.
But then afterwards, if we had some time, he would say ďWell letís
loosen it up a little bit,Ē and that meant say or do anything you
want to, so we would improvise. And whether it was usable or not,
sometimes it was, I think he used some of it, but it wasnít
depending on that, if we got a little extra that was good. But the
other thing, and I donít know maybe if it was you Zach who said
that, was that the purpose that it served was it allowed us to sort
of be ourselves without the constraints, to see where we would go.
some stuff ZachÖ
He had some stuff that was funny? Like what? I donít remember that.
But also it was to do with the fact, the loosening up process, you
used some of the script again, but it just came out slightly
differently. It just felt more naturally.
dialogue purposefully fast paced?
The pace is more from us having quite a tight schedule and just
wanting to get through it as fast as possible. [laughs] And
also I donít suppose you had too much time to learn it, so there
was a slight panic, because you know in politics they are making it
up as they go along and thereís a slight dankness behind the eyes as
they figure what to say next. But also the script was very thick
actually, and the first assembly was about four hours fifteen
minutes long, so the pace is really in the edit coming from trying
to boil that down and get the essence of it.
to sell it as a miniseries.
Oh yeah the DVD is that thick.
What I was
saying was you had some specifically American kind of lines that you
couldnít have come up with if you had been writing it from a
BritishÖ Did you contribute those? Were those some of yours?
Because the process was so inclusive of your stuff over every phase;
like we would rehearse and then some of that stuff that you
improvised in rehearsal might make it into the script. Itís hard for
me to keep track of what was and what wasnít improvised. But I
remember you would let us, when it was me and Anna Chlumsky, let us
go for these longÖ
Half an hour.
Yeah of just like hostility. And at the end of which youíd just be
totally tied up in knots. Itís hard for me to remember what was and
Thatís a whole DVD extra in itself; the Chad and Liza hostility.
learn any unique American phrases that you hadnít?
Well no but I remember in the casting process when I came across
Zach and then had also met Anna and we got you back together didnít
And I just said have a go at each other. And it was so funny because
they just for half an hour you were at each otherís throats.
But how do
you see the real difference between American humor and British
I donít know because we get so much, I love things like The Daily
Show and that smart, quick, one liner thing, and Iím a big fan
of Woody Allen. I donít know, Iíve never really seen it as there
being a distinction, Iíve just always felt thereís a certain style
of comedy that I like and I like a comedy of ideas and a comedy of
sharpness or not, and talking down to the audience.
Well one thing, we had Minola Dargus I think said early on when she
saw it at Sundance, they asked me and I said that maybe British
comedy was a little more verbal, however what she said was that she
thought it was the most fast paced dialogue since My Girl Friday.
And if you look at those old Ď30s movies like The Front Page,
itís all words, itís all rhythm, itís all the same thing.
And this is sort of underneath the language and the reality of it,
the structure of it is very consciously a screwball comedy, farce.
Watch Preston Sturges, you want to stop and go back and hear it
The Thick of It, did you take from any of your style of doing
that to this film? Because Iím looking at this and Iím saying
Dr. Strangelove, modern day contemporary, you know?
Thereís an element; the shooting style from The Thick of It,
we adapted it slightly but adopted that, and obviously Malcolm
Tucker, the central character of The Thick of It makes the
transition into the film, but I really wanted it to be of the same
family of The Thick of It but not The Thick of It. I
wanted new characters because it was a new topic and it had an
international flavor and had a bigness about it in terms of the
theme, although we never actually see the consequencesÖ
Theyíre dealt with in a very trivial way.
In a very trial way. [laughs]
The Thick of It you also cast Peter Capaldi in that show so you
obviously have a humor that he has.
Yes. And because we knew his character I just felt we could take
that character and it would be wholly formed already, so we knew we
had something to work from.
But one of
the things I was going to say specific to the humor question was
that, when you see Steve Cooganís character, I canít imagine the
American equivalent to that character. Maybe itís just intrinsic to
the culture. You have such eccentrics that seem to live within your
culture like normal.
Also I think itís a shock to the American audience.
I donít know though, I mean in a way like if you look at his
characteristics, heís very defensive you can see in an American
character who is equally defensive about whether he has a cell phone
I mean there are human elements that I think could translate, but he
just happens to be within a very BritishÖ We donít have backyards
like that, we donít have these jobs, like the Minister of whatever,
itís a whole different political system.
Thatís right. Youíre older cabinet or whatever would not have to
deal with members of the public.
No we donít have that.
Whereas in the UK every minister is also a member of parliament.
guess what I was thinking was thereís this sort of, Britís sometimes
seem to be aware of themselves being absurd, and maybe Americans
arenít. And then I was thinking well maybe thatís not so true, but
it seems to me that itís your sense of the absurd; I think that
British culture has a profound sense of the absurd.
But it all started really from what we wanted to do in the story was
have Simon come out to Washington, get a little bit star-struck, go
home feeling a little bit disappointed and yet when he got home, be
faced with something that was so mundane that he actually started
wanting to go, yearning to go back out to Washington. Because you
saw that when Tony Blair came out and met George Bush and so there
was an air of kind of ďIím on the world stageĒ but then heíd come
back and heíd have to deal with schools and health issues and he had
that kind of wearyÖ
never dealt with that stuff.
He had another element, I am only gradually realizing. I didnít tell
you this, or maybe I emailed you, but Iím only gradually realizing
how much of this movie is based on fact.
Yes, yes, oh yeah.
I mean for instance, this Blair thing; now I didnít know that but
there you have the exact same thing happening. And I was at this [Bercher?
25:10] film festival Ė I wrote you about that Ė in this little town
in Massachusetts and I didnít really know that much about Alastair
Campbell and so I googled Alastair Campbell only to realize thatís
exactly what weíre doing. Heís sexed up, it really is exactly what
happened. Tell them about Campbell and what he said about how he
denied certain things.
Well Campbell saw the film Ė Blairís spin doctor Ė and he said ďOh
it was boring.Ē [laughter] Which made me think, ďDoes that
mean heís seen it all before?Ē And he said, ďThe UK stuff, yeah
thatís very believable, a lot of the American stuff, that wouldnít
happen. That whole thing with the committee that got bigger, thatís
just farcical.Ē And Iím thinking ďYou have now picked on the one
incident that actually happened, that we based an entire plot strand
on,Ē because that genuinely happened; Cheney set up a committee
called up Office of Future Plans.
Oh my God. I didnít know that.
Armando Ianucci: To look into invading Iran and Syria. And
they have a thing in Washington called ďcommittee anxietyĒ which is
are the committees youíre on the really important committees? And
people on the Senate heard about the Office of Future Plans and said
to staffers ďGet me on that committee,Ē and it grew and grew and
grew. Eventually the room was too small. Cheney shut it down and
just started another committee three doors down.
Fantastic. I didnít know this.
I tell you, this movieÖ But another thing you said that Alastair
Campbell, that people who knew him said the things that he denied
were true were the things that were actually true and a lot of the
stuff that he made up also happened.
Yes, thatís right.
fact, wasnít there a sex scandal that happened after the movie?
As Simon Foster says, ďI donít want to stay at home spanking one to
a shark documentary because if I watch a porno Iíll have to put it
in a scandal ragís interest. The week the film came out in the UK
the home secretary, her husband, there was a big scandal about her
expenses because her husband had put down a porn movie that he had
watched at home on cable.
Itís remarkable, I mean really. If thereís something about these
guys which is remarkable itís their ability to see information that
you and I may read about in the paper and to find to say, ďWait a
minute, he what?Ē
I was going through my notes that week because I did various trips
out to Washington and met up with people, and I was thinking about
Chad learning squash so that he can [what? 28:07] and that was based
on people were saying thatís what they do. I was looking at my notes
and I forgot some of the notes said, with Condoleezza Rice, because
she was into music, various staffers took up a musical instrument
started learning a musical instrument, so they could engage her in
conversation about music.
funniest thing about this movie is the minute you think, ďWell
wasnít that a clever set of dialogue? Wasnít that a brilliant
scenario that you set up?Ē you realize, they do you one better in
the real world. Who could have thought of the bathroom thing with
that one senator? I mean slipping the thing under the door, itís
like how do you stay ahead of that?
Well you canít and in the end you find yourself just pushing it and
pushing it and pushing it because you just think the real thing is
so absurd that you cannot cross the boundary.
Well they also asked me if I thought that it would translate to
American audiences and I just referred to Seattle where we had 3,000
screaming, screaming Americans watching this movie and just
splitting their sides. And the only criticism Iíve ever heard from
anybody of this movie is that the laughter was so loud they didnít
get all of the jokes. Thatís the only criticism Iíve ever heard.
And I think itís refreshing too to see a movie about this stuff that
doesnít feel just discouraging. You find the absurdity in it and
amplify it to the point of comedy as opposed to just sort of, so
many Iraq movies are like oppressively upsetting, so thatís another
What do you
think are the basic elements that turn a political comedy into a
classic and what are some examples of those classics? Anyone?
Well everybody sets out to make a classic; whether a classic occurs
or not is something that is decided on Mount Parnassus. [laughter]
You donít know; if anybody knew, weíd all be millionaires but I
mean, you do the best you can and all of a sudden, right? I mean who
knew that Animal House would strike suck a, right? They made
a little movie and all of a sudden it struck this chord; who knew?
And I think the same here.
Itíd be great to be up there with Animal House [laughs]
People are loving this movie.
This is a
21st century analog to
I think so too. The response has been overwhelming and very
made you decide that this was something you wanted to do? Was it in
your head for a long time?
Yeah; Iíd always wanted to make a funny film and Iíve always loved
being in a cinema with an audience laughing. My brother used to take
me to the latest Woody Allen, and weíd see Airplane! or the
Monty Python movies, so I always wanted to do that. But I kind of
wanted to wait until I got the right story, and then the more I read
about Iraq and just the contortions of logic and the faction and
in-fighting and the whole thing about how Blair was star struck by
the whole process and just lost his dignity over it, and I just
thought, ďThereís a story,Ē you know. And then we had the format as
such with The Thick of It and it was just that coming
together of ďThereís a story, I know how I want to make it, I know I
want that character in it, letís go,Ē and it just went very quickly
after that. The whole process from going to a meeting without even
anything written on a piece of paper, just ďThis is what I want to
do,Ē that process to handing the finished film over was 12 months.
How did you
find the right balance between entertaining the audience and
provoking them intellectually?
Oh right, well, I think the golden rule is be funny and if a scene
didnít feel as funny as other scenes Iíd cut it down or cut it out
Or add bleeding teeth.
Just noises, just sound effects; farts, you know. Clacks. Clown car.
other side of that though is the casting as to how it fulfills his
question; getting the right cast to get that balance. I donít want
to think about the process of casting this movie with 48,000 people.
I mean who didnít you include?
I had a great casting director in New York, Meredith Tucker. I was
only out for about two or three days I think and I saw lots of great
people Iíd love to have included.
Yeah but I
mean, how did you pick theÖ You had certain people you knew you were
going to use, like Coogan youíve worked with for a long time.
Yeah, and that was partly the script had that one part in it and I
just thought ďThatís a great cameo, who would be good for that?Ē
you thought of the core network it must have been an incredible
We had scripts didnít we? I canít remember. It was very early, it
was an early draft. But I sort of slightly improvised in the
We did three things: one of them was we did the script as scripted,
we acted it; then we improvised the script; and then you sometimes
would question us. ďWell what do you think about the so and so?Ē
Thatís right, in character. And Iíd say itís not about trying to
think about funny things all the time but itís just to see whether
you can get into the skit and are comfortable with a notion of
process with casting Anna Chlumsky and James Gandolfini?
Well James I knew anyway and he knew The Thick of It and was
fan and Iíd been talking to him about another project. Again, the
character came up with General Miller and I just thought he would be
great. Itís almost like casting against type in away. But with Anna
it was this whole process.
I remember too coming in for the first audition I hadnít gotten a
script, like typically youíll get a script that you can look over
and then you go in and do the audition. There hadnít been a script
so I just came in and you were there and we improvised a little bit
and read the script and then for the callback they sent the script,
an early draft of the film, and I remember feeling pretty loose and
playful in the first audition because I didnít really know what the
film was, and then reading the script and being like ďOh this is so
funny, I want this job so badly,Ē and then the callback just being a
ball of tension because Iíd read the script. So I was glad that we
didnít get it for the first one.
feel like this roundtable is like how you did the movie, you know?
Like you have these guys, weíre all discussing and weíre going back
Well when we did rehearsals over in the Hilton in New York we had
this table and we all sat down and discussed the characters.
Well for me it was very personal; I was talking to them before about
my personal animus toward all of the people I embodied.
Who you then become.
David Rasche: Because all those years I sat and watched these
imperious, condescending, belittling, officious people acting like
jerks and I watched it very carefully so when it was time to do it I
was really eager to be able to bring what I saw into this mix.
Thereís something Armando said too early in the rehearsal process
too I think which is that Washington is like Hollywood for ugly
people. [laughs] And so for me it was sort of like well I donít know
what the equivalent, Iíve never met somebody like Chad in
government, I have met so many actors who are similarly conniving
and insecure that that was actually helpful.
I said to the British cast when we were doing the Washington scenes,
I said ďThink of the first time you went out to LA and how excited
you were and all these meetings you were going to have and all these
people who you were going to meet, and then how little you felt at
the end of it.Ē [laughter] ďHow soiled and used you felt, how
disappointed you were, and flying home and coming backing to a rain
soaked, and then getting another call from LA and even though you
hated it you would go get on the next plane and go back out.Ē
Why did you
feel the need to include so much profanity?
Wait a minute Ė that assumes that you felt the need.
Well because, especially in British government, there is a lot of
Well Alastair Campbell is known for it.
Rahm Emanuel too.
And we did a bit of swearing research for the Washington scenes and
we established that thereís not much swearing at the state
department. Lots of swearing at the Pentagon.
Who did you
have particular animus or who did you have a particular love of
taking to task? I mean I was trying to think who was Gandolfini
because there are several generals he could be.
Well you know Linton is an amalgam of John Bolton andÖ
And David Addington.
weíre not as familiar I want to know on the British side who were
you really taking the piss out of?
Well, what I wanted to avoid was it being a kind of allegory so that
each character stood for a real figure. Itís more a kind of take-on
on generally what that life is like. And then also once youíve cast
it, those characters take on a life of their own and stop
representing someone else.
work that you put in; what kind of budget did you use? It seems like
an indie but you have IFC as your distributor, soÖ
Well itís a big indie distributor though.
kind of commercial now; theyíre no longer indie per se.
Well I donít mind.
They thought they could make a lot of money.
I want as many people as possible to see it. What we wanted to do is
we made it without having distributors signed up in advanced and we
made it for a small budget, and I wanted to make it how I wanted to
make it rather than feel that down the line we had to change this
and do that. So we just made it and then took it to Sundance to see
what happened, really, not knowing whether it would get noticed or
How do you
follow something like this? This is such a fantastic world youíve
created; itís the what next question with a slightly different
approach, like what burden or relief does it give you?
I want to do something completely different; I want to do a
slapstick movie next.
How about you guys?
I want to his slapstick movie. [laughter]
point did you know that comedy was meant for you?
Oh god. Well thatís all Iíve done really.
His whole life is a joke.
I did my first stand-up when I was eleven with jokes stolen off
other comedians on the radio.
always the best way.
So my natural inclination is to find the absurd side of it and
explore it that way really.
Oh yeah I did some lectures on the sitcom at Oxford. They have this
thing, I was Visiting Professor of MediaÖ I canít remember.
Basically they choose someone from the broadcasting industry within
the UK to do four talks on the subject and they wanted somebody to
us Let us know what you