Rachel and Rory and Shirley and Cyril

On September 5, 2011, we published Mike Leigh, the 28th volume in our Contemporary Film Directors series. 

Cover for o'sullivan: Mike Leigh. Click for larger imageAuthor Sean O’Sullivan conducted multiple interviews with Mike Leigh and distilled them into one interview section at the end of the book. Here is a sample:

Q: How do you go about naming the characters?

A: That’s an interesting question. What do you want to know?

Q: Well, you have a lot of twinned names of characters, like Maurice and Monica and Phil and Penny and Rachel and Rory. And obviously, Nicola and Natalie—and even names that sound alike, like Shirley and Cyril?

A: Is the question, are you saying is it an accident, or do I do it purpose? I always do it on purpose, everything is done on purpose.

Q: Do the actors have a say in the names?

A: They do—up to a point. A part of my art is that I collaborate, so I work with each actor, and I say, “Right, let’s name.” For a while in embryo form the character is going unnamed, and then I say, “Okay, let’s think about it and make a long list of all the names it could be.” We make a list of first names, and then we select, if I’m smart, four, with reference to how they will go with other names. And I also carry a permanent index, a notebook which I have with me at naming sessions of all the names in all of my work. I think it’s got up to something like four hundred and something. Even for the most minor characters. So I can double check and see if I’m going to have the same, or whatever. So it’s never an accident when a name reappears.

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