Andrea Arnold talks Fish Tank - RT Interview

The director on her Cannes triumph and the future of its young star.

by | September 9, 2009 | Comments

RT Interview: Director Andrea Arnold on Fish Tank

Having bagged an Oscar for her short film Wasp and a Cannes Jury Prize for her debut feature Red Road, Andrea Arnold concretes her status as one of Britain’s hottest new directors with Fish Tank. Harsh, delicate, funny and oh-so-real, this powerful tower-block drama creeps up on you with a startling emotional wallop. Breathtaking in her first ever acting role, Essex girl Katie Jarvis plays a sweary, spiky 15-year-old who dreams of being hip-hop dancer but finds herself drawn towards her single mum’s new boyfriend (the superb Michael Fassbender). The heat is just around the corner…


Fish Tank

[tomatometer]MuzeID=10011296[/tomatometer]

So what does the title mean?

Andrea Arnold: Yeah, I started off by explaining the title and now I’ve decided that’s not a good thing. I’m going to stop explaining it. I think it can mean a lot of things and I think that’s nice for people to think about. If I tell you what I think, that just makes it definite. And that spoils having some fun with thinking about why is it called Fish Tank. I think it’s better you try to work it out. Sometimes if I dot the Is and cross the Ts, it spoils it. It’s on the internet anyway!

How did you get the idea for Fish Tank?

AA: I always start with an image. I’m not telling you what it was! No, because again, it gives the film away. Even though everyone will be writing about exactly what happens on the internet and it’s no mystery, I still have this idea of protecting what happens. Because I personally love to see films not knowing very much about them. When you see it, it’s like a flower opening up. I deliberately never read about films before I see them.

What does Katie Jarvis think about all the acclaim she’s getting?

AA: She has no idea how much she’s been talked about. Her ears must be burning! I rang her during Cannes and said, “Katie, you’ve got to get on the internet. Get on the internet!” She hasn’t got a computer where she is. And I was like, “Go somewhere and get on the internet!”

Fish Tank

Fish Tank

Is it true that you found randomly her at a train station?

AA: Yeah, she was having a row with her boyfriend. He was on one platform and she was on the other. She was yelling at him. I wasn’t there, it was actually the casting assistant called Lucy, who was really fantastic. She approached Katie and Katie didn’t believe it was for a film. She thought Lucy was incredibly suspicious! And she’s absolutely right to be suspicious! I’d be suspicious. But she came along, we did a local little audition with some girls we’d found in Tillbury. We just got her to do a little bit of improvisation. She could just be totally herself. Her family’s not the same as Mia’s in the film, but more her character and her energy and her anger. She’s got the ability to quite angry. That was more the thing that was right for the part.

How did you know she could handle the really harsh scenes?

AA: I didn’t know. It was a big risk in way, because I really didn’t know if she would be able to do it. She could obviously be herself in a little bit of improvisation. But we have a script. And every day we have a certain amount of things to do. A story to tell. Cameras. Sounds. Things she has to learn very quickly. And I didn’t know if she’d be able to do it. But I love leaping in and not knowing if it’s going to work. It was a big risk. I thought, Hmm. It might not happen…

What about the sex scene?

AA: Yeah. She’s 17 so… I spoke to her parents and they know that it’s not real. You’re only pretending. Obviously you try to make things look as real as possible. But in amongst all that, doing those things is hilarious, often. I’m sure she was nervous. But even people who’ve done it before get nervous so that’s not surprising. We didn’t make a big deal of it. We kept it very brief.

Fish Tank

Fish Tank

Were you anything like Katie’s character when you were a teenager?

AA: I don’t think so… I did grow up on a housing estate. And I was a teenager, obviously! But I was never like Mia. I see a lot of those kids around and I know what it’s like to be a teenager. I guess I’m projecting some other things on to her. To make her slightly different to what I know. So it’s partly imagination, partly things I know.

How did you make all the dialogue so realistic?

AA: I just picked people who live there. They say things in the way they say things. Katie comes from that area, so she just scripted it into her own words. We kept Michael with his Irish accent, because he’s a little bit of an outsider anyway. Kierston Wareing actually was born in that area too. Rebecca Griffiths lives down the road.

Do you think some audiences won’t understand the slang?

AA: It’s interesting doing the French translation. Because we’re not only translating English, we’re translating Essex English. So for example, one of kids says, “Oh, her mum’s butters.” Butters is slang for butt-ugly. Butt-ugly means arse-ugly. Trying to work that out in the French translation was very interesting… Trying to keep the language as colourful!

Fish Tank hits UK cinemas this Friday.

Tag Cloud

VH1 TCA Tumblr ABC Family PaleyFest Marvel ABC VICE Country Writers Guild of America Netflix TCA 2017 24 frames American Society of Cinematographers Box Office Logo Food Network sitcom Nominations Universal WGN politics technology Mystery NYCC Certified Fresh police drama Cartoon Network serial killer MSNBC Rock science fiction adventure Hulu 2015 Esquire Grammys Opinion Starz GLAAD FX Winter TV Schedule Calendar Sci-Fi HBO Oscars Year in Review harry potter Drama Star Wars FOX CBS Winners CNN Disney Channel Star Trek Red Carpet The CW Video Games Biopics Lionsgate Fantasy Premiere Dates RT History El Rey Reality Competition APB vampires Comedy Central Sneak Peek diversity Rom-Com Musicals TV Animation Marathons Tomatazos History Fall TV Horror 2017 Reality USA Super Bowl discovery aliens Interview period drama Podcast BBC travel Toys Nickelodeon FXX Comedy Cosplay TNT CBS All Access Martial Arts First Look comiccon Pirates PBS A&E TBS singing competition Extras President Election 2016 war Valentine's Day boxoffice Character Guide Holidays Awards ITV Disney thriller Adult Swim Watching Series Pop cinemax Amazon Sundance Action X-Men social media TruTV AMC docudrama Comic Book 007 IFC Best and Worst Thanksgiving Lifetime TCM Summer Kids & Family ESPN SDCC DC Comics OWN Trivia cooking GoT Nat Geo Emmys biography Spring TV Exclusive Video Photos SundanceTV TIFF cops Countdown Syfy Polls and Games Bravo GIFs Showtime CMT TV Land Rocky BET Teen Fox News NBC dramedy Mary Tyler Moore sports Ghostbusters Set visit Masterpiece E! crime drama Crackle Superheroes BBC America Trailer Infographic Music LGBTQ MTV Freeform crime thriller DirecTV