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

joker Rocky President TV renewals Hallmark 71st Emmy Awards comic book movies Heroines Holiday Awards TIFF Hulu telelvision remakes GIFs revenge Academy Awards Masterpiece dceu 90s Valentine's Day The Walt Disney Company The Purge heist movie Fall TV dragons women discovery toronto Stephen King BBC VH1 FOX Starz Quiz TCA 2017 art house child's play godzilla Spike Lifetime dc marvel comics parents politics Wes Anderson Paramount Network Avengers TNT Sundance TV Shudder doctor who TLC james bond Lifetime Christmas movies police drama Travel Channel strong female leads Esquire australia legend Pop TV Classic Film high school Amazon Tubi dogs hispanic medical drama Grammys Funimation facebook Pirates Apple TV Plus 73rd Emmy Awards vampires Mindy Kaling Calendar movies science fiction king kong Mary poppins scary movies game show historical drama stop motion ID kong hollywood History TV movies cooking Television Critics Association Drama ABC Signature slasher worst movies reboot jamie lee curtis Pacific Islander Emmy Nominations Tarantino Trivia Animation Cosplay Kids & Family elevated horror Mary Poppins Returns Interview rt labs Holidays Video Games documentary Turner The Walking Dead cars name the review Character Guide news posters OWN The Arrangement Ellie Kemper breaking bad Women's History Month video scary political drama 45 renewed TV shows Legendary Paramount Plus LGBT Mystery robots TruTV what to watch award winner Crackle See It Skip It singing competition Syfy TV Land Sundance Best and Worst 24 frames X-Men cinemax Podcast National Geographic finale CMT popular scorecard spinoff mission: impossible Fantasy critic resources Schedule book adaptation new star wars movies spider-verse sequels Nominations crossover Nickelodeon Photos 21st Century Fox marvel cinematic universe witnail zombie Netflix Christmas movies Logo Ghostbusters Amazon Prime Certified Fresh theme song prank USA Neflix true crime BBC America 2019 Emmys Peacock 2016 screenings live event young adult E! mockumentary Disney Channel rotten movies we love Super Bowl superman die hard Television Academy Hear Us Out PBS ESPN trophy serial killer concert Pop Extras HBO Columbia Pictures action-comedy SundanceTV Arrowverse festival CBS game of thrones feel good SDCC venice adenture Exclusive Video comic SXSW ViacomCBS laika travel werewolf Superheroes 007 Fox Searchlight adventure IFC Films TCM Amazon Studios richard e. Grant DGA Lucasfilm satire BET TCA best VICE criterion Pet Sematary E3 GoT Comics on TV PlayStation TV Epix HBO Go Spectrum Originals french docuseries trailers APB king arthur Crunchyroll nfl 99% MCU romance Comic Book franchise Trailer Chilling Adventures of Sabrina space rom-coms children's TV indiana jones Election Walt Disney Pictures DC Comics TV One versus Rock Horror Binge Guide television Family San Diego Comic-Con blockbusters Baby Yoda comics Endgame biography japan CNN YouTube Premium Awards Tour latino Comedy Food Network Thanksgiving CBS All Access natural history Broadway rotten The CW cats asian-american zero dark thirty golden globe awards Apple TV+ deadpool First Look blockbuster hidden camera YouTube Red Instagram Live casting DirecTV comic books NBA golden globes Disney streaming service FXX Red Carpet Action Christmas mutant festivals WGN Marvel Studios harry potter Mary Tyler Moore live action monster movies American Society of Cinematographers Pixar GLAAD Turner Classic Movies USA Network cancelled TV series NBC dreamworks Sneak Peek ABC Family classics Set visit spy thriller Sony Pictures Pride Month directors fast and furious aapi free movies unscripted emmy awards slashers reviews Trophy Talk biopic spider-man football comedies spanish BET Awards composers based on movie sitcom universal monsters superhero Mudbound razzies cops Song of Ice and Fire batman The Academy Lionsgate Writers Guild of America Creative Arts Emmys Year in Review YA IMDb TV Rocketman IFC movie Sci-Fi psychological thriller new zealand jurassic park video on demand quibi worst all-time Disney 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards mcc ITV ghosts wonder woman Shondaland Spring TV screen actors guild gangster justice league canceled TV shows hist CW Seed comiccon scene in color basketball BAFTA spain disaster boxing Disney Plus Disney+ Disney Plus Image Comics pirates of the caribbean OneApp Biopics A&E cancelled Toys YouTube FX on Hulu indie anime social media lord of the rings saw Countdown Reality boxoffice Ovation halloween tv mob 2015 Captain marvel know your critic ABC docudrama sequel twilight Marathons Showtime Tokyo Olympics The Witch TCA Winter 2020 Teen Discovery Channel Premiere Dates adaptation critics Britbox TBS sports stand-up comedy RT21 Brie Larson Alien Film Festival romantic comedy new york blaxploitation Dark Horse Comics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Film Sundance Now Comic-Con@Home 2021 Star Wars Music cartoon Winter TV nbcuniversal dramedy technology royal family DC Universe debate Paramount DC streaming service PaleyFest diversity Polls and Games psycho 93rd Oscars Star Trek supernatural Opinion Fargo Musicals A24 spanish language hispanic heritage month Warner Bros. Elton John 72 Emmy Awards Summer teaser MSNBC El Rey stoner crime drama cancelled television NYCC aliens Oscars kaiju Amazon Prime Video talk show Apple Rom-Com animated AMC Plus Infographic Bravo nature south america Chernobyl independent green book RT History HBO Max 2017 Musical 2020 canceled comic book movie 1990s crime 2018 Black Mirror rt archives leaderboard tv talk Hallmark Christmas movies First Reviews 20th Century Fox TCA Awards Martial Arts ratings chucky archives italian Western target thriller Vudu miniseries toy story sag awards a nightmare on elm street japanese Watching Series streaming movies black comedy binge Black History Month vs. New York Comic Con rt labs critics edition Netflix sopranos international zombies christmas movies Marvel Television kids Freeform genre Country cancelled TV shows period drama Anna Paquin MTV Cannes Fox News book Acorn TV Winners halloween obituary dark Universal crime thriller war Tomatazos Adult Swim black Superheroe LGBTQ documentaries Cartoon Network fresh Nat Geo AMC FX Comedy Central Box Office WarnerMedia cults VOD Tumblr Marvel suspense olympics Reality Competition streaming BBC One series anthology foreign Universal Pictures transformers 4/20 dexter 2021 films