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


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

Martial Arts Premiere Dates FXX finale Star Wars criterion Set visit The Purge RT History Christmas screenings Dark Horse Comics DC streaming service Certified Fresh scary movies dogs rotten movies we love Superheroes animated Captain marvel Food Network Quiz X-Men Arrowverse Warner Bros. Comics on TV TV screen actors guild TV Land Countdown Trailer comic National Geographic TruTV Marathons Awards The Arrangement Action talk show Turner Classic Movies BET Awards medical drama Red Carpet renewed TV shows TBS miniseries LGBT video on demand Extras Shondaland Freeform award winner Mary Poppins Returns singing competition PBS MTV BBC America TLC based on movie Marvel Television game show Creative Arts Emmys richard e. Grant aliens Comedy Central disaster Walt Disney Pictures cartoon Nickelodeon 4/20 2015 mission: impossible Biopics Marvel mockumentary unscripted anthology critics Toys Paramount Network comics parents Teen adventure hispanic Amazon Prime Video Disney E3 crime thriller Binge Guide Winter TV cops batman Super Bowl spanish language christmas movies Lucasfilm name the review space Syfy game of thrones spinoff Best and Worst CW Seed witnail Paramount discovery Comic Book Acorn TV Tumblr Oscars elevated horror Drama Disney+ Disney Plus crime drama psychological thriller cults blaxploitation Mindy Kaling First Reviews A&E composers versus CBS All Access ratings WGN DC Comics RT21 Rocky Television Academy Ghostbusters cars Opinion Apple TV Plus WarnerMedia quibi Reality Competition Reality werewolf 2019 psycho VH1 reviews sequel Hallmark ESPN 007 documentaries zero dark thirty Classic Film Star Trek cancelled TV shows The Witch Fox News Winners GIFs Country sports Emmy Nominations casting Musical Shudder See It Skip It zombie Character Guide crime die hard TCA Adult Swim stoner AMC Kids & Family Mystery Crackle Endgame streaming Turner VOD Cannes The Walking Dead Hulu Spike Awards Tour First Look series Elton John 2016 YouTube Premium theme song BBC One Universal binge Grammys films breaking bad romantic comedy CNN Watching Series free movies Television Critics Association Year in Review APB Film Festival Anna Paquin Funimation serial killer cancelled FOX Sneak Peek Film Sundance TV Hear Us Out Mary poppins Cosplay OneApp CBS tv talk canceled TV shows boxoffice SDCC foreign ghosts Interview Showtime Pet Sematary CMT El Rey directors Video Games facebook MSNBC 71st Emmy Awards Spring TV 45 Family twilight Amazon Studios what to watch cancelled television New York Comic Con Lionsgate Sundance teaser news spain kids MCU Academy Awards Bravo canceled LGBTQ sitcom American Society of Cinematographers Rom-Com war 2018 Polls and Games Superheroe justice league romance HBO Max Calendar television transformers HBO YouTube The CW south america franchise dc a nightmare on elm street Mary Tyler Moore satire Rocketman 2017 concert mutant Trophy Talk Pride Month Emmys biography Trivia toy story independent hist PaleyFest Rock VICE TV renewals Thanksgiving nature Valentine's Day Chilling Adventures of Sabrina adaptation indie E! cancelled TV series blockbuster true crime USA Tarantino Western Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Disney Channel movies slashers Apple TV+ Ovation jamie lee curtis dramedy chucky doctor who strong female leads FX Animation Pop dceu TCA Winter 2020 revenge Fall TV Brie Larson comedies Apple thriller Box Office Logo technology dark asian-american anime sag awards Sci-Fi video Discovery Channel Holidays History BAFTA Heroines 21st Century Fox Pirates Amazon Prime 24 frames all-time DirecTV police drama San Diego Comic-Con Britbox IFC BET travel supernatural halloween Sundance Now DGA GLAAD PlayStation Tomatazos Netflix 20th Century Fox child's play reboot historical drama ITV political drama green book Columbia Pictures docudrama Sony Pictures Disney Plus spider-man natural history universal monsters BBC cinemax latino vampires crossover Lifetime SXSW OWN President TCM 2020 book emmy awards ABC Family Writers Guild of America Black History Month Summer Pixar Schedule Chernobyl Fantasy TCA Awards cooking FX on Hulu Ellie Kemper Baby Yoda Starz indiana jones NBC social media Epix Tubi period drama TIFF Netflix Christmas movies stand-up comedy science fiction Cartoon Network Disney streaming service Mudbound Election SundanceTV TNT Pop TV movie NYCC best comiccon Hallmark Christmas movies robots Vudu joker Spectrum Originals YA Black Mirror documentary Travel Channel A24 Music Nominations Musicals Esquire GoT YouTube Red festivals Nat Geo Marvel Studios dragons HBO Go Comedy diversity Photos cats TCA 2017 Peacock Amazon Stephen King Podcast Infographic IFC Films spy thriller harry potter DC Universe Women's History Month golden globes children's TV zombies Lifetime Christmas movies Masterpiece politics Song of Ice and Fire Avengers Crunchyroll Holiday ABC USA Network Horror