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

toy story Lifetime President Rom-Com HBO golden globes ABC Dark Horse Comics Nickelodeon 2019 Lucasfilm Spectrum Originals war adventure crossover Reality Competition Emmys Sneak Peek crime thriller game show Disney Martial Arts Superheroe TV TCA Interview book Rocky comiccon E3 period drama award winner TCA 2017 Sci-Fi Mudbound Music GIFs Film Comics on TV CBS All Access DC streaming service animated discovery miniseries elevated horror Super Bowl talk show Set visit Marvel dc Showtime CBS DirecTV zombies robots nature X-Men Calendar cats NBC Epix teaser zombie MTV Character Guide technology cults historical drama dramedy Spike science fiction Star Trek comic History Tumblr Amazon Prime Cosplay APB Mary Poppins Returns quibi Musicals cinemax YouTube Premium Oscars TV Land Best and Worst RT21 finale Writers Guild of America Apple political drama TCM tv talk Trivia PaleyFest Esquire true crime 007 facebook Starz Comic Book Podcast Toys police drama casting 2016 adaptation Netflix 24 frames BBC medical drama transformers New York Comic Con GLAAD Masterpiece Watching Series Britbox vampires blaxploitation Paramount Network Warner Bros. Fox News Nominations The Arrangement Emmy Nominations Brie Larson Pride Month Trophy Talk ratings FOX Mystery Women's History Month Tomatazos Shondaland Winners Quiz Disney Channel WGN spinoff Anna Paquin based on movie Bravo San Diego Comic-Con cars MCU MSNBC Infographic Sundance Now CMT Biopics ghosts Countdown Winter TV revenge USA psychological thriller Ellie Kemper Fantasy Vudu green book Action Awards Tour Freeform sitcom Premiere Dates sports DC Universe disaster Extras TLC Country Trailer VICE richard e. Grant series A&E singing competition binge streaming Box Office supernatural DGA mockumentary Shudder Thanksgiving Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Pixar anime politics ITV zero dark thirty Walt Disney Pictures See It Skip It Pirates USA Network Sundance BET theme song Ovation dceu Family Drama Amazon Year in Review Polls and Games Reality Mindy Kaling Tarantino Song of Ice and Fire Acorn TV Christmas children's TV Disney streaming service PBS natural history travel Schedule Grammys diversity doctor who Cannes Marathons Ghostbusters E! Film Festival justice league RT History YA Fall TV ABC Family Pet Sematary strong female leads 21st Century Fox YouTube Red Adult Swim TIFF Mary poppins Star Wars ESPN space Animation Nat Geo Pop Heroines crime Creative Arts Emmys TruTV Stephen King cooking El Rey National Geographic SundanceTV FX Awards LGBTQ Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2018 AMC Logo Western The CW LGBT anthology Syfy Holidays 2017 docudrama SDCC Paramount Crackle Elton John Cartoon Network serial killer Spring TV TNT Captain marvel mutant VH1 thriller romance Summer Rocketman CW Seed CNN Valentine's Day First Look 2015 Photos Superheroes Red Carpet composers American Society of Cinematographers spider-man Lionsgate psycho IFC Films FXX what to watch kids cops spy thriller BBC America DC Comics hist Kids & Family Mary Tyler Moore Rock crime drama Certified Fresh Black Mirror unscripted Universal dragons GoT TBS harry potter television Musical Binge Guide Hulu biography Horror Food Network Amazon Prime Video Sony Pictures Comedy Columbia Pictures movies social media 45 aliens SXSW NYCC IFC Video Games Comedy Central HBO Max WarnerMedia sequel Teen boxoffice OWN festivals jamie lee curtis Chernobyl witnail 20th Century Fox Opinion Election The Witch