When The Angels’ Share kicked off the 2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival last month, screenwriter Paul Laverty was in attendance to see both opening night screenings sell out. I had the chance to speak with him a day after the screenings, after he’d already flown out to Boston. Here are a few snippets from our conversation.
(Note: My review of the film, which opens this weekend in Minneapolis, can be found here.)
Henderson: You have a longstanding working relationship with director Ken Loach. A lot of your earlier films are of a more serious nature than this film and maybe Looking for Eric. Is there a conscious turn toward a more humorous approach to making films?
Laverty: The last film we did before this one was a very tough one, and uncompromising tragedy with mercenaries returning from Iraq. That was a very dark, difficult story. So we wanted to try a different tone. We did a couple of films in Glasgow — My Name is Joe and Sweet Sixteen — that had comic moments in them but were also tragic. And this one has a lot of comic moments in it but could easily have been tragic, if you know what I mean.
Henderson: How do you find yourself balancing the comic aspects of the film with what’s still a pretty serious social situation?
Laverty: It’s always a question of judgement and trying to be true to the premise. We started the story off with a bunch of young lads who were petty criminals. Robbie, the main character, has been involved in a series of assault and escaped prison by the skin of his teeth. We spent time with these kids, who come from tough backgrounds, and they’re actually full of mischief and fun. They’re angry and frustrated, but it’s pretty fun to be with them. I wanted to try and capture that in a script, and then also mix in a little bit of whiskey. In many ways, (whiskey) is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, apart from oil. It’s the so-called drink of the sophisticated business class. I was just reading in the Los Angeles Times a bottle recently sold for $465,000. It’s just absolutely bonkers. Many of these kids from Scotland have never tasted their own “national drink.” They’ve never been to the places where it’s distilled. I love the contradiction in that. And then Harry teaches Robbie some of the finer things in life; he develops (Robbie’s) palate. From a screenwriter’s point of view, there were a lot of levels there.
Henderson: There’s definitely an interesting dichotomy within the whiskey itself.
Laverty: Many of the kids have never tried whiskey in their lives. It’s always cheap vodka or cheap wines. They get pissed really quickly.
Henderson: So, what gets your vote for the finest whiskey?
Laverty: (Laughing) Oh, it was a great sacrifice to go into these distilleries, Eric. Somebody’s got to make the sacrifice. There’s lots of terrific whiskeys, really. One which is very, very nice is from the island of Islay, which is peaty but not lumpy. There’s one called Bowmore, which is very, very nice. On the other side of the coast, there’s a little one called Glenmorangie. In the south of Scotland there’s only one distillery, but I’d like to mention it: Bladnoch. It’s a little-known one, but it’s a lovely distillery. Half the fun of this was seeing these little distilleries in the countryside.