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When the Oscar nominations were announced last month, there might not have been a better surprise than the one In the Loop got for Best Adapted Screenplay. The whip-smart British satire was beloved by critics, made it to many end of the years top ten lists (including mine) and was widely considered to have one of the best screenplays of the decade. But Oscar has a way of ignoring the smartest and best movies altogether, so it was a wonderful surprise for all of us fans when writers Armando Iannucci, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche had their names read out that morning.
But for Iannucci, who also directed the film, the nomination was a nice surprise at the end of a very, very long road of publicity for his little British film, which debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. I interviewed him for the first time last April during the Tribeca Film Festival, and caught up with him again a few weeks ago to talk about the madness of Oscar season, what he'll do when it's all over, and how a group of four writers plan an acceptance speech they know they probably won't have to give (Iannucci, as much of a realist as the sardonic politicians in his film, admits he's not likely to win).
Check out my recent interview with Iannucci below, and below that, the video interview I recorded last April. In the Loop, which is the best political satire since Dr. Strangelove, is available on DVD right now. Do yourself a favor and see it so you can be the smartest person at your Oscar party.
When I interviewed you during Tribeca last year you said Simon and Toby's experience in Washington was like yours when you first visited Hollywood. Is it like this again for Oscar season?
This time there aren't people telling me how to make the film. It's kind of nice, really. It's a sort of closure on that horrible experience. Then I went away and made the film the way I wanted to make it, and came out and it gets the nomination. How can you not be happy?
Have people been pitching you ideas?
A little bit of that. I've made it quite clear that I generate my own projects. There are people I'd be keen to work with and all that. But fundamentally I've mapped out the ideas for the next two or three projects I want to do, and I want to concentrate on those now. I know you've got to try and keep the costs down. The more manageable the budget, the more control you have. I want to keep it more or less UK based. It'd be great to have an international cast again. I loved working with the international cast.
At this point are you dying to get it started since you've been promoting In the Loop for a year?
I know. It has been a year. I'm not complaining, because far rather you talk about your film for a year than you don't talk about it at all because it's disappeared. I just wish I knew when I was doing the very last interview for the film, so I could celebrate it. But it's great. You don't go in with any expectations other than, I hope I can make it the way I want to make it and I hope people come and see it. That's all you really want. And with a comedy you want people to come see it and laugh. Once you get to that point-- and thankfully we did-- everything else is just a marvelous surprise.
it was the very next day, the second Sundance screening, which was a Saturday morning. I thought, this will be the disappointment. This will be the morning after. But I said I'd go along to do a Q&A. All the cast came back. I arrived haflway through the film, and it was full. And I stood at the back and heard them all laughing. That's what I was after. I had a feeling then. It wasn't going to be as big as Transformers, but I kind of knew we were on to something.
This nomination came as a surprise for a lot of us. How much of a surprise was it for you?
I knew there was a small chance in that it was being talked about, very much as a long shot. My view was, I'm going to assume it's not going to happen, but I'll do everything people ask me to do, because I'll kick myself if I do nothing. We did screenings, we did all the stuff. But it was still a great surprise when we found it.
Were you in the U.K. when it was announced?
I was. I was having lunch with Peter Baynham, who went through this whole process two years ago with Borat [Baynham was part of the writing team nominated for Borat's screenplay], and Steve Coogan, who's in the film. Coincidentally we met to have lunch.
So you didn't watch the announcement or anything?
No. I vaguely knew that was the day. I'd given myself a busy day. I got called in the middle of lunch, saying "You've been nominated!" And it was a very noisy, so I ran outside. I stood out in the rain for about an hour, getting calls, calling friends, family. Went back in, they'd cleared away lunch.
Do you have any specific goals or plans for Oscar weekend?
I'm going out a couple of days beforehand just to adjust to the time difference. A lot of the UK papers have said, can you do your diary? I just said, no. I just want to enjoy it. Someone was telling me they had a thing up for the Oscars two or three years ago, and they had a great time at the Oscars, and the next morning they were in the business center of the hotel, writing the thing, thinking "Why did I agree to do this?" I kind of avoided that really.
Do you let yourself write an acceptance speech, knowing you're the long shot?
We were saying this, the four of us-- "The four of us have got to go up there, and it can't be a mess." I said, "It won't happen. It's not going to happen. But if it does happen, it can't be a mess." At some point we're going to have to sit down and work out. We went to the Oscars lunch on Monday, which was great, because it was really informal. It kind of made you stop to think, "Oh, this is real. It's not pretend." But at the end the producers of the show get up and talk about speeches. You have a really good think about what it means to you. Then they show successful speeches, and there's that silence in the room, because I think everyone in the room thought, "Oh my God, I've been nominated for an Oscar." We hadn't had that thought prior to that. We were just thinking, "Hey, this is fun! Look, there's George Clooney!" We actually left the meal feeling more frightened than we were when we arrived.
Do you feel like a band of crazy British outsiders at events like that?
It's great, it's so funny. What's very funny, and touching really, is that everyone is really excited for you back in the U.K. Friends, family, neighbors, people you used to know, people you just meet. They're just excited for you, and that's really nice.
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