19 April 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

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BAFTA-nominated director Andrew Haigh discusses All of Us Strangers
23 Jan 2024 : Luke Shanahan
All of Us Strangers
We spoke with director Andrew Haigh at the Irish gala screening of All of Us Strangers, starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal. The BAFTA-nominated film releases in Irish cinemas on January 26th.

Andrew Haigh first began working in the film industry as an assistant editor on films such as Black Hawk Down and Gladiator. Fast forward twenty-three years and he is directing Paul Mescal, star of the long-awaited Gladiator sequel, in his fifth feature film All of Us Strangers.

The film has received many accolades this awards season including a Golden Globes nomination for the film's lead actor Andrew Scott, as well as six BAFTA nominations. These nominations include Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director for Andrew Haigh, Best Supporting Actor for Mescal, and Outstanding British Film.

Haigh is no stranger to accolades, however. His 2015 film 45 years was also nominated for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs following the film’s premiere at 65th Berlin International Film Festival, where lead actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay took home the top acting prizes. His earlier films, such as as Weekend, have also received wide critical acclaim.

His latest film All of Us Strangers follows screenwriter Adam (Scott) who, after a chance encounter with his neighbor Harry (Mescal), is pulled back to his childhood home where he discovers that his long-dead parents are living and look the same age as the day they died. The original 1987 novel upon which the film is based, Taichi Yamada’s Strangers, took place in Tokyo, however Haigh’s adaptation takes place in current-day London. 

"Andrew is just such an extraordinary human being and anybody who comes into his orbit probably say very similar things." said Paul Mecal of his co-star Andrew Scott. "To have the amount of talent that he has and still radiate such like light and joy is a rare thing."

"I think he's the future of cinema," said Scott of Mescal. "It's just so wonderful to act with somebody who's so brilliant and then to have a new person in your life, to make a new friendship like this, is just incredibly special."

Joining Scott and Mescal in the cast are Jamie Bell (Snowpiercer) and Claire Foy (The Crown) as Adam’s parents. The film is being produced by Graham Broadbent (The Banshees of Inisherin), Peter Czernin (In Bruges), and Sarah Harvey (Seven Psychopaths).

We caught up with director Andrew Haigh to discuss what drew him to the Japanese source material, his cinematic influences (or lack thereof in this particular instance), and the process of casting the film’s lead.

IFTN: When you first read Strangers, what did you connect with in the novel that made you want to adapt it into a film?

ANDREW: “Yeah, it's funny. I think in the end, it was just that idea of meeting your parents again. My parents are actually still alive, which is obviously not what's in the story, but still it was the idea of reconnecting with your past, having a reunion with your past, and trying to unpick your childhood. Not all of us have had difficult childhoods, but lots of us have, and the chance to revisit that felt like a really good opportunity to talk about family, talk about love, and talk about relationships.”

IFTN: All of Us Strangers is such a singular experience, it’s very hard to trace its influences. Were there any films you had in mind while directing this feature?

ANDREW: “Yeah, it's weird. Normally, I have a lot of films I want to reference or have at the back of my mind. But for some reason, with this, I couldn't think of any, which kind of terrified me, but in a way that was kind of exciting! So I thought ‘You know what? I'm just going to tell a story that feels true to me, that works on an emotional level, and visually makes sense’. That was kind of liberating, actually, it was quite nice.”

IFTN: You’ve said in previous interviews that casting the lead was key, and that you couldn’t consider who to cast in other roles without casting the lead first. What drew you to Andrew Scott, and at what point in the film’s development did you start to think about casting him?

ANDREW: “I think the minute I finished the script, and we were talking about actors, I was talking to my casting director, we both brought up Andrew. He's a brilliant actor, and in the end, you just want really, really, really talented actors. I knew he would connect with the story, I knew he would connect with what we were trying to do, and when I sat down with him, he just loved it so much. He was absolutely perfect for it.”

IFTN: One last thing. A huge section of All of Us Strangers was filmed in your own childhood home. I imagine it must have been totally surreal. What was that like? 

ANDREW: “Totally surreal! It was very strange, very odd, emotional, cathartic, weird… You know, I'm 50 now and I hadn't been there for over 40 years. So going back to that place, it's a weird experience. I was saying this before, I think everybody should go back to their old childhood homes at some point in their life, just to just to remember that time. We don't escape our childhoods. It's very hard to escape our childhoods.”

All of Us Strangers releases in Irish cinemas on January 26th, 2024.

IFTA Q&A Series: Joanne O’Brien on Costume Design
IFTA Q&A Series: Eleanor Bowman on Cinematography
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