Director Tom Harper joins forces with screenwriter Nicole Taylor and a breathtaking Jessie Buckley to tell the story of an aspiring Glaswegian country singer who has to confront her dreams, balance them with the harsh reality of her surroundings and bringing up young children. We talked to Harper about his uplifting film.
What was it about Nicole Taylor’s script that drew you in?
The main thing for me was the central character, Rose-Lynn, who was so alive and appealing in her flaws and passions. She just leapt off the page at me. So it was that, combined with a great script and the fact I was looking for a project for Jessie Buckley who I’d worked with on a TV adaptation of War And Peace. I knew she was a formidable talent and it seemed like the perfect fit.
She’s dizzyingly good here and performs all the songs herself – did you know that she could sing like that?
I knew she could sing, but I didn’t know that she could sing quite like that. She’d never sung country music before, either! So that was certainly an element of risk, but at the same time, I knew that she could do it. She throws herself into each project she does and I was surprised by how quickly she got there.
Was it hard to juggle the tone of the film, to blend working-class realism with the more light-hearted moments?
Well, I knew I didn’t want it to fall into gritty realism. It was always about the character, who has magic inside her. And while I didn’t want to shy away from the reality of her surroundings, I also wanted to capture that magic.
It is an uplifting film, and it features the best hoovering scene since Mrs Doubtfire…
(Laughs) That’s a great poster quote! It was a fun set to work on. When you’re working with great people, it makes all the difference. And we shot in Glasgow, which is a wonderful and very generous city – there’s lots of music and joy, which created a great environment in which we could take risks and explore.
That joy transpires, and the music scenes in particular are really celebratory – were they all shot live?
Yes, we had some great musicians and we decided very early on that the music numbers should all be live. There is a cathartic feel that emerges from the music and these scenes, and they create such energy. Jessie had never planned to jump off the stage during one of the scenes, but she did because the moment took her. The crew were responsive enough with what Jessie was doing, so they were able to move quickly and get out of the way! (Laughs) Those moments are reliant upon a whole team working seamlessly together, and that can only happen if everyone is in tune with each other.
The film is also about the importance of family, and initially reluctant parenthood. Rose’s mum in the film is played by Julie Walters, who’s something of a British national treasure.
She was an absolute dream! Some people will come on for the bare minimum amount of time and sit in their trailer away from everyone. She was the opposite – she’d come on set, sit down, have a cup of tea and a biscuit, and chat away with everyone. She set the best of examples.
There’s a bit of marketing that stands out: some international posters for Wild Rose have as a tagline “You can forget A Star Is Born!”.
Of course, there’s a comparison to be made, but it’s not something we thought about when we were making the film. The thing about Wild Rose is that it does follow in some way quite a conventional structure – it’s a structure that has been told for hundreds of years in different forms, and that’s because that rags-to-riches story works. But what’s really different is that it’s a story of a woman in very particular circumstances, her mother and her children. It’s very rare that you see these kinds of films told, especially when dealing with the struggle of bringing up young children in the face of trying to fulfil your dreams.
Check our review of Wild Rose before you head out!
Wild Rose | Directed by Tom Harper (UK 2018), with Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters. Starts Dec 12.