‘Filth’ director returns to Peterhead
“It’s been a mad couple of weeks since I saw you last. We’ve had a big, glitzy London event which was amazing.
“My first film Cass had a Leicester Square premiere as well but this felt like a different ball game.”
Jon Baird, director of new smash hit film ‘Filth’ starring James McAvoy, is sipping a cup of coffee in his mum’s kitchen.
Buchan-born Baird is fast becoming one of the Blue Toon’s most successful sons.
He has made a pitstop at the family home in Peterhead in between international events.
After a quick hop over to Germany to promote his adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s black comedy with McAvoy, Baird is getting ready to fly to Scandanavia, Japan and Australia next month.
“We’re also negotiating a deal with the Americans just now, we’re just not sure who we’re going to sell it to,” he says.
“I’m kind of a control freak so I’ve probably driven the distributor crazy with the amount of emails I send about what’s happening.
“I don’t know how normally a director is involved, but I tend to be very involved because I’m the producer as well.
“I’m like Worzel Gummidge - I’ve got a different head on each day.”
Strip away all the glitz and glamour of Leicester Square premieres, nights on the town with A-list actors, producers meetings with Trudi Styler and a jet-set itinerary which would rival Mick Jagger’s, however, and you find a Peterhead boy through and through.
Baird wasa pupil right around the corner at Meethill Primary School.
He worked in a fish factory, at the slip yards and for the family roofing firm - a business still run by his sister Jane.
He spent time at university in Edinburgh and Aberdeen before he found his true calling: the movies.
“Pretty much the day I graduated from Aberdeen, I flew down to London to try and get into the industry.
“It took two years to do it - two years before I got my first job which was as a tea boy.
“I was doing things like telesales for two year. It was soul-destroying.
“I didn’t know how to break into the industry at all.”
But he did break in eventually and in 2008 released the well-received biopic ‘Cass.’
In the process he met Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh and pitched an adaptation of ‘Filth.’
Five years down the line and the Edinburgh-set filmed raked in a whopping £247,860 in it’s opening weekend in Scotland alone, double the figure for Danny Boyle’s ‘Trainspotting.’
Baird is deservedly proud of the finished product but did not anticipate just how successful the movie was going to be.
“I knew James was great but you never know how an audience is going to react.
“Having a great performance and having a great film are two different things.”
He pauses to sip his coffee.
“What helped us was that the early reviews were good.
“We started showing this to people in the industry back in February to build up buzz and it was getting good momentum at that time.
“By the time it was released people knew about it. Obviously we didn’t get a one hundred percent positive critical reaction, we got stung in places.
“The Daily Mail gave us a horrendous review but we were expecting that. It was too late by that point.”
Although sure of McAvoy’s performance - already generating award buzz - Baird was surprised by the wider reaction to the film.
It is no secret and will not surprise anyone who has seen the film that getting financial backing for ‘Filth’ was a challenge.
Investors were not clamouring to pump cash into a film which features explicit sex and violence, more than liberal use of vulgar language and a quite disturbing impression of Frank Sidebottom.
Audiences, however, have embraced the film. Particularly women.
“Scottish audiences have really supported us.
“We’re doing really well in Edinburgh and Glasgow and in Aberdeen every cinema is showing it.
“But it hasn’t just been Scotland. There’s no way to get into the top three of the UK box office just by being strong in Scotland.
“I didn’t think they’d react down south as well but it’s the number one film at Vue in Leicester Square right now - the humour seems to have crossed over the border.
He recants with glee the story of the film’s first test screening.
The team were unsure about the film’s soberingly dark climax and, to test the water, invited an audience in Milton Keynes in for a look.
“We sneaked McAvoy into the cinema. He was dressed up as an old man, he had this flat cap on with thick glasses and an old man’s coat. He sat next to me, watched the film, then left before the text scores.
“It was quite an amazing experience for us to sit with an audience watching it for the first time.”
For the director, who phones home and speaks to his mother and sister in broad doric every day, it was important family was involved.
Jane’s name can be found in the credits beside the title of ‘executive producer’ and Baird’s mum, now in here 70s, has seen the film.
“I was dreading showing her the film but regardless of what she thought she would have said she liked it because she’s my mum. Mum’s do that.”
Baird’s father passed away seven years ago, leaving his wife and two children the task of running the family roofing business, John G Baird Ltd.
“When my dad died she was a primary school teacher here and we were left in a situation where she had to leave teaching to run the business because I was down in London. She had to learn very quickly but she’s brilliant.
“She was faced with an uphill battle to make a success of a business which employed a dozen roofers.
“But she modernised it and found different clients. She kind of reminds me of the film Erin Brockovich - she’s really gutsy going from a primary teacher to a businesswoman.”
More than once Baird says his connection to the North East is as strong as ever and, although in the short term he is fully booked with projects, would love to bring his film crew back to Peterhead.
“We’re sitting here in the house I moved into when I was two. We grew up here.
“My old school firends are still here, I still keep in touch with them when I can and I was born in this area.
“It’s very much a part of me and that’s what’s made me the person I am.
“I would love to shoot up here. I wrote a script nine or 10 years ago called ‘Discovering Carlos.’
“It’s set up here - a comedy - and although it needs a lot of work I love the story - it’s a really cool story.”
In the short term Baird is working on adapting a true-life story for the silver screen and has acquired the rights to a recently-released novel and, excitingly, Welsh’s follow up to ‘Filth,’ the Miami thriller ‘Crime’ starring Jamie Bell’s character.
“That’s how it works - you finish one film and try and set up another one quickly before someone finds you out,
He takes one final sip from his mug and says, smiling cheekily: “I just hope I’m allowed to keep working and doing films.”
Given the success of his current movie and the trajectory of his career so far, there is very little standing in Baird’s way in his journey to the top.
Before long we may see the glitz and glamour of a Leicester Square premiere in Peterhead!