Published on December 17th, 2014 | by Allan Brown0
Interview: Michael Smiley
It has been 16 years since Michael Smiley graced our screens as the raving bike courier Tyres O’Flaherty in Edgar Wright’s hilarious award winning comedy series; Spaced. From those small beginnings, Smiley has gone on to become one of the finest and most respected working actors in Britain today. His ability and range has seen him take on catalogue of varying roles from the comedic Burke and Hare and The Worlds End, to more serious dramas such as Black Sea, Luther, Black Mirror and of course Ben Wheatley’s Kill List to name but a few. Smiley is also an active voice for British independent film where he has be involved in many stunning smaller pictures such as Shell, For Those in Peril and the forthcoming My Name Is Emily.
Recently Michael was kind enough to grant me the opportunity to interview him on his stand-up comedy beginnings, his favourites roles, what and who inspires him and of course his future plans. Here is what he had to say;
From your early days as a stand-up comedian to now being one of the most respected actors and voices in the British film industry; it is safe to say you have come a long way. Does the lure of Hollywood appeal to you, and is it a transition you would like to make, or at least see yourself dabbling in, in the future?
Michael Smiley – For a start, that’s a very kind and generous view of my career!…Hollywood is the dream factory and my Da used to say “When yer dream becomes reality, it is a dream no more” Of course the idea of working in the States excites, but it’s always about the script, for me. I’ve been so lucky to have worked on some fantastic projects here…. I’d hate to travel that far and do something shite.
Which of your roles are you most proud of, and that has stayed with you the longest?
MS – I love Tyres…Tyres has been with me the longest, it’s unbelievable that people still recognise me from then, over 15 years ago. But I’d say I’m most proud of Pringle in Down Terrace, as it was my first film with Ben Wheatley and when I saw my performance, it was the first time I didn’t feel the hot ‘ping’ of embarrassment. I’m proud of all my characters from working with Ben, but Pringle was the first.
Which actor inspires you the most?
MS – Ben is a massive inspiration, he’s full of ideas and projects. He’s cut his own turf in the sense of he’s as much his own man as he can be. I love hanging out with him, he’s fucking hilarious and interesting and inspiring. He’s one of the good’uns and I know enough wrong’uns!…….
Neil Maskell is an actor and a man I admire tremendously, he has integrity and intelligence. His approach to a character is thorough, he takes his craft really seriously, so prepares accordingly and then goes and smashes it into the cheap seats. Plus he’s fucking great crack, one of the joys in life is to meet him for a coffee, tell stories and try to make each other laugh. Time is never wasted in Maskell’s company, I love him.
I’ve just finished a film called My Name Is Emily, written and directed by Simon Fitzmaurice, who has Motor Neurone Disease….completely incapacitated, locked into his body like Stephen Hawkins. He wrote this beautiful, funny, heart wrenching, soul enriching script and a BOOK , (called It’s Not Dark Yet ) using a retina recognition programme! Then he went on and directed the film with clarity and vision. He is a true inspiration.
If you were to be stuck on a desert island and all you were allowed to bring was 1 film, 1 piece of music and 1 book, what would they be and why?
MS – The Hill, my favourite film
Too Late To Stop Now by Van Morrison
London the Biography by Peter Ackroyd
You were a juror at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2014, how did you become involved and how was the experience?
MS – I was asked, it was great
You started off as a stand-up comic, moved into television (spaced) before your big break into the film industry in 2006 with Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Since then your career has flourished and you continue to immerse yourself in both TV and Film roles. I just wondered has stand-up for Michael Smiley vanished for good, or can we expect a comeback tour anytime soon – Edinburgh Fringe 2015?
MS – I’d love to do another one man show, at some stage in the future. But I’m an actor and that’s where my heart lies.
A question I often like to ask when interviewing people working in the industry is their opinion on the film industry of today. Do you think there is still an audience for smaller indie films in amongst the huge scale blockbusters that dominate the multiplexes? Is it becoming increasingly difficult to find finance for such films, and what do you think the future holds for the independent filmmaker?
MS – Mate, I’m an actor not a time traveller.
What was the last film you saw that left a lasting impression?
MS – Dogtooth.
If my sources are correct, it appear you have signed on to multiple projects with the fearless Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England), can you tell us what it is about this particular director that draws you both to collaborate so often , and can you tell us anything about the projects?
MS – Multiple projects?? Just one, Free Fire. Set in the 70s, I play an IRA gun runner, along with Cillian Murphy. We go to Boston to do a deal…… It gets ‘awkward’……. I work with Ben because he asks me….He’s the Hannibal to my Murdoch.
What draws you to a film project and indeed compels you to sign on to it? Is it your faith in the director, the script you have been handed, the cast involved or do you simply like taking a risk?
MS – It’s the script, then the director.
Would you consider making the transition into directing and if so what kind of films would you see yourself making?
MS – I’ve written a short film script, which I’m directing next year, hopefully. I’m intrigued by directing, but not compelled, to be honest. I still find acting far more interesting and exciting…..at the moment.
Your most recent film Black Sea (out now in cinemas) is set aboard a Russian submarine, did you have to do any formal training before the shoot and can you tell us what it was like working with such a great ensemble of talent – Kevin MacDonald, Jude Law, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn.
MS – I had no training for the role, I took inspiration from my father, who was a submariner in his youth…..Ben Mendelsohn, Bobby Schofield and David Threlfall all had diving training, which looked fun and arduous at the same time! I had such a brilliant time working with everybody, to be in such close quarters to great actors acting was very exciting!….Kevin is a brilliant director and importantly, an adept ego wrangler!
And finally, do you have any words of advice for would be filmmakers who want to break into the industry?
MS – Keep going….. Don’t compare yourself to other actors and their careers, you should be too busy working on your own, to have an opinion on someone else’s garden.
Interview By: Allan Brown