Cinematical: 'Shopping' has a very different feel than your other movies, from its sort of dystopian aesthetic to its storyline. What were your primary sources of inspiration for the story and the overall look of the film?
Paul W.S. Anderson: I grew up in the northeast of England, in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and the whole subject of ram-raiding -- you know, stealing [a car] and joy-riding -- was very much a part of kind of that culture. It was big, big news when I was growing up, and it was happening even as we were making the movie as well. So that's the primary inspiration from the story, was a lot of the events in the film were kind of lifted from real-life events.
And my other primary influence was the movies that I had grown up watching. I felt that British cinema at the time didn't particularly serve a youth audience particularly well. It seemed to be encapsulated by movies like 'Chariots of Fire' or 'Remains of the Day,' you know, lots of period movies or lots of entrenched art house movies like 'My Beautiful Laundrette.' But if you wanted to see a kind of stylish film that spoke to younger people, you had to go outside of British cinema and watch an American movie or a French movie or a German movie, and I had seen a lot of European films, a lot of American films, so I took a lot of influences from those kind of films as well.
And the dystopian feel of it was [from growing] up in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne... The north of England is a very post-industrial area in that it was a very big iron and steel and ship-building and coal-mining area, and all of that heavy industry had kind of fallen apart, so I grew up in an environment that had a lot of industrial decay, and that kind of dystopian feel pretty much came from that -- again, from the environment I grew up in. And I also found a real beauty in it. I take a lot of photographs and stuff of abandoned buildings, and I think the movie -- and even watching it now -- it definitely has a kind of resonance to it and a beauty to it in amongst these kind of decaying, industrial structures.
I'm curious about the reception it got in the U.K. because it was censored and in some places banned, right? But it doesn't seem extraordinarily violent in the sense of what we see today.
[laughing] Well, it's not particularly violent in any kind of context. You compare it to the work of Sam Peckinpah, for example. It's not a particularly violent movie, but it dealt with a very controversial subject matter, at the time anyway, in the U.K., and I think it was a double whammy of that -- the fact that it was dealing with controversial subject matter plus it was made about and by young people. I think the establishment really responded badly to that, and it's not a particularly preachy movie. It doesn't take a moral stance that what these kids are doing is terribly wrong and they should be punished for it and they all go to jail at the end or anything like that, so it as seen as kind of reckless and anti-authoritarian. And I think those were the reasons it was -- it wasn't that it was banned, it's that the British Board of Film Classification, that gives you your rating, and you can't be released until you have a rating, they just refused to give the movie a rating, so it just sat with them while we missed release date after release date after release date.
It had a very detrimental effect on the film because we got a lot of very good publicity and positive publicity from certain media outlets; for example, all the kind of cooler youth magazines like The Face and i-D, they really loved the movie, so we got a lot of very good long lead press but then the movie never got released, so most people felt they'd kind of missed the movie. Even if they wanted to go and see it, they missed it, and by the time the film came out eventually, all of that great publicity was ancient history and all that was left was the frenzy of the press that really didn't like the movie, so there was a real firestorm of bad and negative press when the film came out in the UK, and I thought quite unfairly, because as you said, it's not like the movie is a terribly violent film. But the reviews were very unkind to it.
Actually, even though they thought they were being unkind, I thought some of the reviews were quite cool. I remember one review said that the movie was nothing more than a reckless orgy of destruction, and I loved that quote so much we actually put it on the film poster. Because I thought, well, what more do you want from a movie? If you're a teenager, a reckless orgy of destruction sounds quite good! And I just think that showed how out of touch some of the press was when they were looking at the movie.
Which is interesting because the things that you're describing -- the alienated youth, the reckless orgy of destruction -- we have a lot of American films about young punk rock kids like 'The Warriors' or 'Suburbia.' There are a lot of films like that here where we rented them in high school and felt like it was really cool.
Like I was saying, a lot of my influences came from American cinema or French cinema, because, again, in French cinema, there were loads of movies about rebellion and youthful rebellion and that didn't really exist in the U.K. at all, and it was really only after 'Shopping' -- I mean, 'Shopping' was kind of the thin end of the wedge in terms of movies that were about and for younger people, and then a couple years after 'Shopping,' there was 'Shallow Grave' and then there was 'Trainspotting,' and now of course there are lots of movies that fit into that kind of mold.
But 'Shopping,' when it first came along, was really the only thing that starred young, attractive people wearing leather jackets, with techno music and car chases, and I think that explains a lot of the press hysteria. They just hadn't seen anything like that come out of the U.K., and they thought it was wrong, that it shouldn't have happened. Our distributor in the U.K. was Rank, and it was the first Rank movie, I think, to be released without the Rank emblem at the start of the film, because they said that they were so ashamed of the film that they didn't want their logo sullied by an association with us. So you know you're not gonna get terribly good release of your movie when your distributor is ashamed of it.
That's a shame.
In many ways, it was the making of me because when the movie came out, we got a sh*tstorm of bad press in Britain, but actually the people who really liked it were Americans, I think that because there was a tradition of American cinema that this fitted into and they could understand it, but also American studios saw how kinda cool the movie looked made for virtually no money. It's what convinced me to move to the States and try my hand at being a Hollywood-based filmmaker... I felt that if I stayed in the U.K., I probably would never have made another movie.
Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow when Anderson talks about the 'Resident Evil' series, 3D and his upcoming 'Three Musketeers.'