ScreenPicks recently spoke to director Richard Loncraine (Richard III, Firewall, The Gathering Storm) about his charming and entertaining new film Finding Your Feet. Starring Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie and Timothy Spall, the film focuses on finding rewarding relationships in the latter chapters of life.

What interested you in the project and the script?

Richard Loncraine: My agent asked if I would read a script that I might relate to. The writers and performers and I shared the same agency, so we met up and I liked them as much as I liked the script. Writers and directors don’t always see eye to eye as you know. And I felt that they had a really open-minded attitude and we got along very well straight away. That’s one important element – who are you going to work with?

I am an old man. I am 72 years-old, so to say I relate to grown-ups would be an understatement… But I feel quite strongly that a lot of older people should not consider themselves old. My back aches and it creaks a little bit in the mornings, so I feel old. I have probably as much energy as the young ones I work with. What I loved about the script was that it was about people starting again in the latter years of their life like teenagers do. It’s a coming of age movie, but a coming of age movie the other way around.

Were you involved with the casting of Finding Your Feet?

Loncraine: Absolutely. I have worked with the same casting director in London for 30 or 40 years called Irene Lamb, and we kind of grew up together. She’s a great person to have at my side. We cast Celia [Imrie] first because I had worked with Celia on Gathering Storm with Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave for HBO some years back. And I thought that she was a wonderful actress who should be playing lead roles and not just supporting roles. So I cast her first.

I had been trying to work with Imelda [Staunton] for years but it had never worked out. I had admired her skills and thought that she would be a great foil because they are very different sorts of people in real life.

Tim Spall has been a friend for 40 years. I gave him his first job out of drama school when he was 18… Tim has been in two or three of my movies in smaller parts. It’s all about chemistry. You hope it will work out. You can’t test people of their caliber. You have to take a stab in the dark. And it is quite frightening because if you get it wrong, there’s nothing you can do to fix it. So the god of films was hopefully shining on us…

What was it like to direct Ian McKellen in Richard III?

Loncraine: We’re still good friends. He owns a little pub down by the river. They were going to pull it down and he bought it. He runs it for the local community. He does a pub quiz every other Monday and we go down there and participate in the quiz. Ian is still a close friend.

I was really disappointed he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for Richard III. We went bankrupt halfway through making it. We had no money and we had to put our fees into it to keep it going. The American audiences were very generous. It didn’t make any money but Hollywood was very complimentary about it. It was a film of which I have very fond memories.

Can you describe what it was like to work with Harrison Ford in Firewall?

Loncraine: We got along very well. I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of Harrison as a director. He is such a consummate, skillful actor. A lot of the acting in that film was with no dialogue, but he can communicate stuff without dialogue. They see him in Star Wars and the big action movies. But if you look at his earlier work – his comedy stuff – it’s really impeccable. I was very fond of him and enjoyed working with him and hope we can do something again. He is someone I really like.

What was it like to direct Albert Finney as Winston Churchill in The Gathering Storm?

Loncraine: I actually turned the job down. I won an Emmy for Band of Brothers and HBO very kindly asked me if I would do this film about Churchill, and I thought I was not really interested. And then they said Finney was in it and then I said, “OK, I’m in.” I always wanted to work with Finney – he is one of the great actors of England or any other country.

Albert has a great sense of humor. I don’t employ actors I don’t really respect because it’s a long walk off a short pier – you’re going to end up very wet. So I always employ actors I have great respect for. And when they know I respect them – then teasing and joshing with them – they love it because they know deep down that you think that they are great in their jobs. So Albert and I would banter a lot on set – there was a lot of rudeness going on in the best way possible and it was one of the highlights of my directorial life to work with him.

Is there anything, in general, you would like to tell audiences about Finding Your Feet?

Loncraine: Without sounding pompous, it’s not a film that I wanted to change cinematic history. I don’t want to always make a movie that has a message or a sad ending. I just like to be entertained sometimes. I love cooking, but sometimes I enjoy a hamburger. Some days I want to spend all day making elegant French sauces.

I think the film could be criticized as being predictable and simplistic…But I think that it has heart. I think that an audience that goes and sees the movie will probably – if they are not cynical – walk out feeling better than when they went in and that was my simple intention.

Finding Your Feet opens in Southern California on March 30 at the following locations:

The Landmark 12, 10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles and Westpark 8 Cinemas, 3735 Alton Pkwy, Irvine.