Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish Talk Attack the Block, the Darling of the SXSW Festival
03.18.11 by Ryan
Of all the movies that premiered at this year's South by Southwest Festival (SXSW), none received more praise than Attack the Block, the British production about a group of kids who defend their apartment building from aliens. Collider called the movie "the best film at this year’s SXSW" while First Showing described it as "a riot" that "revs up with excitement, grounds with realistic characters, eases the tone with a bit of well-placed comedy, and still never loses sight of its subtext" and FilmSchoolRejects called Attack the Block "near genre perfection". There probably was a negative review, we just couldn't find one.
Written and directed by newcomer Joe Cornish, Attack the Block was executive produced by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), Cornish's screenwriting partner on upcoming projects Ant-Man and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. In an interview with IFC, Cornish explained that Attack the Block was influenced by the movies he and Wright grew up watching.
Yeah, I think our generation, we had [Steven] Spielberg and [George] Lucas making the best kids' adventure cinema there's ever been. In England, there was a particularly amazing period when home video first started when we were children where there was no certification. So you could go to the cinema and watch these incredible, historically good kids' films and you could go to a video store and we could watch Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Exorcist, and The Exterminator and then be completely traumatized by that stuff. So we grew up in a cool time in pop culture when none of it was really being reflected in our home culture. There's a lot of good genre stuff on TV in the UK, but for some reason in the '80s and '90s, it seemed to be abandoned. There's loads of good s**t in the '60s and '70s in the UK, but for some reason, the '80s and '90s is a bit of a dead zone.
Wright told Collider that part of his and Cornish's inspiration for their directorial debuts was to create genre movies in Britain.
So I think me and Joe both felt a similar thing when we wanted to get into films, and I agree with what Joe said: I made Shaun of The Dead in 2004, but I wanted to make a film — I had made a film in 1994 — for a long time before. And you look to a lot of other British filmmakers and a lot of foreign genre films (including America and Canada), and you’d think, "Oh, why can’t we make more of that stuff here?" So, I think that Shaun of The Dead and Attack The Block come from the same…they have the same genesis. Kind of like, "Wouldn’t it be great to sort of do this genre mayhem on our own doorstep?"
Cornish wanted to not only make a genre movie, but also wanted to blend it with reality. While talking to The LA Times, Cornish again discussed Spielberg's influence on the realism the director tried to include in Attack the Block.
People always talk about Spielberg's mastery of action sequences or suspense sequences, but he's an amazing drama director as well. So it struck me that Britain had this terrific realist tradition and no one had ever tried to do what Spielberg did, which is fuse that realist tradition with fantasy. And for me the best fantasy is grounded in reality. The more real the reality, the more convincing the fantasy element is.
The fantasy and reality certainly seemed evenly fused together in the trailer for the movie, which can be seen below.
So with all the positive response, and the help of Wright, why does Attack of the Block still lack distribution in the U.S.? The English slang is a hold-up for the American distributors, Cornish told the SXSW crowd after a screening. In Cornish's interview with Collider, the director was hopeful that a distributor will pick up the movie.
I made the film I wanna make, I’m very proud of it, and if a distributor in the U.S. is adventurous enough to pick it up, I think that’d be fantastic. I think it’s a British film — it’s not Battle L.A., it’s not Cowboys and Aliens — it’s a very particular film, and I think people will dig it. It’s just gonna take a distributor with a little imagination, and I hope someone does. I think it’s gonna be the cool little movie that you have to discover yourself, but as a consumer, that’s what I like. I tend to go not for the big movie that’s on all the billboards and being jammed down my throat. It’s always cool when you have that sense of discovery, and I would love for my movie to be a movie like that.
Attack the Block opens in the UK on May 13. Nick Frost (Paul), Luke Treadaway (Clash of the Titans), and Jodie Whittaker (One Day) co-star.