A five-time Oscar nominee and BAFTA winner and the only British director to have won the top prize at both Cannes (for Secrets & Lies
) and Venice (for Vera Drake
), Mike Leigh is unquestionably one of world cinema’s preeminent figures. First trained in theater, Leigh devised his own method for the making of first plays and then films, based on months of improvisation and rehearsal with actors prior to shooting. Leigh’s actors invent characters based on real people, each unaware of what the other is up to or the larger design Leigh has in mind.
In their commingling of bleakness and humor, Leigh’s films re-create the tragicomic world of people whose everyday lives are far from glamorous: a world in which “the done thing” usually prevails, contrary to our inner hopes, wants, or needs. Leigh’s work has always reflected its times and entered the vernacular, whether the harsh studies of Meantime
or the humor of the now legendary Abigail’s Party
and Nuts in May
. Above all, Leigh is an accomplished storyteller, and these films deal with universal themes: births, marriages and deaths, parenthood and failed relationships, families and their secrets and lies. Leigh speaks to Amy Raphael more openly than ever before about his life and inimitable working method, revealing himself as passionate, wise, and the owner of a dry and playful Mancunian wit.