Atom Egoyan on Guest of Honour

Atom Egoyan on Guest of Honour

Canadian director discusses his latest drama ahead of its premiere on Curzon Home Cinema

Quirky and complex family melodrama Guest of Honour first premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year, going on to have screenings at festivals like the Toronto Film Festival and the London Film Festival. Taking place in several time periods, with various flashbacks throughout, the film opens with Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira) meeting with a priest (Luke Wilson) to discuss the details of her father's (David Thewlis) funeral. But this soon turns into an long winded exploration of a complicated father-daughter relationship, personal trauma and grief. We caught up with director Atom Egoyan to find out more about the film ahead if its screening on Curzon Home Cinema.

Guest of Honour revolves around Jim, a food inspector played by David Thewlis. Did you write it deliberately as a black comedy?
I thought so. I just thought there was something about the nature of a job – a food inspector – and how methodical he was about it, the standards he was trying to keep. There was something about his personality. Having David, I always felt it was quite grim, quite funny.

Why did you choose a food inspector as a lead character?
I opened a bar – a cinema bar – about fifteen years ago, in Toronto. It's called Camera Bar. And we were serving food as well, so we had inspectors. I was suddenly struck by how much power they had. And that there were certain things that, if they'd found, they can shut the restaurant down. In fact, if there were people there, they could ask the people to get up and leave!

Did you want to create someone who was a slightly invisible man?
Yes. I'd done it before with insurance adjusters or tax auditors and customs agents. These are other professions I've explored. But this one was attractive because he's moving around the city, and he really makes the decision as to what sort of dialogue he's going to create with these owners. For someone who is as lonely as he is, there's this community that's created but it doesn't really last.

What made you want to cast Thewlis as Jim?
I felt that there was this combination of warmth and malevolence that he was able to inflect the character with. And he just responded so well to the script and possibilities. I also felt this with Ian Holm [in The Sweet Hereafter] – you have these brilliant actors who don't have the baggage of having a star career. It allows the audience a relationship with them that's quite unusual.

Available to watch on Curzon Home Cinema from Fri 5 Jun.