Interview - Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

Sweet Caroline

Writer and director Richard Curtis talks about music and movies to Paul Gallagher

Richard Curtis’s pirate radio romp The Boat That Rocked could be seen as a step into new territory for the Love Actually director, as it is noticeably free of his two main preoccupations up to this point: romantic love and Hugh Grant. But according to Curtis it is music that has been the true constant in his films. ‘I’ve used songs a lot in my films, but never as many as I’ve wanted, and whenever I listen back to the soundtracks they’re always full of very dodgy songs, which have obviously been put on by the record company to make up the numbers. So the idea of doing something about pop had been on my mind, and the thought of pirate radio stuck with me. I’m very interested in friendship, and I’m very interested, I suppose from my sitcom days, in extreme people in confined spaces, so it all just came together.’

The Boat That Rocked (pictured) revolves around a series of comic happenings onboard the fictional ship Radio Rock in 1966 and is, Curtis enthuses, ‘an incident-driven movie in the tradition of Animal House and M*A*S*H’. The film certainly takes a playful approach to reality, but behind the fiction Curtis holds strongly to the belief that music can change people. ‘Music brings out the greatest optimism in us, as well as sensitivity’, he says, ‘I’ve just come off Comic Relief, and when Take That came on and sang ‘The Garden’ we made £2m in three minutes, because actually pop music does sum up people’s feelings about life in an extraordinary way.’

Curtis sees no sense in looking back: ‘I’m not one for saying music was better in the old days,’ he says, praising Flo Rida and Lady Gaga in the same breath as The Beatles and Joan Armatrading. As to whether his musical appreciation may one day lead him to pen some tunes of his own, Curtis is reflective: ‘My great unfulfilled dream is to do a musical. I have an idea, I just haven’t got round to it yet.’ Looks like Mamma Mia 2 may have found its ideal director.

The Boat That Rocked is on general release from Fri 3 Apr. See review.

The Boat That Rocked

  • 2 stars
  • 2009
  • UK
  • 2h 14min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Richard Curtis
  • Written by: Richard Curtis
  • Cast: Tom Sturridge, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Talulah Riley, Chris O'Dowd, Rhys Darby, Ralph Brown, Jack Davenport, Kenneth Branagh

Life onboard the fictional 1966 pirate radio ship Radio Rock resembles a two-hour sketch show held together by popular songs of the era. Curtis clearly isn't aiming for realism, but his return to the big screen isn't exactly rockin', with a wasted cast of character actors and only Chris O'Dowd ('The IT Crowd') shining in…