Posted July 1, 2011 by editor in News

FrightFest Week – A Lonely Place To Die: Julian Gilbey Interview

Having heard that A Lonely Place to Die is the closing film at this year’s Film 4 FrightFest in London we took a moment to chat with writer, editor and director of the film Julian Gilbey about what we and the crowds can expect.

Being the great grandson of the legendary Nigel Bruce was your youth filled with films?

Actually it wasn’t that film mad really, no more than any other household I suppose. Nigel Bruce died when my mother was very young and one of the last surviving pictures of him is with my mother on his knee.

So where did this love of film come from do you think?

I know exactly where it came from. It was when I was thirteen and our school got some video equipment that we could use to make our own movies. It was back in 1987 and there wasn’t any of this digital stuff, it was all done on tape. Nowadays everyone has some kind of digital camera that you can borrow or even buy yourself, but back then being able to get your hands on this stuff was much harder. The advent of the actual video camera enabled me and my brother to make our own movies and that, for me, changed everything.

Is this where you started doing everything from directing to editing to writing on your own?

Well I have a hugely talented brother who more than keeps me on my toes every time we work together.  Believe you me if there’s anyone alive that’s going to be honest with me and tell me that a sequence is going on too long or I need to change something it’s going to be Will. We basically push each other to make sure we have the best damn film we can at the end.

How would you categorise A Lonely Place to Die? Having made more urban based thrillers in the past is this a change of direction?  Is it more of a horror film perhaps?

I can say categorically say that no, this isn’t a horror film in anyway; this is an action, adventure thriller shot in the Scottish highlands. I’m not a city boy at all. Having grown up in the country I’m much more at home away from built up areas. The conclusion of Rise of the Foot Soldier was something I felt a great deal more of a connection with, trying to make the Range Rover killings as beautiful as possible. So no I don’t see this film as a departure for me at all. I mean you could do it in Battersea but for me to have a run and chase thriller in the mountains was perfect. I also feel that the idea of somebody trying to commit the perfect crime, why wouldn’t they do it in the middle of nowhere. Having visited the Scottish Highlands I knew I wanted it set there, so I see it as a return if anything.

Was there any real life event that actually inspired the film?

To be honest with you I had an idea for a totally different idea set in the mountains. So we went ahead and pitched that but in the mean time we actually came up with something different. Then we were told that they had sold the idea of the film being set in a mountain range and they could get us £3million. So I said; “You’re telling me we can get £3million, no matter what the story is, as long as it set in the mountains”, they said yes so we were like, perfect! The first thing we insisted on was to stay well away from any tourist spots when it came to Ben Nevis. My brother came up with the idea of finding a girl trapped in a box on the mountain and it originally had a very downbeat ending.  But once we changed the idea of them being walkers to mountaineers it just opened up the whole thing. Now they couldn’t just walk or run down the mountain to safety they would have to abseil and so forth, which allows for far more action and excitement.

Early buzz on the internet is really focusing on the amazing photography the film has, how challenging was achieving this given the extreme terrain?

The simple answer is; yes, it was one hell of a challenge but it’s all down to absolutely loads of preparation, preparation and then more preparation. Had we actually been shooting right now we would have been screwed as the weather up there is absolutely atrocious. Thankfully fate was with us and the entire time we were there we didn’t lose a second due to poor weather. That’s essentially how you make a £3 million film look like a £30 million film. We couldn’t afford to pay people to sit around in hotels and so forth waiting for the rain to stop. We had a helicopter that had to be used on two very specific days with absolutely no chance we could have them again after that. So essentially we were very lucky indeed.

Looking at the cast there are two names that jumped out at me and the first was Eamonn Walker from Oz, how did he come on board?

When he was first mentioned to me I didn’t really put a face to the name but once I realized who he was I was like, “What? Can we really fucking get him?” Thankfully he had done a lot of gun work on the film Lord of War so that was in our favour no doubt. He really loved the part and the script and initially when I had a chat with him I thought he would like to play one of the climbers. But the thing about Eamonn is he’s a totally fucking enormous guy, I mean he’s built like a house. The thing is that size and weight is not in any way a climber’s body, we were definitely not going down the Sylvester Stallone Cliffhanger route. His size and weight in that film means that there is no way on earth he would be a climber at altitude, no way on earth.  As regards Eamonn all I can say is that he’s just fantastic he was present for practically everything we shot and was totally into the project 100%.

The other name that jumps out at me is Home and Away’s Melissa George who is now well on the way to becoming a modern scream queen.

You know what, she was just fantastic. She came over and just got totally stuck in from the very first second. She started to climb and just got totally physically immersed into the part which was fantastic for us. Throughout the entire shoot which was undoubtedly challenging to say the least she didn’t complain about anything once, not a bloody peep, she was fantastic.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a horror film in any way shape or form but she totally became the character in every way. Once I heard about Frightfest I began to worry that people thought she would be running around with fangs or something.

Given that this isn’t a horror film how did you take the news of closing FrighFest 2011?

In the beginning I was asking myself do they know this isn’t a horror film? But from what I’ve heard the audiences they get are well and truly up for anything so I can’t wait personally. We have a few other events to attend before that and closing the festival is a true honour, without a doubt. I know the kind of growing reputation FrightFest has now and I hope people love the film, you know.

Are you going to be in attendance for a Q and A after the film?

Oh absolutely I am, I bloody love Q and A’s after films and don’t really understand why they wrap up after fifteen minutes. I’m still sitting there thinking to myself no; let’s stay for a couple of hours to talk more about the film. The audience’s immediate reaction to a film is fascinating and I cannot wait to hear what people think if it.

One last question, what would your reaction be if the Bond franchise called and wanted you to make the next film?

How on earth could you say no to that? I mean at times there’s nothing that will satisfy quite like a Bond film does. So, should they ever call, I think that it’s simply an offer you cannot say no to without a doubt.

Aled Jones