Pride hit cinemas from last week (September 12). It chronicles the true story of how London-based activists LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) joined forced with picket line protesters in 1984. They were united against a trio of common enemies: the Margaret Thatcher Government, the police and the tabloid press. Speaking after a special Flare screening of the film at the British Film Institute (attended by many people who took part in the demonstrations and events Pride depicts) the film’s producer David Livingstone was joined on stage by three members of the cast. American actor Ben Schnetzer plays the group’s young Irish leader Mark Ashton. Faye Marsay appears in the film as Steph. Adam Scott (Moriarty in TV’s Sherlock) stars as Gethin. Together they revealed the story behind the making of the film.
How did the idea for the film come about and how long did it take to reach the screen?
David: “Stephen Beresford pitched me a fantastic story but started by saying he thought it would never get made. It was a story that hadn’t been told… It took about three years from the initial idea to the screen. We had to wait on director Matthew Warchus as he was working on Matilda in the West End. We were eventually lucky enough to shoot in Wales for ten days and filmed in the village where the events shown in the film actually took place.”
Did you get to meet the real people you brought to life on screen?
Andrew: “I met the real Gethin… It was really important for us. And Mike Jackson, who is played by Jo Gilgun, came to a rehearsal and gave us a very eloquent speech about what life was like in 1984. And a lot of the people who were on the Gay Pride march in 1985 were involved as extras when it was recreated for the film. Gethin is actually an amalgam of two characters. Unlike the film the real Gethin’s mother is a gay rights activist but she was incredibly supportive.”
Faye: “I met Steph at the UK premiere before the film so don’t know if she hated me in it or not! It was quite emotional. It’s a big responsibility because you want to honour these people and their achievements and belief in human beings. It was a privilege to be a part of an important film like this one.”
Ben: “Mike Jackson was instrumental on illustrating to us what the world was like back then. He gave me all the information I needed to understand his relationship with my character Mark Ashton. It was a crash course in the history and politics of that time.”
Ben, being American how tough was it nailing Mark’s strong Irish accent?
Ben: “I watched Daniel Day Lewis in In the Name of the Father about twenty times! Once I got the part I was able to study footage of Mark Ashton speaking and Mike gave me a recording of him talking at rallies. I had that on loop throughout the entire shoot. A lot of British actors go over to the US and do great American accents so it was the least I could do!”
What are your hopes for the film now?
David: “After all the great reactions at festivals I hope we can get the biggest release possible worldwide. Russia might not be so fantastic… But the film has been received warmly in Germany and France. It feels like the momentum is building and it’s something money can’t buy. If people love a film then it will chart its own course.”
It’s an emotional story… What was it like seeing yourselves on screen for the first time?
Andrew: “I first saw the finished film at a screening room with Imelda Staunton (who plays Welsh villager Hefina). I found it totally overwhelming and knew it was going to be special. There’s something about the cumulative effects of the events in the story. I’ve seen it four times now and I’m deeply affected every time.”
Faye: “I cried 10 seconds in and cried throughout… I even cried when it was funny because I’ve got very close with the people that made this film. The sense of community on set was massive.”
Ben: “My best friend put me on tape for the first audition. Seeing it with a room full of people at the premiere was unforgettable.”
Was George McKay’s character Joe based on a real person?
David: “He is fictionalised but weirdly when we were at the Electric Ballroom (where the benefit gig scenes were shot) for a photocall I met a guy called Joe who was a member of the LGSM. He did say he was very similar to that character. We made him up but somehow he exists!”
What will the impact of the film be? What are you hoping for?
Adam: “We were determined that it would be a mainstream film. It’s not an arthouse film. It is about union politics and gay history but it’s also a story populated by a huge amount of diverse characters from eighteen year olds to eighty year olds. That’s a big demographic.”
David: “The hope is that we will appeal to a much wider audience than you would normally expect.”
Pride is a film about our political past but what lessons should we take forward to our political future?
Faye:“The clue is in the word activism. I’ve been talking about this with Ben… Our generation just aren’t getting up and being active about what they believe in. It’s not enough to sit behind your phone on social media. I’m not doing it down, it’s a wonderful tool but to share a link and say I’ve done my bit and then go back to what you’re watching… I’ve met people who, after they’ve seen the film, say they’ve felt empowered to do something. There’s fire and there’s heart in this film for the younger generation.”
Ben: “We’ve never lived in a time where information has been so readily accessible but it seems that action and activism is dying out. It’s not enough to type a little something on Twitter. This film is about a group of young people who had an idea and literally beat the bricks and took to the street. That’s an ambition that we have for it…”
Adam: “Stop taking selfies. Take pictures of other people!”
What was the most emotional scene to film?
Ben: “There were scenes I’d only read and not seen filmed so when I watched the film for the first time the part where Gethin meets his mother for the first time in years hit me. Leading up to that it’s interesting watching a film you’re in but then a loud cry came out of me.”
Faye: “Andrew does that in two words. “Hello Mum.” But the whole thing is overwhelming for me.
Andrew: There’s a scene in the film at the village hall where a young girl leads the singing of ‘Bread and Roses’. I’ve got to take some credit for that. I spotted Bronwen on The Voice. She was singing a Welsh song on the show but none of the judges turned around. I mentioned her to the director Matthew Warchus so I feel very proud if that. I think it’s one of the most extraordinary scenes in the film.”
Pride is soundtracked by music from the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and The Smiths. Tell us about the film’s score…
David: “Chris Nightingale worked with Matthew on all of his musicals. He integrated choirs and the Tredegar band. We shoved a choir in the middle of a Billy Bragg song that features on the end credits but thankfully he loved it! And before we shot the film Matthew called me and said he’d found a track that could be the basis for the score. It was called ‘For a Friend’. By coincidence Stephen had told me about it a year earlier… Jimi Somerville wrote a song called ‘For a Friend’ with The Communards for Mark Ashton. I get emotional thinking about it. Of all the tracks in the whole world he could have chosen he gravitated to the one song that was actually about one of the film’s main character Mark Ashton. It’s the most amazing thing…”