Deborah Curtis interview October 2007
Questions about the Control Movie (UK release October 5th 2007)
Lee McFadden interviews Deborah Curtis October 2nd 2007
Introduction by Lee McFadden:
This is Deborah’s only interview since the “Control” world premiere. Most of the questions were posed before I saw the movie – a few at the end were presented afterwards. The interview was conducted by email.

Many thanks to Deborah for agreeing to this and for being so co-operative throughout.

This interview is in conjunction with the Morning Star – a link to the article can be found
(C) Copyright Lee McFadden
Part One:
Now that “Control” has generated ecstatic reviews, and has already won awards at Cannes, how has your involvement in the depiction of Ian’s life on screen affected you?

My involvement has been hard work and a steep learning curve. I’ve learnt a great deal about the film industry. The extra research that was done in preparation was enlightening regarding not just epilepsy but depressive illness as well. It’s twenty seven years since Ian died and there is still a lack of finance for mental health services in this country.

Even before work began on the film, Jude Law was rumoured to be featuring as Ian, and at one stage Tony Wilson mentioned a possible starring role for an “Irish actor currently working in Hollywood”. Now the film is complete, can you comment on who were originally approached and how close they came to fulfilling the roles?

I’m not sure who Tony was talking about. He was good at creating a buzz wasn’t he? Sam Riley attended a casting session set up by the casting director, Shaheen Baig.

In retrospect, do you feel the final castings were ultimately the most suitable choices for the film?

It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing those parts now. It was a masterstroke finding someone who could sing and actors so dedicated as to rehearse as a band the way they did. I’m seriously impressed.

Did you particularly spend a lot of time with Samantha Morton to help with her portrayal of you?

No, Samantha used the book and her own experiences as a mother and made the part very much her own without my personal influence. We met after shooting began and I think she was right to stipulate that. She’s awe inspiring and I was so pleased when she agreed to take the role.

Were there any points on set where you felt you had to step in and redeem the situation for accuracy, or did you go along with Tony Wilson’s maxim of “If you have the choice between the truth and the legend, film the legend”?

Any differences of opinion regarding the script were ironed out at the screenwriting stage. Of course, it’s part of the format that often a tale has to be modified in order to give an impression of what happened rather than recount in endless, precise detail. It must be the same with most films. Some scenes are changed during filming because in reality it just doesn’t work or because the Director can see a better way of doing it. Even at the editing stage there’s plenty of scope for swapping and dropping scenes. I think Tony’s blasé attitude applied mainly to how he himself was portrayed. I don’t know if he ever regretted that. Probably not.

The actors who played the band performed the songs live in the film. From your recollection of Joy Division gigs, did the actors’ performances reawaken any memories for you?

Those memories never went to sleep. I enjoyed seeing the actors perform the Granada studio session where Tony introduces them. In reality I’d had to watch that on our little black and white TV screen at home; so seeing it ‘for real’ was exciting for me. Everyone on set clapped when they’d finished and it was very emotional.

During filming, a fan wrote in a blog that he saw you on set during the scene in Barton Street where Samantha Morton portrays you crying for help. As harrowing as it must have been to have seen that recreated, was it a need of yours to be there to authenticate the scene?

I didn’t cry for help in that way. I was in shock and it was all I could do to call Pam, my neighbour who was out in the street at the time. Apart from shouting her name I was speechless, I couldn’t even bring myself to tell her what I’d seen. I don’t remember speaking for the rest of the day but I suppose I must have. There were some scenes where I wasn’t present on set, including that one. In some cases this was to save my discomfort, in others because it might distract the actors. That scene was a difficult one, how to get across what it felt like isn’t easy.

In our previous interview, you were hoping that the actor who played Ian would be “Good looking, and have at least some of the charisma that Ian had”. Does Sam Riley fit those criteria in your eyes, and was he your personal choice?

The film process was new to me and as far as casting goes it was important I invest some trust in the casting director and in Anton. Sam was taped initially and then called back for another meeting and offered the part. He’s good looking in a different way than Ian but the hair and makeup people completed the effect. The most important thing was that he had that raw, inexperienced quality that Ian had.

How do you feel about the scenes in the movie relating to Ian’s time with Annik Honore? Did you have the chance to discuss these scenes with Anton Corbjin – or indeed, with Annik herself – or were your first glimpses of these scenes at the completion of the film?

I knew basically what the scenes would be because I’d read the script. I didn’t feel the need to discuss those scenes with Anton once the script was approved. I’d already seen some of the scenes before the film was completed, and was shown them in my capacity as co-producer. That was more in respect of seeing how it looked on the screen than analysing the content.

Do you feel overall that the film has fully risen to the standards and aims you wished for prior to shooting? You particularly wanted it to show how Ian coped with epilepsy.

The film successfully portrays how Ian and those around him tried to cope with his epilepsy. I particularly like that it shows how the roadies took care of him and worried about him as he tried to carry on. Epilepsy can be managed and monitored and is not always a long term illness, but there was and still is so little out there to help with any associated depression. Ian was surrounded by people who loved him but in the end I think he was failed by the mental health service.

You said that once the film was released it could enable the story to be told and that you personally could “move on”. What with Joy Division’s influence becoming more apparent in contemporary music, plus the likes of Lindsay Reade and Paul Morley retelling their memories of the period, and the news that another film “All The Time” is currently being worked on – do you feel that moving on could ever be possible?

I have to move on. I owe it to my family.

In the light that Ian’s influence and creativity is being celebrated in this way, how do you feel about the current differences of opinion between the rest of the group?

Whatever their differences of opinion they certainly didn’t allow it to spoil their work on the film. It’s sad if they have fallen out. They should be chilling at this stage.
Part Two:
Samantha Morton said at the premiere that she took much of the on-screen persona of yourself from the book and the script. Do you approve of her portrayal as you?

I approve of her portrayal but I was more timid than that. Had I been less accepting of Ian’s behaviour and more pushy I think things would have come to a head sooner. That’s not to say to a different conclusion.

What are your feelings on the way Ian’s final scenes were filmed? The fit just prior to his demise seems to raise a few questions…..

No one knows exactly what happened to Ian in his last few hours apart from the contents of his final letter to me. The sequence in the film is slightly different in that Ian mentions the dawn and the birdsong in his letter. It’s certainly possible that he had a fit prior to killing himself.

There is news of a new documentary put together by Jon Savage. It features contributions from various people, including all members of the band. Were you approached for this?

I was approached for the documentary but I didn’t want to be filmed so they’ll use some extracts from my book instead. It’s going to be both a funny and moving documentary with some lovely footage of the people in Ian’s life.
(C) Lee McFadden 2007    

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