Lone Scherfig interview – One Day 0

by Joe Utichi for Fotogramas

Danish director Lone Scherfig may not be the most obvious choice to adapt David Nicholls’s very-British and very successful novel One Day for the screen. But the helmer – who made the critically-acclaimed films Italian for Beginners and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself – already had Brit hit An Education in the bag, a film that nabbed a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. She sits down with Fotogramas to discuss her approach.

The book is massively popular – is it challenging working on a film adaptation of something so beloved?
Yes, because people relate to it so much. It’s very hard not to get it wrong, because people will all have their own ideas about what the film should look like. But I think the best thing you can do if you want to do the book justice is to just make the best film you can with what you have. I think people know it’s not going to be exactly like they imagined.

Anne’s character is so prototypically British, but she’s American. Why did you choose her?
Whoever you’d have cast would have had an enormous influence on the film, probably more so than who you cast as Dexter, because David Nicholls, who wrote the book and the script, loves Emma so much. You can’t get it right, but what you can get is Anne’s warmth and her personality, and so it was about letting that permeate the film instead of trying to make it as perfect an Emma Morley as possible. I really like Anne’s interpretation of her.

We visit these characters once a year for more than 20 years. How do you manage all those time periods?
The biggest challenge of the job was making that look effortless and unnoticed. The changes do happen, and have to happen, but not in a way that overtakes the emotion. It’s so many time periods that it easily becomes heavy-handed if you don’t do it very subtly. It’s like having a 23-course dinner – if you feel the changes, at some point you want to say, “OK, I really want to go outside and have a cigarette!” But because of that device, I was forced to do something cinematic.

The film takes place in London, Edinburgh and France – is it nice to travel around with a project?
Absolutely! I got to go back to Scotland, where I love, and I got to go back to Paris. But I’ve shot so much bad television, that I know the chemistry comes out of the material, not the location. The best shooting days aren’t always when you’re shooting the Eiffel tower – it could very well be a small kitchen scene. Career-wise it’d be a really bad strategy to go for a film based on where it’s set. But, if I did, I’d look for a script set in Argentina! [laughs]

This is your second very-British film – do you feel like an honorary Brit?
[laughs] It’s harder in the UK than anywhere else to make people like the film, because it’s a British film and I’m forcing my view onto very British material. And I’m casting an American! I remember being worried about that with An Education, because Peter Sarsgard was American. But there was tolerance and I felt very welcome, so we’ll see. Bridget Jones was cast with an American, but [Renee Zelwegger] gained 20 lbs for the film. I feel like pointing out that I gained 20 lbs during this film too! I suppose that doesn’t really count!

Are you especially fond of Britain?
I think it’s fantastic. The way people behave on set, the work ethic, the actors, and the everyday life, it’s just a thrill to work there. There are so many people that it’s such a privilege to work with. And I love the rain!

Are there more British projects on the horizon?
Well, I have a project with the BBC. It’s called Music and Silence and it’s based on a Rose Tremain novel. But it takes place in Copenhagen! [laughs]

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