Ghosted - Art Malik, John Lynch & Craig Viveiros interview
Prison drama's strong cast includes Martin Compston and David Schofield
This article is from 2011.
It’s unfortunate that if actors of the calibre of John Lynch and Art Malik want a meaty role in a British feature film, the odds are that firstly, it’s going to have to be set in a criminal world of some description and secondly, it’s more than likely going straight to DVD. Craig Viveiros’ Ghosted is a peculiar case in that it’s getting a simultaneous release in cinemas, on demand and on DVD. The prison-set film, Viveiros’ first feature, stars John Lynch as Jack, an inmate nearing the end of his sentence who takes a softly-spoken newcomer Paul (Martin Compston) under his wing. In an environment where ‘you don’t ask anyone what they’re in for’, the two have some surprises for each other and brutal violence is in the air from the off. Malik’s character is the seemingly benevolent Ahmed, whose motivations in stirring the pot are never quite clear.
Ghosted premiered at EIFF and I spoke to star (and first-time executive producer) Malik, about the film’s multi-platform release. He explained, ‘The reality today to me is, I look at a generation that doesn’t worry about whether it’s on DVD because there’s a whole generation that watches television on computers.’ Regardless (or perhaps because) of the ever-more-common approach, Malik is glad for the film’s exposure at EIFF. ‘This is great for us. What better platform can you have? A UK film at the Edinburgh Film Festival, probably the best film festival we have. The film has a fantastic launch, it’s seen by everyone that needs to see it and then we go and bring it out to the general public.’ These days, the actor is happy striking the balance between working on big Hollywood productions like Sex and the City 2 and low-budget, character-focussed films (as he puts it, ‘The bagel budget for Sex and the City 2 could pay for Ghosted.’). Malik took a key role in getting the film made, after working on one of the director’s shorts as a favour to his daughter. He explains, ‘If I’ve been instrumental in helping get it made, that is something I’m proud of. I’m as proud of that as I am of all the other stuff that I’ve done.’ However, he’s keen to point out that ‘the film was made because of the response to the script,’ which allowed himself and other esteemed character actors (David Schofield and many other familiar faces also appear) a chance to flex their muscles.
Lead actor Lynch picks up the thread, ‘What struck me about it was how character-driven it was. There seemed to be great scope in it just to let actors work and its power was evident.’ When I meet them, he and writer/director Craig Viveiros haven’t seen each other since the end of the shoot. They both feel the prison setting was a way of exploring universal themes. Viveiros says, ‘Being in that kind of environment, where it’s almost Darwinist, it can push people to the boundaries of what they think they’re capable of.’ Of his character, Lynch adds, ‘He’s a man who is quite isolated and the journey of his character in the film is the breaking open of that, but it’s at a tremendous cost. I think everyone’s been there at some point in their lives, I certainly have.’
Viveiros is diplomatic when I quote the festival programme’s description of the film as ‘Alan Clarke’s Scum, updated for 2011’. ‘That might be a slight generalisation. Scum is centred more on one character, [In Ghosted] John is the lead character but there are also the lives of other characters in the story.’ Certainly, Ghosted is a different breed of film, even if it has all the elements that these days tick boxes for glowing red top reviews. The director is glad for the opportunity his solid (if ultimately not genre-busting script) has afforded him to work with the likes of Lynch and Malik. ‘I’m a first time director. I feel blessed to have had people like John to work so hard, especially because it made it easier for me!’
For Lynch, the film has wider implications that mark it out from the throng. ‘Preparing for it, we talked about the issue of violence and rage that lies within men, in general. In general, modern men have a huge incapacity to express themselves, to be emotionally clear, emotionally vocal. And I think that’s what the script captures brilliantly. Also, the tremendous power of male rage, the potency of anger and the cost of it.’