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411 Talks w/Leslie Simpson About His New FilmA Reckoning

November 6, 2017 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
A Reckoning

The 411 Interview: Leslie Simpson

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Leslie Simpson is a British actor, writer, and director who has been making movies since 1999 (according to imdb. Simpson has appeared in movies such as Dog Soldiers, The Descent, and Doomsday, and has directed the short films Grandpa and Halfway House. Simpson stars in the thought lost post-apocalyptic film A Reckoning directed by Andrew David Barker (check out my interview with Barker here). Simpson recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk with this writer about A Reckoning, moviemaking, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved with A Reckoning?

Leslie Simpson: From what I remember it was a Facebook approach. I was sent a private message from a novelist I’d met at a horror convention asking if I’d be interested in reading a script. Speculative scripts are often disappointing, and, to be honest, you get a fair idea of the quality of the writing in the first few pages, so it’s easy enough to make excuses and say “I read it, but good luck an’ all that it simply isn’t for me.” I’d met him and he seemed a nice guy, so I said yep, sure.

The script was only about 50 pages long, some of the voiceover and grammar was clunky, and on the surface very little seemed to be happening, but it had an undeniable quality that I responded to, so I kept reading. And then, somewhere around page 18, when the main character is hit in the face with a paper ball (that probably makes no sense whatsoever) I was hooked. It had the potential to be a unique piece of work that could break through the white noise of no budget genre flicks. I got back in touch, arranged to meet with Andy the director in York and we took it from there. I discovered that it was Andy’s story, but the first draft of the script – the one I’d read – was written by a colleague.

BK: How difficult was it to make a movie where your character is basically the only character in the movie for most of its running time?

LS: It was relatively easy. I’m generally quite insular as a human being, spend most of my time in my own little world, rarely leave the house and go out of my way to avoid meeting new people. Leslieland is my womb, my comfort blanket. As it happens I now live on Moonbase Alpha; possibly the most remote Town on Planet Earth, literally a thousand miles of hostile nothing in every direction. I mean literally. It’s a paradise with scars.
In the words of a great philosopher, “I’m a loner, Dotty, a rebel”. It’s counterproductive for the film industry, but was a useful personality trait for the character.

BK: How much of your performance in A Reckoning was pure improvisation by you and how much of it was direct collaboration with director Andrew David Barker?

LS: Everything was direct collaboration with Andy. Film is a collaboration. It’s unavoidable. We spoke at length during pre-production until we were both happy with what I would bring to the shoot. Before each scene we discussed where the character was at that point, and what Andy wanted.
Beyond that, the moment the cameras rolled, he left it to me. There’s no denying that most of the dialogue and action emerged spontaneously during the scene, but we were both clear about the intent and aim from the outset. Without that collaborative approach it could have been chaos, but it turned out to be simple, clear, very swift, and a joy.

BK: Just how cold was it running in the snow?

LS: It was normal snow temperature for mid-winter in England. That scene was entirely off the cuff. I wasn’t really taking lunch breaks because there was no point – I wasn’t eating anything – so Andy and Kraj (the DOP) would often come up with a new scene and we’d sneak off and shoot it.
We’d just smashed a few lemons (I think it was lemons?) at the straw kids with a cricket bat and were making our way back. I heard Andy and Kraj mumbling behind me about how good it would be if they could grab “The Lone Man running naked in the …” Before they could finish their thought I was peeling my clothes off and raced into the nearest field giggling like a child with the two creative heads in hot pursuit. Making snow angels whilst naked is liberating.

BK: What sort of apocalypse do you think The Lone Man is experiencing in A Reckoning?

LS: The bad sort. I’m interested in questions, and projects that interest me aren’t afraid to leave the audience hanging. The original script did reveal more than we ended up shooting. Andy and I spent a long time drilling into the voiceover to create an enigmatic piece. I have a theatre background, and one discovers in that medium that not joining all the dots engages a different energy in an audience and makes them work. On the whole, it’s what’s been missing from cinema in my view.

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BK: Which straw person was your favorite to “interact” with? Least favorite?

LS: Due to ongoing litigation my solicitor has advised that I’m not at liberty to divulge what happened between the straw persons and myself. As you can imagine, I strongly deny any wrongdoing. But if I ever see that little toerag again …

BK: What’s the difference between working on something like A Reckoning and something like Doomsday or Dog Soldiers?

LS: The hotel room.

BK: You’ve made several genre movies in your career. Is working in genre entertainment something you’ve deliberately pursued or is it something you just sort of fell into? What kind of movie haven’t you been in that you would really like to get a shot at?

LS: From a young age I had a suspicion I would have some involvement in genre movies. I had extremely hairy arms (well, perhaps ‘furry’ is a better description) when I was very young, and the other kids on the street where I lived would call me “The Werewolf.” I used to tell them I’d be in a Werewolf film one day. Decades later, I was. I’d like to be in a film where I don’t vomit, die, or have something gratuitous happen to my head.

I’m never satisfied, and never think I’ve been stretched to my limit. I’m a masochist creatively, and lazy socially, so a Werner Herzog movie could be a good fit. Not really. I don’t know. What was the question again? Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

BK: You’ve directed two short films so far. Is directing a feature film something you want to do?

LS: I last sent a letter to Santa when I was about 8 years old, so I won’t second guess what the future has in store. I struggle to stay in the present, and take each day as it comes, and have no expectations or ambitions. Obviously I’m as rubbish at being in the present and having no ambition as I am at acting… and interviews.

BK: Who are your moviemaking heroes?

LS: I don’t really have heroes, and never have. Well, there’s no one I try to emulate, if that’s what a hero is? There’s an incredible number of filmmakers whose work I admire and wish I could be half as good. I don’t know if that’s the same thing? If so, we’d be here all week. We live in a shrill age where we can be declared a “genius” simply by kicking a football in a straight line, and life is declared “awesome” the moment we agree which pub to meet at for a beer. I don’t want to buy into that. Innovate, don’t imitate. That’s easier said than done, but it’s worth the effort and a good maxim to live by, even if no else pays attention – but obviously better if they did.

I doubt we’ll see another Da Vinci or Michaelangelo, who incidentally were funded by the Medici and the Borgias, two of the most notoriously criminal and perverse families in history. I’m going off topic.

I like Jason and the Argonauts.

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BK: Any upcoming projects that you can divulge?

LS: I’ve been given development money for a shocku-mocku-documentary that I’m working on, and that seems to be moving forward. There are a couple of other projects that seem to be generating interest, but I don’t wish to speak about anything that may or may not come to fruition. Suffice to say, I’m grateful for the recent upturn in my fortunes and the support (financial and social) I’m getting.

My favourite bit in Jason and the Argonauts is where that bloke with a spear hits that man with one eye and he falls over. That was funny. Or am I thinking of Sinbad? Woah, I’ve just had Deja vu.

BK: What the hell are you eating in the teacher’s break room in A Reckoning? What is in that little tin can?

LS: Paul Newman’s vegetarian liver pate in elbow grease.
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I want to thank Leslie Simpson for agreeing to participate in this interview and david j. moore for helping set it up.

You can check out Leslie Simpson’s Facebook page here and Twitter page here

You can check out the Facebook page for A Reckoning here.

All images courtesy of Andrew David Barker.

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