Blinded By The Light filmmakers talk Bruce Springsteen and Brexit
Bruce sings about not letting the hardness of the world stop you from letting the best of you slip away.
My hope is to build a bridge to my ambitions, but not a wall between my family and me.
Purpose of your visit?
I'm going to see Bruce Springsteen's hometown.
I can't think of a better reason to visit the United States and to see the home of the boss.
Hey a Partrick Holand and we're joined today by the writer and director of the film Blinded by the Light and the author of the book the film is based of.
So I would say plus but no one is [UNKNOWN] about me.
So I have calendar [UNKNOWN]
Thank you everybody [UNKNOWN] okay?
So you are a film maker when my [UNKNOWN] very beloved with the hair.
And so, [UNKNOWN], you are a journalist.
But also an author.
But also a documentary filmmaker.
I wear a lot of different hats.
You also dance.
[LAUGH] What would you.
Depends on what the price you're paying is.
But primarily a writer i was yeah i'm basically a writer storyteller and it just happens that in different ways you tell storeys in different ways yeah so we're here to talk about blinded by the light so you guys to start me off like tell me a little bit about the film so the film is a set in britain in Luton and it follows the storey of Jarvis who's 16 it's 1987 times a hard lot of unemployment The rise of the right wing National Front party.
And for Jarvid and his family, who are Pakistani, there's not a lot of money around.
The father's been laid off from a General Motors subsidiary, Vauxhall.
And Jarvid has a dream.
He wants to Right and be a writer.
But as far as his parents are concerned, that's not a proper job.
That's a luxury for people who have money.
He needs to get out there and become an estate agent or realtor or something like that and bring money to the table.
And on a particularly depressing day when things aren't going his way he's supposed to give up writing And someone has given him a cassette to listen to and he puts this cassette in his Walkman when he's feeling very low and it's Bruce Springsteen and suddenly the world is music of Bruce Springsteen talking and speaking to him.
And through those words and lyrics he learns to find his own mojo, find his own voice and follow his dream.
And that story is based on a true life story which is Sarfraz's story.
So Sarfraz you wrote a book, was it, it's called Greetings From bury Park,
And then You were telling me before watching so the book is based off of actually what happier life The movie is an exaggeration, but mostly it's like, you know, Bill needs to do things that books don't.
So in a book, you can just literally just, you know, the central character of myself could just sort of wander through experiencing different things and what have you, but in a film, the character needs to be doing a bit more.
The other thing is in in real life I was I would never have had dramatic arguments with my dad but in a film you know so so there are fixed and sadly I didn't have a girlfriend when I was 16 but the lucky sort in the film does.
So there are there are some differences but the core of it as go into just outline.
Growing up in a crap town wanting something different in your life.
Not feeling like that dream that you might have is something that the folks like you would get.
And then having a friend of mine introduced me to music and, you know, in 1987 I was not into Springsteen.
Usually I was kind of more into top 40 stuff, but this guy telling me Springsteen is the answer to everything.
Getting into music, becoming full on inspired and then you know having my life transformed.
So that core story is real and that's what's in the film.
But what's it like, I mean you lived this, then you wrote about this and now there's a film with actors playing this.
Well, that must be, I've never had that, what's that like?
You dont have it?
I'm working on the second part.
You really should, you really should.
It's ridiculous kind of like I can almost say it's like a dream come true but it's not really something that you could imagine even dreaming.
It's like, it is insane and it's kind of magical and it's a bit of an out of body experience, to be honest.
Like you see posters, I'm seeing all these posters being tweeted.
In LA and New York and they're these gigantic posters of Viveik Kalra who's fantastic as Javed.
The story is basically inspired by me.
This is like it is kind of hard to believe, but in a way even more amazing and that is the response where he's, you know, you tell a story, you make a film or whatever.
It's when people start watching it and then saying that they're getting connected to it and they're crying while making them feel joyous and you think.
It's all very well, writing a book, which was incredible to do.
But that kind of direct human response and seeing it, that's mind blowing.
How do we make the jump?
The book came out in 2008?
2007.>>2007, okay Okay.
This occurred because 2007 there is a couple of things going on right.
And both Britain and the US major things going on.
But it's interesting the movie's coming out in 2019 where there's even some more things going on and I'm wondering like Is that an obvious reason why you've made this happen this year versus like.
A year from now, or a couple years ago?
Well, we had started working on the movie, after I read San Francis book in 2008.
I said to him, I know how to turn this into a movie.
And fresh obviously from the success of bender like Beckham, the Sapphires, I think that He had said to me that it was important that it was someone like me because-
Well she's was the only one who could have made it, you know?
You were literally the only person who's got it.
Did you guys know each other beforehand?
Yes, we were friends before.
But one of the reasons the film is so moving is because I have those credentials as being British-Asian, so I know his life.
I'm a Bruce Springsteen fan.
And also, you know, I'm an experienced filmmaker and script writer so I knew how to take those nuances of his story, the Raw Story and turn it into a movie that then becomes universal and everybody's experience.
And I think that for me, I had we had talked about doing it and we had got Bruce's blessing And then I made another film, Viceroy's House.
And after Viceroy's House I was wondering what to do next.
Because although this project was there, it needed some work.
And also, I didn't want to repeat myself with Bend It Like Beckham.
I was very conscious of that.
And so I was contemplating what to do and then Brexit happened in England.
[LAUGH] > And it was a pretty ugly time.
I was so upset with the xenophobia and everything that was going on around us and I said I've gotta do something about it and that's when I said okay we need to make this film next And so I did my sort of passes on the script and put channeled all my frustration about what I was seeing around me in terms of xenophobia into this storyline because even though it's 787 you know San Francisco writing about this in all his work as a journalist And obviously, it was important for us as British Asians to make a statement beyond that just his life and to make a film that is gonna have impact globally, and so that's really where I then sort of took the reins and created a film that That is definitely based on his true story.
But hopefully is everybody's story because everybody as everybody has a parent that who might not have the same dreams with a kid that the kid has and somewhere along the lines they might not get the the the love and support of the parent and the validation Much of the same as Bruce Springsteen didn't get from his dad, you know, and so the film starts becoming very moving, I think, because it it just touches on all these universal issues, but at the same time we couldn't have timed the film in in the way we have in terms of what's happening around us today.
In terms of props people trying to create to fission whereas we preach to fill which is about the power of music, and words and how they bring us together.
[UNKNOWN] I was just floored by how much I related to, I mean that as a teenager, we'll be honest I was not, what type of restrcitions have can actually?
But Come back to that, I mean, so for you the impetus to just write the book, cuz you have, is it the Guardian you write a lot for?
Yeah, yeah yeah.
And I've seen you had a lot of articles that are very personal, but where does that come from and where do you get the, not the boldness but the courage write some of these?
One of the things that
I think green is really good at is that sort of telling stories we seem like they're from a particular community, which actually are universal and which actually tell a bigger story.
And I think that's really a skill but it's not even just a skill.
It's actually really important in this time, if you've got that ability to sort of universal eyes stories that are starting from a specific place And I've kind of always just thought, it's a bit like what I've learned from Bruce, but you tell stories that seem to be about yourself, but they're actually about more than yourself.
So I've written about, my wedding, which seems like a completely self-indulgent thing to do, but actually it's not.
It's about what happens when your family don't turn up to your own wedding, it becomes a bigger story.
As if similarly with this story, yeah, it is based on my life but then when I was growing up if I watched a film and you know, I would relate to, you know whether it's Ferris Bueller or Michael J Fox and Back to the Future or whatever, I would relate to those characters even though they weren't directly me.
So it starts.
Very specific but it goes out and hopefully sort of touches and reaches the world and becomes more universal.
But is that a refreshing thing we're seeing more and more in film these days is it's not necessarily a white man that we're relating to it's it could be an Indian English woman.
It could be Chinese American.
I'm wondering, what's been the reception?
Because you guys showed this at Sundance.
What was the reception there?
Cuz that's a very prestigious place to go.
Well the amazing thing about Sundance was it was the first time we were seeing the film with any members of the public, the completed film, who haven't seen it anywhere and Cuz of the timing and everything, we were rushing to get it ready for Sundance.
So we kind of arrived and we sorta sat in the audience and it was a pretty big crowd cuz there's a lot of expectation because it was a film that was a very Available to buy and the festival director Cooper had said this is the most commercial film that is [LAUGH]
Little bit of pressure.
Little bit of pressure and because all the industry was in the room as well.
So I was pretty nervous about that but it was too late to change anything.
It's like this is our movie and.
And as the movie played it, people really were very, very warm towards it.
And people really were, you know, reacting to it, you know, in a big way.
And then there were some scenes, there's a scene in a possible control and an airport And that scene, people were nervous of initially, and then, the end of that scene, I thought the roof was gonna to come off the [UNKNOWN] Theater.
The way people hollard and whistled and you know it was incredible.
And that's one featured in the Trailer, the gentlemen welcoming the guys to the USA [CROSSTALK],
Yeah i suppose there was passport control.
And he, and the guy says, What's the purpose of your visit?
And everyone in the face is nervous because they get a very amount, but actually he says, well, I'm here because I wanna writing contest but, but actually my real purpose is to see Asbury Park in the hometown of Bruce Springsteen.
And the guy looks at him and and you think he's gonna say something but he turns around and says I can't think of a better reason to United States.
Than see the home of the boss.
Now I nearly cut that scene out cuz I said, it is so cheesy.
No one is gonna believe that.
But it actually happened to Safrus when he came to the USA in the 80s.
And did the guy had a [UNKNOWN] moustache?
I remember him being a bit of a, it Actually that happened interestingly that actually happened in 2002.
I put it in because what was interesting was after my book was published I basically used to just keep hold of my book and take it with me anytime I flew anywhere.
So if anyone asked any questions like that I actually had physical evidence.
I wasn't just pretending.
So I was a bit nervous cuz he seems he was playing in New York and that's where I was going, but I was gonna go towards [UNKNOWN] as well.
And yeah, so that actually happened.
And it seemed like, like it was super chizzy Hollywood moment, but that's the truth.
It's the truth, but then at the end of the movie, we got such an amazing response.
We had a standing ovation, For like ten minutes or something.
And I got up and I was like, okay this is embarrassing now, you've to stop.
And I kinda got everyone to sit down.
And I introduced [UNKNOWN] on stage and then they all stood up again.
And I mean, it was an incredibly warm experience.
And then, [UNKNOWN] who was selling the film were getting all these messages.
People going I wanna buy this movie.
I wanna buy this movie.
And we went off to the party.
Meantime, it's what every independent film maker dreams of-
Is to make an independent movie and then have all these studios and these distributors bidding for it.
And so at about 1 o'clock in the morning That I was summoned to the old, the ranch, the place where the sales were going on, and I had to sit and listen to the pitches of everyone.
You had to sit and listen to people who want to give you money to show the film.
And then most of your life is about begging people to take your movie and
And it was just so, it's just a hard thing to do because these are people I know and everyone really loved the movie and were very moved by the movie and really at the end of the day, it was just everyone was wonderful and the prices kept going up and up and up and I was like my God.
And then finally \ Carolyn Blackwood from New Line.
Came in and she had been she had actually started texting as the movie it started before it even finished.
She was like, I want this movie, don't sell it to anyone else.
And then she came in and she was so impressive and she just said, I don't need this movie.
I want this movie, you know, and she just was a woman who just was really sure of what she was going to do with it and So that's how we ended up with Warner Brothers in New Line and they've been fantastic.
Yeah we had a screening in Vegas a couple of months later.
I mean think was a cinema home.
Yeah well it was where we launched the trailer.
And various studios all coming with our big movies and stuff.
There was a screening then anything they would shoot three or four big.
Actual whole films, then this is one of them.
And I was there and at the end of the screening I was sort of wandering out, slightly quietly.
And I just, I was just met by a wall of men, mostly guys.
Most interesting tears,
And these guys who are cinema owners all over the United States of America.
And they were properly wailing up, one of them was like, couldn't even talk, he was like I'm still trying to process, and I was like, and it was all about the father stuff, it's all about the father-son stuff.
And I just thought what I found so impressive and amazing And this is about filmmaking.
This is about craft.
This is about the actors performance, to take a story that might seem like it's specific and just get people all across America have come to Vegas to think you know what that dad reminded me of my dad.
That boy reminded me of the teenage me.>>Yeah.>> And just to be that emotionally involved, I was welling up talking to them as well it was a really special moment actually.
And one of the things I do Like about the film is that it's, you know from a female, female.
cuz you're you're known for like better like Becca.
I mean there I could see similarities but obviously now we have mostly a father and son yeah the way I want to talk about the cash or second the father [CROSSTALK] parents are Fantastic.
So Kunvi De Gea who plays the dad.
He has invent it ike Beckham.
Wait, who has invented it like Beckham?
He's the groom of the sister that's gettimg married.
Cuz he had it looking like, i think I know, where is she from?
Is aged, but I thinkwhat I love is that it's a female
Director on making a film about masculinity and men, and that I think that's another thing that gives it a layer.
And you know, it's nice because sufferance back then, he was surfers and since in the time that I've known him he's now married and he's got a daughter and a son and that softness is there.
And Women make films about men differently to men making films about men, you know, and I think part of the emotion is, is the fact that I'm not holding back on the male thing.
And I think the other thing that's interesting about that is I think, Calvin, I think he'd lost his dad just lost his dad just lost his dad and he's got a kid who's 16 Wow.
And it's just what Glenda just said, it's really interesting because like, for example, I mean, I couldn't have written, the book or the work that demo script when I was that age, but now being married and actually having kids, you just see the role of the Father in a different way.>>Yes.>> You're more sympathetic, because ultimately, I'm sure my kids will do something similar to what Javed has does in the film they're not gonna follow what I want to do->>I figure that
and I gonna want.
To be, I want them to have sympathy for me.
Yeah, but I think that scene, the wife helped styling his hair.
Yeah, dying his hair.
That was, cuz then all the sudden like, he's not this kind of traditional two-dimensional thing.
Yeah, the hardest thing for me is when I made Bend it Like Beckham I was that girl.
I was like, don't box me in a cage.
I wanna get out.
I wanna be free.
And now my Kids at 12 my twins.
I've turned into the mum of Bend it like Beckham.
And I'm like no boyfriends.
Well that's always like the moment
When you turn into your father or mother right?
I just want to speed through so many things which we could just take A long time talking about,
Can I just tell you one thing it's hilarious Leila, my girl who is seven, she just keeps saying to me Daddy, you are not from Luton, you are from Pakistan.
[LAUGH] For god sakes I came when I was three, and she just went, No you are from Pakistan, I said there's a lot of very dodgy people who agree with you, [LAUGH] but I wasn't expecting my own daughter to say that.
Well so, really quick because I want to go through like three things real quick.
And I hate brushing you guys but so American audience versus an audience in the UK like what is it like watching it with one versus the other.
Or have you had a chance to.
Yes, absolutely an island into that, you know, Island and us very similar lot of emotion.
And a lot of emotion and son stuff.
England, they didn't laugh so much at the passport stuff [LAUGH] as America.
But England, of course, the Brexit references are there and And also I think, you know, people know me and my work, obviously.
Particularly there and of course here.
So I think people like the progression from Bend it Like Beckham to here cuz it's a different movie.
I'm gonna have you talk about Springsteen because-
Yeah, well I was gonna say, I think the difference is not America Britain It's about Bruce fans and non Bruce fans.
So Bruce fans you will see something different.
Regardless of which country it is and if you're not you're like here you'll love it.
You might probably become a fan as a result of the film but you'll see different things I think.
And I'll put my quicks sense unlike like Springsteen was kinda like the older brother would let me end it out and make Beastie Boys these are the new people right.
And then I've always I've liked his music but then come out for him a.
And that's stop British crazy.
Since last week.
I'm wondering, so what was that first song?
And how did you get all the music into the film?
So maybe you could tak about the first song, and you could talk about the music.
Yeah, well for me the first song that my friend Ruth actually gave me, was a live box set And the one I remember is the river and what I remember is not actually even listening to the song The river initially it was this long preamble he tells a story about his dad and growing up, and I was like listening to top 40 music you know, Lionel Richie and foreigner and stuff.
Like Lionel Richie never does long rambling stories about growing up.
This is amazing and then the river started and it's like I come from down in the valley where Mr. When you're young, bring you up to do just like you.
But this is like a short story and I'm folding, I'm like, I really want to know what happens next.
And this was just, at 16, somebody who's a top 40 radio kid, it was just nothing I'd every heard before and so, that opened the door to everything else.
Has Bruce Springsteen seen this film?
And what was his reaction?
So, this time last year, I took him to see the director's cut, my cut off the Avid, because I wanted to give him the opportunity.
His work [LAUGH] I want to give the opportunity to say don't use my song like this, do that, What about this?
Because I was conscious of the fact that he had very little involvement, apart from not even, he had two not even sentences saying yeah, okay.
I like this.
I go with it, kind of thing.
So sitting in the theater at the end of the screening, there was silence.
I was a bit nervous.
They put the lights on.
And then he got up and walked over to me and he gave me a kiss.
And he put his arms around me and he said thank you for looking after me so beautifully, don't change the thing, I love it.
And you can imagine the pressure on me to take this man's life's work and we could have used any of the songs.
But I wanted to make sure we didn't make a jukebox musical and that all.
I sat there with all the lyrics in front of me when I was doing my draft and making sure that each lyric fitted Jarvis story and I would call Sarfraz and say I need a song for this situation.
What can you think of being the nerd he was, he would say.
[LAUGH] This song, listen to this verse, these lines.
Recorded this year, but not the other year version.
[LAUGH] And so, the song, it was very, very carefully choreographed the whole thing.
But the pressure on me, to take the song on to run, to turn it into cinema experience and dance in the dark [INAUDIBLE] Yeah, there's a lot of pressure on me, and I tried not to be overwhelmed with that.
And just go with what I thought Bruce would like, visually and cinematically.
And what was great, was sitting with Bruce, going through the film, and all the things that he really loved.
And in the end, I said, what did you like best?
And he said how you did Born To Run.
FZI that was the big floored by was everything from like the lyrics as being larger to life to like him almost whispering in his ear telling them how to like say goodbye to a girl like all those things and I had not I mean there's you can make Make some comparison to other.
It's in the fiber of the movie.
But also because Springsteen acting doesnt need to be contrived.
He really does have things to say about every situation.
So it's not like you have to think realy long and hard about it and there are works like that.
But the other thing I was going to say about his music is that I think thats why this is a film that works in the movies, in a cinema Because you never heard these songs in a cinema before because he doesn't give his music like that.
So to listen to Born to Run with proper speakers.
Yeah, like on Dolby it's just amazing.
That's why it's got to be watched in a cinema.
But also, I was also very conscious that a lot of people watching this movie aren't Bruce fans
You know we are, yes.
You could have make a lot of [CROSSTALK] [LAUGH]
But I need.
There won't be people who wouldn't be turned off by him just like there weren't people who were football fans who watched them amount of film.
So I was always conscious that I had to make Bruce relevant to people who didn't necessarily care for him.
And that's where all the drama and the kinda juggling came in.
And to make, and to strip Bruce down to.
To his bones if you like, to his words.
So that non Bruce fans would see that he was relevant.
And that took a lot of hard work to do that, particularly as a Bruce fan but also as a director, to make the music relevant.
Because The way you're used to just having music in the background, play in the background and not be as, you said, in the fiber of the film.
And maybe even being added after the fact.
So we are, unfortunately, at time and I have still many questions which I'll just email.
But one last one, go on, one last one.
This will be fast, super fast answer.
What's your favorite [UNKNOWN] song?
What's the first thing that comes to your mind?
And what about you?
Thank you so much for stopping by cnet.
People are gonna be pulling us out of the chairs right now.
But I can't wait for people to see Blinded by the Light.
And it opens.
The cinema nears you, please go.
Please tell all your friends.
And don't walk the Born to Run to the theater.
I listened to everything, I could feel it all right here.
It's like it pushed everything I've ever felt, everything I've ever wanted.
My poems, they're not brilliant.
But their mine.
Do you think that this man sings for people like us?
But he talks to me.
You cannot be serious, mate.
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