Joe Cornish on Attack the Block

We get some Tintin talk, Attack sequel ideas and news on extras on the home version.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Attack the Block

If you’ve been hearing a lot about Attack the Block this year, you’ll finally get to see it in America. Comic-Con was the film’s last US stop before release by Screen Gems. It began at SXSW where it won the audience award for Midnighters. Director Joe Cornish makes his feature film debut and between a Los Angeles junket and Comic-Con, I got to ask him lots of questions about it.


Crave Online: Did you conceive this as a summer movie?

Joe Cornish: Yeah. I wanted to make a little mini-blockbuster. We’re a low budget movie. We’re the little engine that could. We don’t have a massive marketing campaign but perhaps this movie has a little more heart, a little more authorship than some of the bigger movies out there. It’s made with real sincerity and real passion. It’s a proper exploration of real characters in the real world and our monsters are a little more old school. They’re practical so it’s trying to bring back some of the old school values of movies that maybe the bigger blockbusters have let go a little bit.


Crave Online: What was the most challenging thing involved with getting your first feature film off the ground?

Joe Cornish: The challenging thing was probably finding an idea that I felt was good enough to do and also getting to a place where I thought I could write it well enough. The raising of the money was dealt with by the production company. They were very good. They just let me get on with the script and went out and got the money. In the U.K. there are a lot of first time directors, not many second time directors and hardly any third time directors. For me it was very important to be bold and ambitious and brave, do something that if it succeeded would be different and exciting, and if it failed, at least I’d taken a shot. I didn’t want to make a talkie film. I wanted to make a film about action that was cinematic. So it was waiting for those things to come together.


Crave Online: I thought “allow it” meant Moses was permitting something. Apparently it means the opposite? It means stop?

Joe Cornish: Yeah, that’s right. It means let me be or let it be. Allow it. Permit it. Often with these phrases, they can mean different things in different contexts. Young people love to create languages that adults can’t understand, right? We all do it. That’s one of the joys of being kids and that’s how language evolves. You read Dickens or Chaucer and there’s slang in there you don’t understand. I think it’s great. It reminded me of A Clockwork Orange, the nadsat, the language. They talk in that. But people shouldn’t be scared or freaked out. We make it very simple. We keep the lexicon quite limited and the movie’s designed to almost teach you this language as you watch it. Once people come out of Attack the Block, they can hop on a plane, come to South London.


Crave Online: Are you at all worried that the genre love for Attack the Block might overhype it?

Joe Cornish: No, this thing about hype and overhyping, all we’ve done is made the movie and shown it to people. If people are hyping it, that means they’re excited about it. Hype as a word suggests fakeness and there isn’t fakeness here. This is not going to be a film that benefits from a hugely expensive marketing campaign. This will be a film that will succeed or fail on word of mouth. So when you say hype, if what you mean is people like it and they’re enthusiastic about it, then I think that’s a great thing. I think hype is a word you connect with big marketing campaigns and this is not that. This is people who genuinely like it.


Crave Online: You worked on the Tintin script with Edgar Wright. What is it like to get script notes from Spielberg?

Joe Cornish: Humbling, scary, amazingly exciting when he likes something you’ve done and when he doesn’t like something you’ve done you really want to make it better. That guy’s a complete hero to me.


Crave Online: When it’s a negative note, are you like, “Of course, he knows best?”

Joe Cornish: Yeah, yeah, some of the things he says aren’t totally obvious. They’re too clever to be honest but I learned a huge amount from him. The other thing to say about him is he’s very, very inclusive and one of the first things he says is, “Look, let’s argue. Push back.” He’s not interested in you being sycophantic or just being a yes man. He’s very interested in pushing back and having a dialogue and very open, as was Mr. Jackson. I’m one of three writers in a big production with amazing talent in it so my contribution is comparatively fractional but it was a huge privilege and amazing to be in a room with those guys.


Crave Online: Are you thinking of a sequel to Attack the Block, attacking another block or attacking a bigger canvas than a block?

Joe Cornish: Attack the Other Block? I’m not sure that’s a snappy enough title. Well, all the actors, we all think about it. We all have ideas. If we wanted to do a sequel, I’d want to pick up a bit like Halloween 1 and 2, I’d want to pick up at exactly the moment the first one ended up. To do that we’d have to do it now or we’d have to wait for Benjamin Button to get cheap enough to do it times 11.


Crave Online: Do you have any cool DVD plans?

Joe Cornish: I think so, yeah. We’ve got a really good 50 minute making of documentary. We’ve got a really good piece about how we did the creatures. We’ve got a commentary with all these kids that’s pretty funny. I start out by asking them what they think of commentaries and what commentaries they’ve listened to. They’re all for some reason obsessed with the Lord of the Rings commentaries. So it should be a cool DVD. It’s a double disc DVD in the UK and a packed out Blu-ray. It’s coming out late September in the UK.