Brittany Ferries is set to hit the big screen early this year, with Mont St Michel providing the backdrop for scenes in forthcoming feature film, The Time of Their Lives. Director Roger Goldby speaks exclusively to us...
You might not recognise the name Roger Goldby, but you may be familiar with his work. Credits include TV drama series The Durrells and Call the Midwife, while his first feature film The Waiting Room, which he both wrote and directed, played to critical acclaim in 2008.
To passengers and crew travelling on Brittany Ferries Mont St Michel on Saturday 9th July Roger might also cut a familiar figure. This was the man calling the shots among a film crew of 40, getting the best from two superstar performers, Joan Collins of Dynasty fame and Shirley Valentine star Pauline Collins, while filming scenes for his latest feature THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES.
Roger wrote the script, directed the film and is currently editing the final cut ahead of a planned UK cinema release date in March 2017. And the Oscar-nominated director took time out of a busy schedule in September to speak to Brittany Ferries.
Tell us about the The Time of Their Lives:
It's a heartfelt feel-good buddy movie with a fabulous cast. Joan Collins plays Helen, a former Hollywood star who escapes her London retirement home to gate-crash her ex-lover's funeral on the Ȋle de Ré.
Pauline Collins (no relation to Dame Joan!) plays Priscilla, a repressed housewife trapped in a failing marriage who joins Helen on a magical escape. Along the way the pair become romantically embroiled with a reclusive Italian artist played by Italian superstar Franco Nero.
What makes it so special?
First and foremost the main characters, who are the perfect odd couple. These two very different women come together by chance, go on an incredible journey, change each other, and end up as true friends. It's a warm, uplifting tale of two strong, mature female characters that people can identify with - and how they break free. I hope audiences find it funny too of course!
You wrote The Time of Their Lives. What inspired the story?
I've always been drawn to stories about older people. I suppose in a way it was inspired by my grandmothers and great aunt. These were three older women who were really important in my life. They showed me that older people can still to do things, still change, and are perfectly capable of going on an adventure.
Was it a coup to get Joan and Pauline for the film?
Absolutely. A film like this is made or broken by the cast. Joan is a legend, but she also has incredible depth of performance and real charisma. When I first met her and she agreed to do the film, we talked about the role of Priscilla. I had Pauline in mind to play the part, and it was also Joan's first suggestion.
They already knew each other and have a chemistry, a shorthand if you like, that transfers to the screen. They are very different people, but both are incredibly versatile and hard-working. Hilarious too. Franco Nero is a big Italian star and he was a real gentleman. A joy to work with.
Is there a message in this film?
I guess it's something as simple as: it's never too late to change and live bravely, with hope.
And was Ȋle de Ré an ideal location for an escape?
Pauline's character needs to get away, go somewhere different. When you go somewhere different it enables you to change and this contrast helps Priscilla come out of herself. France is a beautiful country throughout, but my producer Sarah Sulick recommended Ȋle de Ré in particular.
It's a little like Nantucket, with a lovely atmosphere to it, beautiful landscapes, old churches and abbeys, and people riding bicycles everywhere. Lovely little harbours too and a connection with movie stars and media people - lots go there for their holidays. I suppose it could've been St Tropez, but Ȋle de Ré was just perfect.
After the success of In Bruges, film fans flocked to the 'fairytale' Belgium town. Do you think The Time of Their Lives might do the same for Ȋle de Ré?
If the film is successful, definitely! Because we showed it off beautifully, particularly in Saint-Martin-de-Ré. Big skies which are glorious and we got some wonderful shots.
Was it a challenge filming on board Mont St Michel?
No, it was all very jolly and the crew and passengers were great. The locations looked fantastic, particularly the bar area (half of which was cordoned off for filming). I remember we'd been filming a scene and I was totally absorbed. When I turned round it was like armchair theatre. The area was packed with passengers watching us filming. I just hope they enjoyed it.
Is there a market for this sort of film?
I think we've known this for some time. But films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel have proved this for the studios. The older generation are going to the cinema a lot more than the younger generation and have been crying out for more mature, intelligent drama with strong characters.
Where can we see The Time of Their Lives?
March 10th 2017 is our planned release date, showing in cinemas across the UK. And maybe in cinemas on board Brittany Ferries ships too!