LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Cruel Britannia - Exclusive Interview With Gerard Johnson, Director Of Tony: London Serial Killer
By James Whittington, Monday 28th March 2011
During April the Horror Channel celebrates the best of contemporary British horror with a special season of UK TV premieres which showcases some of the finest home-grown directorial talent around. You'll find sadistic killers, destroyed families, violent paranoia and self-destruction.
The season continues on April 15th with Gerard Johnson's, Tony: London Serial Killer. This dark, brutal and bleakly amusing shocker has drawn favourable comparisons to John McNaughton's seminal Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and features a star-making lead performance from Peter Ferdinando - probably the most alarming cinematic anti-hero since Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle. We chatted to Gerard recently and this is what he had to say about Tony and the current state of the British horror industry.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?
GJ: Yes, I did find an old diary recently from when I was 13, I wrote that when I grow up I want to be a film director, it was the only thing I had any excitement for or gravitated towards, although it took a lot of terrible jobs and dedication to get here though.
HC: Were you one of these people who would create shorts in their backyards etc?
GJ: No but I did have plenty of action figures and would create elaborate battles so I guess as I got older I just replaced the action figures with actors. I spent a lot of my youth watching films, I had tons and tons of videos and I would even edit out the adverts and label them neatly up. I was learning all the time, my own film school.
HC: Where did the idea for the movie come from? Were you inspired by other gritty horror movies or dramas?
GJ: It came from reading about Dennis Nilsen the London serial killer when I was a kid, I remember when he was arrested and it stayed with me, that image of him talking to dead bodies in his front room and having his favourites who he would dress up scared me. It was also based on my experiences around the east end and the characters I knew then. I did love Henry as well and thought we needed our own version, as we British are good at producing real serial killers, only the US has more infamous ones than us. It must be our respective countries shitty diets.
HC: Did the script take long to write?
GJ: Tony was originally a short film and I showed it to Paul Abbott (creator of Shameless) who became a bit of a mentor to me and he asked me if I wanted to turn it into a feature. I jumped at the chance and started to expand from the short. I deliberately wanted to make a character study and a film that summed up the London I knew. I originally made the short as a serious piece but this element of black humour started to seep through so for the feature I worked on that more. I don’t think it would be as effective if it weren’t so funny. But it’s strange that having toured with the film in the US and all over Europe that the British humour does travel.
HC: Much has been made in the press about Peter Ferdinando’s superb acting in this movie, did he stay in character on set and how did he approach the role?
GJ: Peter is my cousin and we made a bunch of shorts together before the feature. He did stay in character and scared all the crew with his strange behaviour. Although I think they also found him quite funny as well. He approached the role with maximum dedication, he did his own research and we would compare notes. He lost 2 stone to play Tony and afterwards he had to go to Thailand for a month to recover from the traumatic experience I put him through, he still has nightmares.
HC: Was it a hard to movie to get funding for?
GJ: It was very easy to get the funding for this film because we didn’t need very much, Paul Abbott put in 20 grand himself and the UK Film Council matched it. They could see that I was willing to make a feature cheaply and it would look amazing. For a feature shot on film in 12 days all on location that is cheap believe me.
HC: The film has been recognised not only by horror media but more mainstream periodicals as a compelling, chilling and important movie. This must be rewarding but at the same time must put pressure on you to deliver the same sort of excitement for your next release?
GJ: It is rewarding but you have to keep things in perspective, its not like Tony was Slumdog Millionaire or anything, it had amazing reviews but was a small film really. I don’t feel too much pressure but I know that the second film is very important; I’m just enjoying the process of making a bigger film. I think it’s important to first and foremost make films for me, films that I myself would love and want to see, too many filmmaker’s don’t do it from the heart and it shows, that’s what its all about.
HC: If you had a bigger budget would you change anything about it?
GJ: Lots of explosions and Christian Bale as Tony may have helped box office a bit. But seriously I wouldn’t have changed anything. No need to.
HC: What's your take on the current British horror film scene?
GJ: Well there are a lot of directors pushing the boundaries, which can only be a good thing, and being a bit more experimental with things. I think we need to go back to making stuff that relies on mood as well though and not only on gruesome special effects; I’d love to do an M.R. James adaptation.
HC: What's your next project? Do you intend to carry on making “horror” films?
GJ: The next film is a cop thriller called Hyena about bent police and multicultural crime in London, I wouldn’t call it a horror but it deals with characters in pain. I don’t think Tony really should only be classified as Horror as it deals with social issues of unemployment and the class system in the UK. I’m interested in people rather than genres, so if I create a character they could turn up in any genre that suits them.
HC: What are your top 3 horror films of all time?
GJ: Texas Chain Saw Massacre: because it’s a perfect example of a genre film. I saw this when I was very young and no matter how many times it’s remade you couldn’t better it, it’s also interesting that Tobe Hopper never made anything as remotely good again.
Possession: the most art house horror film I’ve ever seen and I mean that as a good thing, it’s amazing and loopy on so many levels and obviously inspired Antichrist.
Irreversible: I guess this isn’t labelled as horror but what is it? It’s certainly not romantic comedy! One of the few films that after seeing it I couldn’t shake it from my mind. When I came out of the cinema I remember I had to walk it off and have a few beers afterwards to calm myself. But that’s what films should do sometimes.
HC: In your opinion what is the all time best British horror film?
GJ: Hmmm, that’s a toss up between Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man. Although Peeping Tom has to be there as well as 10 Rillington Place. I can’t decide so I’ll take all four please.
Related show tags: MUM AND DAD, SALVAGE, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, TONY: LONDON SERIAL KILLER MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Julien Seri, director of Anderson Falls
Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020
Ahead of the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Anderson Falls at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Julien Seri reflects on this, his first 'American' experience, challenging fight scenes and the importance of personal vision.
It has been five years since we premiered Night Fare at FrightFest London, what have you been up to since then?
JS: I worked on two, very singular, projects as a producer and/or director. I signed for both with Wild Bunch, but we've failed to produce them yet. So I keep fighting. And I did a lot of commercials, TV series and music videos.
When did you first hear about the Anderson Falls script and why did you think it was perfect for yo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...
You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?
AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.
His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.
HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?
SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020
Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.
HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?
JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019
The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.
HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?
SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019 On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.
HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?
TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.
HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019
Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.
HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?
JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019
Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.
HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?
GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019
FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.
HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?
CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019
Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.
HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?
CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019
Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...
HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?
PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019 It was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.
HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?
LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.
HC: W...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Tuesday 3rd March
Saturday 7th March
Sunday 1st March