At HOME with film director Ben Wheatley

“I use Minecraft to build all my sets,” joked British director Ben Wheatley as he discussed his latest film Free Fire in front of a packed screening at Manchester’s premier arts complex Home. “It’s the only editing software I know how to use.”

Public speaking is part and parcel of being a director, especially when you’re used to working with some of the biggest and brightest names in film.

Free Fire is the latest film from Brighton-born director Ben Wheatley who has had previous success with popular indie titles such as Kill List and High-Rise.

His latest project features a leading international cast including Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room), Armie Hammer (The Social Network), and Cillian Murphy (Inception) to name but a few.

Set in Boston in 1978, Free Fire is a thrills-a-plenty action drama about a gun-running operation gone wrong.

Irish compatriots Chris and Frank are looking to buy from a pair of arms traffickers, Ord (Armie Hammer) and Vernon (Sharlto Copley), but soon wish they’d given the whole venture a miss as the bullets start flying in this modern western.

The film debuted at the BFI London Film Festival back in October 2016 and is finally set for general release at the end of March.

The film is incredible, with ballistic action sequences and comedy being a far cry from some of Wheatley’s darker projects. Despite being shot entirely in a warehouse, the claustrophobic setting is used to brilliant effect as it allows the dialogue room to breathe and thus sets into motion the film’s compelling storyline that will leave you coming back for more.

When the film ended, the director took questions from the audience and gave an insight into what it was like working on the film, including how he met up with legendary director Martin Scorsese to bring him on board as an executive producer.

He also gave a simple reason for the film’s setting. Whenever he writes a script he always looks to see how feasible it is to actually put into practice: “I was never going to write a script about an asteroid hitting the Earth then going to the Moon or something.”

Joining Ben at the sold out screening was cast member Michael Smiley, who plays the role of Frank in the film. The Belfast-born actor was full of high spirits and certainly lived up to his surname, as he joked and debated with the crowd throughout, including one story involving his co-star Cillian Murphy’s genitals that I can’t repeat. I’ll have to leave it to your imagination.

This isn’t the first time Ben and Michael have worked together having collaborated on numerous occasions, including British crime drama Down Terrace (2009), A Field in England (2013) and the critically-acclaimed Kill List (2011). 

Usually after these sorts of arrangements, the talent is escorted out through a separate door before heading off to the next stop, but this wasn’ the case on this occasion.

The great thing about Home is that it’s not just an arts complex. They also have a great bar and restaurant too, where both Ben and Michael enjoyed a drink with fans after the screening.

Free Fire will be in UK cinemas on March 31st 


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