Roger Michell recalled by Kate Winslet | Movies

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BBeing a director was so secondary to who Roger was as a man in the world. He was just such a deep, warm and extraordinary presence. I say this with affection, but some directors are making it known that they have just entered the play. Roger was not like that. He didn’t have to be necessary. He had no ego. He just wanted to be part of a team – to make small families, small families of people working together.

I had known Roger for a long time before working on a film together – Blackbird, in 2019. We had already worked together once, in 2005, on an American Express advertisement. A few years earlier, The mother [his 2003 film with Daniel Craig and Anne Reid] completely took my breath away. It was so natural, so terribly real. It was like the first time in a long time that either of us had seen actors in a movie not “acting” at all. It was one of Roger’s most impressive skills: his ability to make the actors just be. To be simply and not to act.

We had spent years trying to work on something else together beyond this commercial, but for logistical reasons things never worked out. Then, finally, Blackbird came with [a drama about a family gathering around a mother for her last weekend before she dies]. Shortly after my own mother died, and I had not yet returned to work, I was gripped by grief. Roger was so nice. I remember he phoned me: “You don’t have to go anywhere, we can shoot it in seven weeks and everything will be done. We can film it when it works for you, when you’re ready.

We ended up filming him – and I’m not kidding – a four-minute walk from my house.

On set, I felt Roger was watching me constantly, as he could tell that the slightest thing could set me off. There were so many similarities between the film’s narrative and the loss I was facing. I felt very taken care of. Roger was a thick safety net, a warm safety blanket. Literally a shoulder to lean on, to cry on. But I always felt like he did that for all the actors he cared about. It was certainly not just me.

Over the years, if there was a point where I needed a little guidance – if I had a hard time finding my rhythm with a director or other actor who maybe worked differently than me. – I always called Rog. I would say, “Rog, help! I know you will know exactly what I can say to this person, AND how to say it. What do you think i should do What should I say? ”And he would stop… Sometimes he would say,“ Okay. Let me think five minutes and I’ll call you back. Then he would take his five minutes and always call and me. was giving his appropriate and calm suggestions Roger put everyone first.

On set, he would be so egoless. He was still sitting in the quietest corner he could find, on an incredibly tiny box or stool, watching the monitor intently, diligently taking notes, and I was like, “My God, you haven’t. a suitable chair? But no, he didn’t care. He was the master of simplicity. He would sit and scribble scribbles with his glasses flickering on his rosy face. He was also open to any ideas anytime, even if it was crap. He’d be like, “Oh, that’s interesting, yeah, okay, let’s try. “

Our cinema, Blackbird, came and went at the box office, but Roger didn’t say to himself: “Oh that’s a shame, damn, I wish it had done more business”. He was deeply proud of it and of the work we had all done. He made it clear how much he cherished the time we all spent together, the bonds we made, and how that time transformed us all. We all got matching tattoos at the end of the shoot; we met at the house where Susan Sarandon lived and got a tattoo of the little blackbird symbol that was printed at the top of the appeal sheet. I’m looking at mine now on the inside of my right wrist.

Winslet with Bex Taylor-Klaus, Rainn Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Susan Sarandon, Mia Wasikowska and Anson Boon in Michell’s Blackbird movie. Photograph: Columbia Pictures / Allstar

Finally, working on a film with Rog will remain one of my most, if not the most valuable, experiences I have ever had.

Roger really listened and he really spoke to people, whoever they were. My teenage son was on set one day for a brief visit, which happens very rarely as I don’t tend to have my kids on sets. He and Roger had a great conversation about The merchant of Venice, what my son did at school. I just couldn’t believe that Roger had the mental capacity to part with our work and give time to my son, who was only 14 years old. And it wasn’t because he was my child. I know it could have been anyone’s son or daughter.

Michell on the set of Notting Hill with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.
Michell on the set of Notting Hill with Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in 1998. Photograph: AA Film Archive / Alamy

It was always family first for Roger too, and that’s really exceptional. Some directors will say, “Oh, yeah, I know juggling, I get it”, but in fact, few of them really do because most of them are able to lift sticks or leave their families for a while. weeks. Not Roger. He had young daughters and he never wanted to walk away from them or take them out of school. He loved the daily job of being a dad. I keep thinking about my last text exchanges with him, and in fact, these are just pictures of him with his girlfriends. These are the last exchanges we had, just about children: his children, my children. What meals we had cooked recently. He mentioned a delicious wine he had encountered.

During our last conversation he was delighted to The Duke, the movie he made with Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren. He had a great time and was creative in a great place and felt extremely fulfilled. I still can’t believe he’s dead. None of us can. The other day I was talking to another actor and we were saying that nothing really works without Roger here. None of this works without the safety net. The blanket. The shoulder to lean on. We all miss him so much.


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