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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2020 Competition

Julien Temple • Director of Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan

"You want to show an honest portrayal of how you feel the man is"

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- Cineuropa chatted to Julien Temple about his dazzling tribute to the frontman of The Pogues, Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan

Julien Temple • Director of Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan
(© Jorge Fuembuena/Festival de San Sebastián)

Julien Temple has launched Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan [+see also:
film review
interview: Julien Temple
film profile
]
, his dazzling tribute to the frontman of The Pogues, in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival. We chatted to the helmer about looking at Irish and British relations through the eyes of Shane MacGowan, making an honest tribute and being asked to direct by Johnny Depp.

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Cineuropa: How did you get involved with making a film about Shane MacGowan?
Julien Temple: Shane and his manager, Gerry O'Boyle, asked me. I'd always been intrigued by Shane, but I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do it. I was actually doing something else at the time as well. I didn't really make up my mind until Johnny Depp came back to me and asked whether I would do it because he was now getting involved. I've known Johnny for a long time, and he's known Shane for a long time. So that meant there would be back-up in terms of Johnny's involvement providing support [in keeping Shane focused].

It's also a film about Ireland and its relationship with Britain.
The fact that Shane is a first-generation Irish immigrant, as British as much as he is Irish, was another layer that interested me. I know that he is a fascinating character in his own terms, and the idea of being able to tell that experience through his eyes and gain a sense of England and Ireland through his songs, and gauge his attitude about the whole thing, is what really sold me on it.

The film is also a wonderful example of how to use archive material. Can you talk about putting the various sources together?
It began with Shane saying that he didn't want to do any interviews, which was slightly more difficult, but in the end, I think it was probably a good thing, as it sent us off in search of any kind of snippet of him talking – whether it was an audio cassette tape from a journalist that he was talking to at 5 am, or him talking backstage with another band playing in the background. To me, it didn't matter about the sound quality. In the old tapes, he's in the middle of it, and there is something more exciting and immediate about it. And then he said he would allow conversations with people, and that was really interesting, as it showed different sides to his character: Shane was very different when talking to Gerry Adams than he was when talking to Bobby Gillespie.

Then there are some wonderful tapes of him talking about his childhood, and obviously, there is no footage of that, so how are you going to show it? Animation is something that I've done from the start. I was lucky to be at film school with some students who animated the bits in The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle for me. Then Shane's wife was really important in getting him to talk about how he feels at this point, and it was important that we had some kind of connection with him now.

The structure of the film really resembles Shane's personality. It revels in going off at tangents and having what seem like impulsive thoughts.
Yes. You want to try to show an honest portrayal of how you feel the man is: show that there are a lot of contradictions, a lot of flaws in his character as well as the triumphs in terms of songwriting and so on. It's got to be warts and all, but it is a celebration of an amazing songwriter, musician and personality. There is obviously a tragic arc to his life, but it somehow remains uplifting, and I wanted to try to capture that tension in who he is.

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