Michael Grandage, director of My Policeman, talks about his time behind the scenes

A story of forbidden love and changing social conventions, My Policeman follows policeman Tom (Harry Styles), teacher Marion (Emma Corrin) and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) as they find love in 1950s Britain. Flashing forward to the 1990s, Tom (Linus Roache), Marion (Gina McKee) and Patrick (Rupert Everett) are coming to terms with what happened in their past.

Mark Perkins caught up with director Michael Grandage, who made a splash here a few years ago as artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, to find out more about the film.

How did you become involved with this project?
Well, my first involvement was when the screenplay was brought to me, not through the novel. Two of the producers who had commissioned the screenplay approached me and I decided immediately I wanted to be involved. I thought it was a story I could bring something to.

Has it changed much from the novel?
There are three characters in the story: Tom the policeman, Marion his wife and Patrick his friend. The novel tells the story solely from Marion and Patrick’s point of view. They each see a different side of Tom; each of them believes that he is ‘My Policeman’ and that they are both in love with him. The story appeals to me because of the way it deals with time and memory – all of the things that, now that I’m older, I look back at.

The film is set in two distinct time periods. How did the actors deal with this?
We started filming with the young actors, then filmed the scenes with the older actors. There was a very wonderful and generous thing that happened during filming all three of the older actors said they wanted to see footage of what the younger actors were doing, so they could lean into their performances and take a bit of it on, which might sound obvious, but it’s a very generous thing for three senior actors to do. The casting process was a joy from start to finish, and I was involved in it all. Normally you have to convince an actor why they want to be in a film, and how great it will be to do the part, but in the case of all the actors, every one of them wanted to be in this film. I didn’t have to convince anybody.

Have you thought about how this will be seen by younger audiences who didn’t live through this period when homosexuality was illegal?
That was part of the reason I wanted to make the film, and Harry Styles was a very important piece of casting, not just because I think he’s right for the part. People like Harry and Emma both come with a very large group of followers and their demographic is particularly young. I’m thrilled with the huge advances we’ve made over the last 40-odd years, but I feel that we’re at a very fragile moment just now. After the recent Roe v Wade ruling in America, one of the Supreme Court Judges said, “Now, let’s turn our attention to gay marriage.” The Church of England were thinking about discussing it, at their recent synod, so I feel there’s something in the air that needs to be addressed. I think it’s important to make this film and ensure that a massive part of the audience is going to be young. I’m encouraged, though, that the younger generation at the moment is the least prejudiced generation ever born. If they become ambassadors for what we want to retain and what the world would be like if we went backwards, they will be a very powerful voice.

“The story appeals to me because of the way it deals with time and memory – all of the things that, now that I’m older, I look back at.”

How did you find moving from theatre to film directing
I loved it. It’s always good to be out of your comfort zone. I’ve spent years in the theatre, and I’m still learning how to do that, but also going into another medium has been a brilliant thing for me; it keeps me very much alive. I love the idea of being able to take the story outside and create and tell a story with just images. There are lots of non-dialogue scenes, where I could paint images and emotions visually. The theatre is more about abstraction; film is about realism.

My Policeman was released in cinemas last month and is available to be streamed on Prime Video from 4th November

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