Hideous Kinky

I was invited to make HIDEOUS KINKY by Stephanie Guerassio and Mark Shivas at BBC Films, while still shooting Regeneration. Ann Scott was the producer and my brother Billy had written the script from Esther Freud’s novel, a memoir of a childhood travelling in Morocco with her sister, Bella, and their mother. I had travelled in Morocco in the seventies and, once again, I was lucky enough to be offered a subject I knew and cared about.

We met Kate Winslet at Groucho’s and soon she was with us in Morocco -the only time an actor has wanted to be on the location recee! We cast Said Taghmaoui (from the excellent LA HAINE) as Bilal. A young actor, Said had volcanic energy.

The hard task was finding the two children but, thanks to casting director Susie Figgis, we found two excellent girls – Carrie and Bella. Casting children in leading roles can lead to sleepless nights. You keep telling yourself -”They are out there, we will find them” but, until you do, you are prone to break out in cold sweats.

Kate became a kind of surrogate mother to the girls, both aged eight, and I will always remember hearing countless times in the headphones, just before “Action”, Kate’s voice saying “Carrie, keep still, keep quiet!” Magically, Carrie would go into character and, just as magically, transform back into Carrie again upon the word “Cut!”

We spent long nights listening to excellent street musicians, noting down interesting market stalls and people, all of which would be bussed into our own medina, a film set built in an old Berber fort. It was impossible to shoot in the medina itself. We tried and it always ended in chaos. It only worked once. We sent little Carrie running through the medina and we all followed behind the steadycam. We just kept running and the scene was shot before anyone had time to object or demand money.

There is never enough of anything when making a film, not enough money, not enough time. A production assistant called the Sufi College in Algeria. We had a scene involving a Sufi and we needed to know more about the religion. She asked the Sufi to explain Sufism. He replied, sensibly, that in order to understand it, one would have to practice it. She said “Yes, but we don’t have time for that, could he just give us the main principles”. He invited her to come to Algeria. He would be very pleased to sit down and speak with her. She said she would love to, but really there just wasn’t time, could he maybe not just explain it now on the telephone. This is what we film makers call research.

Shooting in Morocco is a DoP’s dream and John De Borman was very happy there, having persuaded Ann Scott to shoot wide screen. I kept a small sketchbook and regularly pencilled out images I saw which I wanted to be included in the film.

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