What kind of Doctor will Peter Capaldi portray on the next season of Doctor Who? In our exclusive interview with director Ben Wheatley, we learned a whole lot about what classic influences this new Doctor will be channeling. Plus find out about Wheatley's brilliant plans for the movie of J.G. Ballard's High Rise.
Wheatley, whose completely mental black-and-white 17th century psychedelic horror movie A Field in England is being released in the States this week (more on that later) took a little time to talk about two very exciting projects he's currently working on. One being the very first two Peter Capaldi Doctor Who episodes, and the other being his movie adaptation of High Rise. Which he's chosen to set in the time that the original book was published: 1975.
Here's what he told us about those two projects:
What's it like working with an actor who is basically trying to discover the mannerisms that will become his calling cards for the rest of his career as a Time Lord?
Ben Wheatley: With someone like Capaldi, he's a massive Who fan. He knows Who inside out. And everything he does is very, carefully planned and thought about. I remember when they first started talking to me about doing it, and I was very nervous for just those reasons. How do you shape this performance?
But then when I heard who was going to do it — when they told me it was Capaldi, [I thought] that's not really a problem. He's so good. I was relieved, pretty much. It would have been a very different situation if it had been another kind of Matt Smith character. A guy who you don't know. Molded from the start. But with Capaldi, you look at his career and you look at his performances they are all so brilliant, and all so different as well. It was a lucky break for me, I think that.
It was something I sought out. I got my agent to kind of badger them about doing, because I was a fan as a kid. But also because my kid was a fan of the show and I wanted to make something that he could see, for a change. That was it. And it's been very geeky indeed. Going into the TARDIS, I held the Sonic Screwdriver the other day, and that was a particular thrill. All sorts of stuff. Also stuff I can't talk about, that's been very, very exciting for me.
I think it's exciting to get an actor with such gravitas when he's on screen. Sure he's being silly but he's still kind of a little scary. And it's fun to read that he was getting paired up with you, especially when you read people on the internet worried about you making the series too dark. But why not make it a little darker? There's always been a little darkness in the Time Lord.
Oh yeah, Doctor Who is pretty dark, I think. Generally it's dark, it's always been dark. Even in the more modern ones. If you look at the Tom Baker stuff, it's especially dark. When he leaves Leela — who's a very beloved assistant — he just laughs after it. There's none of the [breaking down and crying]. He just laughs, and "on to the next one," you know. It's a bonkers show. It's a monster. To have a unity that runs eight years [of the new series]… it's pretty crazy. They've done everything, they've tried all sorts of stuff. It seems to me the episodes that we're doing now seem more like classic Who. We're going back to that style. But you'll have to wait and see.
I think it's exciting that you're going from psychedelic horror, to Doctor Who. It should be very interesting
And High Rise is next. Yeah, J.G. Ballard's High Rise.
That's a pretty dark book.
Yeah man. I'll be going straight back to the dark shit.
Are you filming right now or still working on the script?
No, no we're filming. That's happening. That should be announced this week, about stuff that's going on with it.
Now was this the version that's going to be a deviation from the original book? Will it take place after everything goes to hell?
No that was the last lot, when they tried to make it a few years ago. We've gone back and Amy [Jump]'s written a script that's very close to the book. It's set in 1975.
So are you playing around with a lot of retro science-fiction looks?
Yeah, well, I mean it's going to look like the 70s. It's going to be very styled in that way. We're looking at the Ridley Scott adverts of that period. It's going to be modern in a way that the 70s looked. In a way that, "I don't know what the future looks like anymore," which is quite funny. We're already in Buck Rogers land now. Aren't we? We've all got phones, it's not that exciting. But back then they had a real idea of what the future was going to be like, and it was much more stylish.
Stay tuned for more from Ben Wheatley this week, when we discuss getting science, magic, and magic mushrooms in the 17th century a la A Field In England (which side note, will be in theaters and on VOD February 7th)