Attending a preview screening of his new film Lost in London at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema last night, actor and director Woody Harrelson told the audience that it would likely be the last time he watched it, already having seen it a few times since the original “live” broadcast of 19th January when it was transmitted from the streets of London to cinemas across America as it was performed.
With post production tweaks now completed including grading and colour timing, he emphasised that no additional editing had taken place to change the flow of the original broadcast. Inspired by a true incident in 2002, Harrelson said the film was “kind of autobiographical,” and admitted that perhaps he “might have been better just to forget about it,” but instead made a film of which he said “Too much of this is true.”
Looking on it as an organic project which had little distribution, he asked for the cooperation and support of the audience – “if you like it, instatweetface about it” – which they were only too willing to provide.
The first feature film ever broadcast live, with two square miles of London wired up to receive the uplink from the cameras to be saved to hard drives, there had been five complete run-throughs with concerns raised when signal was lost in the final rehearsal, but the project depending on secrecy and word getting out they had to go ahead, matters further complicated by a bomb scare on the night of the actual recording.
“When I first wrote the script it was over a decade ago. When I read it back it was terrible.” Leaving it to sit for another two years, he then returned to it and began reworking it. “I had to overcome my lazy inclinations,” he confessed, saying the last thing he wanted to do at home in Maui was write.
The cast having rehearsed over a period of two months prior to the event Harrelson said that the script changed until the very last day, and said with hindsight he could see where further changes should have been made in what became “a weird love letter to my wife, very weird,” the family connection continued with his youngest daughter playing the part of his oldest daughter.
The biggest problem facing him as a director being the lack of sleep, he said he would very much like to direct again, “just not something like this.” A huge technical undertaking with one hundred and sixty people on radios and thirty five actors with hidden microphones, capturing the sound was a major issue of the production, leading to the question of why stage it in this way in the first place? “My big passions are theatre and film, why not combine the two?”
In fact one scene went “horribly wrong,” where the “bad cop” was supposed to show up as soon as Woody left the police cell and before he was able to make the call, forcing the actors to improvise and Woody to at least attempt to make the call to his wife back at the hotel.
That role had originally been envisioned as Ricky Gervais before Harrelson decided that having a known face would take the audience out of the illusion, though a cameo which is featured is Willie Nelson, “eighty three and spry as a monkey,” who had called Harrelson and asked “Why aren’t you putting me in it?”
Owen Wilson obviously playing himself, having participated in the events of that night in 2002, the fictionalised versions of Harrelson and Wilson argue over the films of Wes Anderson, leading to Harrelson being asked which in fact was his favourite – Fantastic Mr Fox. While it shows him in far from a good light, Harrelson was sanguine about his portrayal of himself. “There’s a lot of mickey to be taken out of. I don’t feel I have much reason for ego anyway.” That lack of ego was demonstrated as at the end of the evening Harrelson remained on stage to sign autographs and pose for photos with a good number of the sold-out audience.