We got the chance to speak to the writer of Pride, Stephen Beresford; as well as actor Joseph Gilgun, who plays the part of Mike in the film; and the real Mike Jackson, whom story the film is partly based on. We sent down Jonathan Blackburn to see the film, and published his review earlier this week.
The hall was extensive, the information on display was eye opening and the choice of location just perfect. Housed in Manchester’s People History Museum is all the information one could wish to read about the story of LGSM – that’s Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. Set up in the eighties, this group of same-sex lovers clubbed together and provided financial aid and moral support to a little Welsh mining village. Today, the story stands as a testament to their work. However, this information has also been key for Stephen Beresford, the writer of Pride.
He explains: ‘It was difficult to find the information, as there wasn’t much to go off when we began researching the film. I now know much more looking back – and if I’d been a more scholarly researcher I may have uncovered more at the time – but I was young and I didn’t really know how to find those things. Plus I had no authority behind my name. When you’re an unknown writer and you call people up or try and get information, a lot of people ignore you, so it took a while. Once my writing career took off and I was in a stronger position, I asked questions and people answered.
‘I was first told the story in the early nineties when I was in my early twenties – now I’m in my early forties! That doesn’t mean I was working on it for twenty years, but it’s always stayed in my mind as a story that I needed to tell.
‘I knew I wanted it to be a mainstream film, rather than a small movie that would only be seen by LGBT people, so I knew I’d need to bide my time till the right moment. I’d pitch it to people sporadically over the years, every now and then. They always said, “Yeah, it is a great story, but we could never make a mainstream movie out of that!” This was time and time again, until one day I told the tale and someone said that it was the best story he’d ever heard, and asked me why I didn’t write it. So in a way, the movie could not have been made a moment before today, which is a very exciting feeling. It’s literally of the moment.’
‘It’s an incredible story of solidarity really and it’s unexpected. That’s what so great about it. You don’t expect those two communities to do what they did. I was attracted to making it into a film as it’s obviously a great story- but also because nobody knows about it, and those are the two best things as a writer to put together.”
When likened to This Is England on the grounds of a political message to a younger generation, he concedes that it is similar. He said: ‘They offer young people a political narrative which is interesting. I hope this film inspires people to be hopeful. You know, things get better if they’re bad in the first place. One of the things I hope the film is able to do, because it’s a mainstream film so a lot of people will go and see it, is that it may make conversations between young gay people and their parents easier because their parents will have seen the movie.’
Joseph (who was also in This Is England) added: ‘I think it’s extremely important that our generation go to see this film. It’s incredibly exciting for everyone concerned. I think it’ll speak to those who may have sort of inherited homophobia. Particularly coming from working class towns. I’m from Chorley – it’s a small town and I hope the people of Chorley go to watch it and I hope it changes a few minds.’
Discussing the relationship between the actor, Joseph, and the real life inspiration, Mike, for his character, Joseph said: ‘There’s an added pressure I think when you meet the man you’re about to be, which is rare in your career. I’m very proud to play Mike and learn what he did, with the awareness he and the group raised. The pressure helped me. I’ve got a great fondness for Mike and the rest of the LGSM and what they did and stood for.’
When asked why there are no romantic story lines, Stephen said: ‘There are almost no films about gay people that aren’t about sex and it’s the only way in which we’re spoken to and the only way in which, sometimes, we speak to each other. Now I think that’s a great shame because we have an enormous world and there are parts of our culture that are ignored. The characters aren’t abstinent. You see in the film, when you first meet Jeff – who’s played by Freddy Fox – he’s asking if there’s a remedy for love bites. They’re all jumping into bed together, we just don’t see it, and that’s because there’s a much more important story to follow.
‘It’s a bit like when you make movies about young women, for example. We don’t need to see scenes of women sitting around tables talking about men. What we need to see are films about young women doing things, other than obsessing about getting a boyfriend. Same with this. I really wanted to make a film about gay people where they weren’t concerned about “Can I get a six-pack?” and “Can I get a boyfriend?” They’re not ignoble ambitions but there are bigger things to think about.
‘The scene where George Mackay gets his first kiss is quite a sexy moment because that’s the first time that boy has been kissed by anybody. The fact it’s in a huge nightclub, with Bronsky Beat playing and a big political speech being made in the background that’s changing the world, it’s just really sexy. It’s a huge change for the character as well.’
As Mike was the only person who was involved in the real life story, he reflected on the realism the film offers.
‘It’s a movie and Stephen never left us in any doubt that they’d be fictitious characters and fictitious moments, otherwise you’d have to sit in the cinema for a year – it’d be a bit tedious. What astonished me is that the bits depicting reality were extremely detailed. I just thought, “My God has that man listened to us!” There were so many little details. It’s often what you may see as trivial details that actually have the most impact upon human beings, since that’s the way our brains are made. I went to the shoot of the Pits and Perverts scene, and the movie company had recreated the tickets to get in. The dance floor was littered with these, but there isn’t a single image in the movie where you see these tickets.’
Talking about the moments of comedy, Stephen advises that you should always write the best joke you can.
‘Even if there’s only two people in the audience who laugh, there is a connection between those people and the writer. Making the best joke you can is also good advice for dinner parties as well.’
Images courtesy of J Wilson.