Joe Cornish: A Jedi of the sci-fi

Frost and Treadaway in “Attack the Block.”

Since its debut at the SXSW Film Festival in March, writer/director Joe Cornish’s indie sci-fi “Attack the Block” has won a steady stream of audience awards and rave reviews. It’s a reception Cornish doesn’t take lightly. “I think the combined power of the Internet and bloggers is just as powerful as any marketing machine, I hope,” he says. He sat down with Metro to talk about the film, which is set for a broader national release.

Why do you think the British council estate continues to be such fertile ground for film and TV?

Those places were built in a spirit of great optimism after the war. They replaced lots of slums and they were seen as sort of futuristic, exciting, utopian housing projects. In the years that have passed, they’ve kind of become symbolic of the opposite — of people who find themselves in difficult positions. And they’ve been used in films, certainly, for quite downbeat, depressing narratives. My film was an attempt to actually take it back to that futuristic aesthetic.

The heroes of the movie start out as petty criminals, but you end up sympathizing with them.

Actually, it happens a hell of a lot in movies. I think it’s interesting because he’s young, it’s possibly something to do with his color, that people react more strongly to this character than they do, for instance, to Ben Affleck’s character in “The Town” that holds a submachine gun to a woman’s head and forces her to open a safe, and yet 10 minutes later they’re romancing each other in the launderette.

Given that this is your first feature, what did you learn about making films?

I didn’t realize you had to rewrite to budget. I was reading that amazing “Making of ‘Star Wars’” book. Darth Vader had his own planet and his own spaceship, but they made the spaceship a planet to save money. If there’s one thing I’m learning from directors of big-budget films, it’s that the problems are the same.


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