“It has just been a very, very intense year,” says screenwriter Abi Morgan. In addition to the release of Shame this week, her name also appears on the scripts for the new Meryl Streep film The Iron Lady and six episodes of the British television series The Hour.
“I just keep my head down and write,” she says. “The hardest thing for a writer is if you don’t have anyone with a deadline waiting for you. It’s someone saying, ‘Deliver. I’m interested. I want to see what you’ve got.’ I think I’m a natural people pleaser so I like going, ‘Yes, I’m coming.’ It appeals to that part of me.
“I don’t have writer’s block as such. I certainly can write rubbish. I think your b******t barometer has to go up when you write every day because you have to stop and think, ‘Is this working? Is it good?’ You have to stop yourself from using the same rhythm or the same bad stage directions.
“So you know I have to shake up my writing quite a lot.”
Shake up, indeed. The Iron Lady is a portrait of hard line British PM Maggie Thatcher, The Hour a 1950s set newsroom drama, while Shame is a modern day look at sex addiction and the role the Internet plays in comodifying pornography.
“We didn’t set out to write a film about sex addiction,” she says of her collaboration with director Steve McQueen. “Our starting point was how the Internet can draw you in.”
She calls Shame star Michael Fassbender “the most brilliant choice” to play Brandon, a sex dependent New Yorker, because “he’s so fearless.”
The film wasn’t originally written with Fassbender in mind, but after the second draft director McQueen suggested the actor. The two had worked together in the festival hit Hunger, and Morgan says, “Steve and him have such an incredible relationship.”
Now she says “the film was very bespoke for him.”