“The Marker” is a new movie by British filmmaker Justin Edgar who is certain he’s come a long way since his debut film, “Large,” which he admits he made when he was a clueless when it came to making movies. Eighteen years later he’s made the very accomplished and extremely powerful crime thriller ‘’The Marker’’, which is released in August. He recently discussed the project via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): You’re from the UK, Justin?
Justin Edgar (JE): I am indeed!
MM: And have all your productions been shot in your homeland?
JE: Yes, I’ve directed four features in the UK and for some reason only ever shot abroad once when I made a film about Vincent Van Gogh in France. However, I’ve been lucky enough to travel with my films and visit lots of nice places! (and some not so nice!)
MM: Did you grew up in a filmmaking family?
JE: No, I actually didn’t have any filmmaking family growing up and it was definitely a struggle to get into the industry for me. Funnily enough there is a playwright who has also written for television called David Edgar and he comes from my hometown. Because it’s a rare surname everyone thinks I’m his son but I’ve only ever met him once on a train to London.
MM: What was the first film you shot?
JE: The first film I made was Large which was a gross out teen movie set against the backdrop of the UK rave scene, I made it in 2001.
MM: And how do you think you’ve improved as a filmmaker since then?
JE: That film was a real disaster critically although it made money. I can safely say that I didn’t have much of a clue about making films back then, so it was my film school. However I’ve always had a lot of passion and vision and I think that gets you a long way. In a way that’s more important than the boring practical elements of directing.
MM: Your credits suggest you don’t gravitate towards one genre in particular. But is there a common thread or theme in the stories you do?
JE: That’s true but I am very attracted to stories of the outsider and I think Marley in the Marker is the type of character we would avoid in real life, I wanted to take a very troubled character like that and examine what makes them tick. A lot of the characters in my films are similarly troubled – even the comedies.
MM: How did “The Marker” come about?
JE: I wanted to make a really dark noir where the character does an extremely bad thing, the question was can we ever forgive a character like that? And can he ever forgive himself? I thought the best way to do that was to make the film entirely from Marley’s point of view and weave between his inner thoughts and emotions and reality. The real breakthrough was in arriving at the concept of having Ana as the external manifestation of his conscience. There is a moment in the film where we jump to her point of view as she watches him from the car – we know from there on that she is playing him – she has her own agenda and he is doomed. But the paradox is that she’s in his head – his own creation, so ultimately, he is self-destructive as he can’t cope with his guilt.
MM: And can you talk about any films or filmmakers that might have influenced it?
JE: I was reading a lot of hard-boiled noir fiction – Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy and I wanted to do something like that in a UK context. I grew up watching UK crime films like Get Carter and Mona Lisa and I think those films have a real edge and reality. I was lucky enough to work with the great Cathy Tyson on the Marker who starred in Mona Lisa opposite Bob Hoskins and that was a conscious nod to UK noir cinema. I also like the cinema of British realists like Alan Clarke. Current filmmakers who really push the envelope and deal in primal human emotions are also great like Nicholas Winding Refn.
MM: How did you get the wonderful John Hannah involved?
JE: I live around the corner from him in London and see him quite a bit – Richard E Grant lives around the other corner, but that would have been a very different film. That’s not how I got him in the film though. I remember him playing a really bad character in the Scottish film The Wee Man and I think he has the ability to wear benign evil really well. The casting director approached him and he really liked the script and it was as simple as that. I think he had real fun playing Brendan.
MM: Is there a message in the movie?
JE: The film is about when is it too late to be redeemed? I think its something we see a lot in media, “this is a bad person and they must be punished” but what created that person? The answer is often that as a society we all did. For me you need to understand that and understand evil people in order to move forward.
MM: And do you feel the film will translate just as well across the pond, here in the states?
JE: I hope so! Its on Netflix in the UK and has had some good feedback they tell me, although I’ve never read a single review! I decided not to. I think its best that way.