Best known for his role as Maurice Moss in the British sitcom The IT Crowd, first-time director Richard Ayoade is earning rave reviews for his new coming-of-age comedy Submarine. Based on the novel of the same name by Joe Dunthorne and produced by Ben Stiller's Red Hour Films, Submarine stars young up-and-coming talents Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, who play the film's two star-crossed lovers. While 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Roberts) dissects in his diary the lives of the adults living around him, Ayoade is cleverly delivering one of the sharpest, funniest, and rudest accounts of a periodically troubled teen and his woes.
Complex recently sat down with the multitalented English entertainer in New York to talk about Submarine, being musically earnest in one's films, and his favorite movie scores.
Complex: What were your initial thoughts on Joe Dunthorne's novel after you read it? How did you translate that coming-of-age story to the big screen?
Richard Ayoade: I just thought that the novel was very funny and I really liked the culture of Oliver Tate. I thought he was very interesting and he didn't behave in a way that I expected he would behave. He is very young seeming and just making very curious decisions that felt very emotionally different, very immature. With the book, the story is very first-person and he's a very unreliable narrator, so there, a lot of what takes place is in the gaps between what he's stating and what is happening. And so the film is more objective necessarily than what the book can be. There ends up being a juxtaposition between his narration and his testimony and what you're actually seeing on the screen, so it's just a different type of way of going about it. What makes the book good is...bookish. [Laughs.]
Ben Stiller produced the movie and makes a brief appearance. What are your thoughts on his contribution to the film?
He and his producing partner [Stuart Cornfeld] were sent our script and came aboard at the ground level. It was really good to have his support through this whole ordeal. He has been really great in that regards, to give up so much of his time to contribute to this project. Ben is an iconic figure in comedy. He's an incredibly important creative genius in this business. He happened to be over in England for something and it didn't take long for us to do the cameo.
My "dating experiences" pluralizes it past its merit.
"Experiences" pluralizes it past its merit. [Laughs.] There really has been nothing. No pyromaniacs. [Laughs.] Nothing really of note until my marriage.
OK, then.... How important is it to be musically earnest with the score in one's films?
I think it really depends on what the film is. In Submarine, there's two strands of music. One is orchestral, which Andrew Hewitt composed and is almost like his personal soundtrack which he presses play to in his head. Then you have the songs written by Alex Turner [lead singer/songwriter of The Arctic Monkeys], which exist physically on the mixtape Oliver Tate's father gives him. Alex's songs are great because they're humorous without being jokey. His songs have been really good at telling the tale of love gained and love lost.
What would you say is the difference between British and American comedy?
I don't know that there is a particular difference and I don't think Americans characterize comedy as one particular thing any more than what English people do. Therefore, by that there can be no such thing as American humor or English humor, I just don't fully believe that's possible.
Is there any chance that you and Joel McHale will try to bring The IT Crowd to America again?
Honestly, I really don't think so. I think that [series director] Graham Linehan may be doing a version that he's more involved with, but I don't think I'd be involved with that. As a gift to the public, my absence is what I'm presenting. The people will somehow survive without me being a part of the show. [Laughs.]
Well, there is an open director's chair for the upcoming Fletch reboot. Does the project have your name on it?
A reboot of Fletch? [Laughs.] I'm not sure that I'd be the first person on the list to direct. So, I really have no idea if that would be something that I'd be a part of. It's not at the front of my mind. The first film is pretty hilarious, though!
It was pretty hilarious. Last question for you. What are you top 10 favorite musical scores in movies?
Vertigo. I'd have to say that it was one of the first scores that I truly enjoyed. Le Mempre is one of my favorites, too. Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver score by Bernard Herrmann is really great. I guess you'd have to have some [Ennio] Morricone, but I couldn't necessarily say which film was his best...maybe Once Upon A Time In The West. Another one would have to be Roman Polanski's The Tenant. That's a good one that I like a lot. The Graduate, in a sense, is pretty great, and There Will Be Blood also has a great score done by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. I couldn't give you a specific film for Woody Allen, but the way his movies are scored, they're all wonderful. I wouldn't say that I could put Annie Hall over Hannah And Her Sisters, so I'll pick them both. Last and certainly not least is Dario Argento's Suspiria, scored by the Italian rock band Goblin.