‘Attack the Block’ director, lead star speak about film

Alex Williams

Judging from the audience’s reaction to the world premiere of “Attack the Block” at this year’s South By Southwest Festival, the film is on track to become an instant classic. It even won the Audience Award, and it was arguably the biggest film of the festival. Joe Cornish made his directorial debut with the film, and John Boyega, the film’s main star, also makes his acting debut.

The Daily Texan spoke with Cornish and Boyega during the pre-release publicity tour of “Attack the Block” which opens in Austin on Friday.

Daily Texan: Why did you choose South By Southwest to premiere the film?
Joe Cornish: We thought it was the right environment to release it. It’s a great festival with an amazing history. And we were so excited when they accepted it. It was the first sign people might like the film. It was frightening the first time we showed it to an audience. They’re a smart crowd here and opinionated. I think we were just lucky. The timing was right, and the film was finished just in time for the festival. I’d never been before, but I had always followed it and wished I could be there so it was a dream come true to be here. Then to get the response we did was incredible.

DT: How did you, John, get cast in the film?
John Boyega: I got a call from my agent, told me there was a film about alien invasions in South London. I went out for the audition, which was very, very long. I just got callback after callback, which is very sad. It was like torture. And then I got the phone call that I got the part. It’s funny, because the audition process felt as if we were going into the rehearsal process. We spoke about the roles as if we already got them. Joe’s like, “I want you to play Moses like…” and I’m thinking, “Have I got the part then?”
JC: We pretty much realized he was Moses the second he walked in the room. It was mostly a process of finding the kids around him, but we didn’t tell him that. We put him through the mill.

DT: What was filming like?
JB: The cold got me. It was hard to concentrate in those first scenes, hard to get comfortable.
JC: We shot the movie almost chronologically, so the first thing we shot was the mugging, which was quite cool. John was masked. Then we all evolved and got to know each other and evolved our style as well.
JB: It was so weird though, just being on a set. Looking around, there’s a camera and a big light with a crane, and Joe with his headset and his weird jacket giving orders.
JC: It was a cool jacket.

DT: Did you do any of your own stunt work?
JB: I didn’t do it all. What I did do was sometimes very scary, sometimes cool. Being blown off a balcony was kind of scary. They didn’t tell me it was going to be that bad! It was fun though.

DT: Any chance of a sequel?
JC: Well, I want John to play the lead in “Transformers 4.” (laughs) I would love to, and we’re full of ideas for it. But we have to wait until the Benjamin Button technology gets good enough to age down 11 actors.

DT: What’s your favorite audience reaction moment in the film?
JC: I have a weird thing where I don’t actually like to be in the room when the film screens, because I think I might curse it. I secretly think they’re swapping it out for a different film. If I’m in the room when it shows, I’ll see, “Oh, they’re not showing ‘Attack the Block,’ they’re showing ‘Evil Dead II,’ and that’s why everyone’s so excited.”

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Writer, actor talk of first-time experience