Iain Morris interview: The Inbetweeners 2 and beyond

The co-writer and co-director of The Inbetweeners 2 talks to us about the film, directing, and the future...

“I’m a low ebb, kick me while I’m down”, says Iain Morris, the co-writer and co-director of The Inbetweeners 2 down the phone to us. The reason? He’s had the premiere of his movie the day before, and I get the distinct impression he walked passed the Schweppe’s Shandy and gambled on another liquids. A price was being paid.

But we did get to have quite a chat about his new film, about the future of The Inbetweeners, and about Jason Statham. And here’s how it went.

I’ve got some good news for you. I went to see the film this morning, and I wanted you to know that the anti-piracy measures at my local cinema were working a treat. I was writing a few notes mid-film, and an usher came to ask me what I was doing.

Good! [Laughs]

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I was told afterwards it was to do with piracy prevention. As if I was individually drawing the frames of the film to leak online.

You could have done a flickbook of it, to be fair. No copying, no illegal flickbook making.

Thought you’d be pleased!

It’s no secret that you were reluctant to make another Inbetweeners film for a long time. In fact, you were adamant. The obvious, boring question: what tempted you back? And then, what were you looking to avoid once you’d made the decision to make the film?

Well, it was two things. It got to the stage where so many people said that they loved the first one, and wondered if we were doing another one. I’d go no, they’ve got why not, and it became like an embarrassing question! We don’t have a good answer, we got on really well, we’ve not fallen out. We just said we wouldn’t, and it’s not like it was closing it off. In the end, it just seemed mental to stop doing it.

And then we we said let’s think seriously about doing it, and what we could do. It wook a while. BIt was one of those weird things where bits came to me. I got rear-ended by a guy in dreadlocks in Los Angeles, called Ben. So I thought I’ve got a bad guy now, so I’ll write him down. Moments like that. The inspirations that came slowly. We then had a thing that we could put together.

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In terms of what we wanted to avoid, we just didn’t want to make the same film again. I read a review of a comedy film last year, year before, can’t remember what it was. But it said that this is a fine comedy film, but it could be called this comedy film or that comedy film, because of the structure. And our first film has that same structure. They start off, things are funny, it goes off, they all fall apart, they get back together, and they get the girl at the end. We did that deliberately in the first one, as we wanted to show that you could make a British low budget comedy like that. With this one, we wanted to play with structure and form. It’s not a very funny thing to say, but to try and keep people engaged to the end. Hence, the film has a kind of fourth act. It was about not making the same film again. We spent a long time trying to make something that was still The Inbetweeners, but a bit different.

Is that why you front-loaded the film the way you did? You have two sequences, one that shouldn’t be spoiled, so I won’t name what it is. The other gets all the Australian cliches out of the way very early. Is that you deliberately putting down a marker, to get them out of the way, or was that just the funniest way to do it?

A bit of both, probably. We’ve never done a flashback or a dream sequence in The Inbetweeners before, so for us it was about going let’s get inside Jay’s head as much as we can. So we were like what’s the funniest way, in character, to make this work? What would Jay do? We also wanted to do something cinematic at the start, to make it feel like you were in a film. That there’s a reason why you’ve come to the cinema to see this thing, if that makes sense.

Did you leave any Aussie cliches out in the end?!

I don’t think we cut any out. But you’ll notice that there’s not a single kangaroo in the whole film!

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And that’s deliberate?

Yep!

When it was announced when you and Damon [Beesley] were going to direct the film – appreciating you’re done a couple of episodes of the TV show – I don’t think I was alone in thinking that was a big gamble, a sizeable jump. You seemed to have handled the transition very well, though. Why did you decide to direct this one, though, and how does the co-directing mechanic differ from co-writing for you?

We decided to do it because we wanted to push ourselves and do something different. We’ve always been on set every single day. We’ve always been in the edit, and in the casting. We’ve always been hugely involved with every aspect of the show. We just wanted to push ourselves: what else could we expand into, if you like.

In terms of doing it together, we’re pretty much on the same wavelength, me and Damon. When we were prepping, doing shot lists, plans and stuff, we split the script up, and then swapped, marked each other’s homework, if you like. So when we were on set, it tended to be that one of us knew that scene better than the other one. The other person would still be around, but the other would take the lead a little bit more.

The very first sequence is one I don’t want to spoil the content of. I will say a very fine choice of font, though. But it’s an intricate sequence to put together, and a hugely challenging one I’d imagine. Was that the hardest for you? What were the mechanics?

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It was a big test. But we got a title sequence company in to do it. We told them exactly what to do, and they executed it. So yes and no. We designed it, we wrote it, but they shot it for us. We would have done it ourselves, but as they were doing the graphics anyway, it made sense for them to do it.

Presumably, then, the seamless edits of the Australian cliche sequence was the toughest then?

Yes! That was a nigthmare. Each bit of it took two days. 50-odd takes in the mansion alone. That was a long, tough one. I’m quite a big Michel Gondry fan, so we tried to do it all in camera. All of it is in camera, so yeah, that was a bit of Gondry and a bit of Scorsese in there!

Is it the editing that you find the killer?

It’s always the same with anything. You have moments where you just can’t see the woods for the trees. You’re stuck. We also had a definite release date to work towards. We couldn’t be like, okay, we’ll come back in six months to look at it. You get stuck. Basically, I don’t really like poetry very much, but I found myself in both the editing processes buying lots of random poetry books for inspiration. I went to the theatre quite a lot too to look at bits in different ways.

Does going through the process of a film release get any easier?

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Not for me. This has been, and continues to be, much more stressful than the last film. That said the last red carpet I was dazed by, so last night I tried to enjoy it and soak it up as much as possible. I’m incredibly lucky and the positive massively outweigh the negatives.

When the first Inbetweeners movie came around, I remember that there was a piece in one of the lesser British tabloids that tried to brand the US release a huge flop, that you were blaming it on a language barrier problem. Was that the moment when you felt you had a target painted on your back? Can you avoid getting angry about the worst edges of film reporting?

They took what I said light-heartedly at a screening in New York out of context to make a story, but I don’t really let things like that bother me.  The whole of America didn’t turn against me, so I’m fine. I think reporting is tricky these days and I understand the need for a headline to rise out above the clamour more than ever, but I think there is a duty to be at least slightly honest.  As long as people are that I’m okay with it.

What big screen comedies have impressed you of late?

I liked Bad Neighbours. I loved I Give it A Year.  I’ve been watching a lot of older films recently though, and watched Harold And Maude through twice last week. Incredible stuff.

Where do you go from here? You were linked with a ‘coming of age’ road movie for Paramount? Is that still happening?

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Don’t think so. Not sure. I’ll be back in LA next week so maybe I’ll find out then?  I’d like to keep making films, maybe write another sitcom, and just keep working with Damon for as long as he’ll have me.  I went to a screening of Doctor Strangelove as part of the London Comedy Film Festival recently, and Christiana Kubrick spoke about her husband.  She said he was a great collaborator, and that was inspiring.  I’d like to work with people who are funny and clever as much as I can.

Appreciating you’ve ruled out – again! – another Inbetweeners movie, is there any temptation to revisit one or two of the characters in other projects?

None.

What’s your favourite Jason Statham movie?

I have never seen one.

Boo! Iain Morris, thank you very much.

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