Funny title, serious subject for acclaimed British director’s latest film

Director Mike Newell.
Director Mike Newell.

MAKING a film with a long and quirky title, director Mike Newell made it a challenge to have the characters on screen say it as frequently as possible.

The Four Weddings and Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire hit-maker took the reins on the film adaptation of the best-selling book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society because he was taken by the title as well as the story.

In the film, author Juliet Ashton (Lily James) travels to Nazi-occupied Guernsey Island and bonds with members of the Society, who came up with the name as a cover when confronted by the Nazis.

“I loved the title, it was what attracted me to the show,” Newell said.

“I had a competition with the writer about how many times we could get the characters to say it on screen and it turned out to be about four or five times.

“But it (the title) is not just a daft, frothy joke, it comes out of necessity.”

Newell said having grown up in the aftermath of World War II, he could relate somewhat to the story.

“It was telling an absolutely alternative version of the great events of the war,” he said.

“I was born in the middle of the war in 1942 and I remember bits and pieces of it, slivers of memory, and I remember what it was like immediately after the war.

“It was depressing and colourless and gritty and the rationing was savage.”

Newell has had success in feature films for 35 years, but he cut his teeth in television with episodes of British soap opera Coronation Street.

With the quality in television storytelling skyrocketing in the last few years, Newell said he would make a return to the small screen “like a shot”.

He said he has been keeping his eye out for the perfect project.

“It would be dumb indeed to overlook how strong television is at the moment,” he said.

“I had a terrific education in TV and if a project comes up that I am interested in, I’ll be there like a shot.”

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is in cinemas April 19.