Rag Tale (2005)

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Character Actor
Richard Morton Malcolm McDowell
Eddy Taylor Rupert Graves
Mary Josephine 'MJ' Morton Jennifer Jason Leigh
Lucky Lloyd Bill Paterson
Morph Ian Hart
Debbs Lucy Davis
Sally May Sara Stockbridge
P3 David Hayman
Peach James Taylor Kerry Fox
Mac Cal Macaninch
Court Advisor Julian Nest
Royal Advisor Thomas Sanne
Felix Sty John Sessions
Fat Boy Simon Callow

Produced, Written and Directed by Mary McGuckian


Lucy Davis 8/22/05 Scotsman
She couldn't make it to the world premiere of her film, Rag Tale, at the Edinburgh International Film Festival yesterday because she was filming The TV Set with Sigourney Weaver and David Duchovny. For someone on the brink of major stardom, Davis is refreshingly down to earth, which must make her something of an oddity in California. "When I saw [Rag Tale] I thought 'I'm in a film. Oh my goodness, how did this happen?'," says the 31-year-old. A savagely funny satire set in a London tabloid newspaper, Rag Tale stars Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Graves, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Sessions, Simon Callow and Ian Hart. Director Mary McGuckian supplied the cast with descriptions of their characters and a basic plot and then it was up to them to improvise. "I was petrified every single day," says Davis, adding, "but that is good, it means I'm being challenged. "In Rag Tale Davis plays Debbs, the editor's secretary who can't resist spreading office gossip. Isn't she afraid of being typecast? "I did say to myself after The Office, 'Do not play another secretary for a very long time.' But the fact that it was with such a fabulous cast and it was improvised made it such an amazing challenge that I couldn't turn it down. Even if Mary [McGuckian] had said your name is Dawn and you are in love with a character called Tim I'd have still done it."

Amorality play launches satirical trilogy
By Lanie Goodman 8/2/05
    Nice, France (Hollywood Reporter) - Irish indie filmmaker Mary McGuckian doesn't do things the easy way. Her latest movie, "Rag Tale," a dark satire about the U.K. tabloid press that premieres at the Locarno (Switzerland) Film Festival later this month, was shot on HD digital in black and white and color, with at least three hand-held cameras rolling for every scene. There is a story line, but no script. The cast, which includes Rupert Graves, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Malcolm McDowell, was expected to improvise.
    McGuckian shot the film in 30 days in a glass skyscraper in Luxembourg on a $12 million budget, and then pieced it all together, making more than 6,800 cuts. It was a considerable leap from her previous film, "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," a $36 million costume extravaganza based on the Thornton Wilder classic that McGuckian adapted, co-produced and directed. Despite critical acclaim and a star-packed cast, which includes Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Kathy Bates, the film has had little commercial success.
    "After having done a huge old-fashioned period film, I was interested in how we could marry new technology and bring the filmmaking process back to the actor," says McGuckian, who's based in the south of France. The actors apparently appreciated the technique, all having signed up for roles in McGuckian's next two movies, which together with "Rag Tale" will form a trilogy about amorality.
"I felt quite free without a script," says Graves, who plays a newspaper editor romancing his ambitious deputy (Leigh). "Sometimes, as we were improvising, we'd start going down a blind alleyway, but Mary always seemed to know how to drive us forward."
    "Rag Tale" is a fast-moving, sometimes giddy plunge into the grimy world of red-top journalism, packed with irreverent one-liners. "My interest in the tabloid world is its amorality -- the cult of celebrity that seems to have taken over the media and its power to really mess with people's lives," McGuckian says. She says she intended the movie as a gentle poke at the media, but from reaction to preview screenings, it's "more like a sledgehammer."
    The second part of the trilogy is "Funny Farm," which is set in a rehab center and explores the Anglo-American language of therapy, "the new religion of the Western World," according to McGuckian. The film will also star Bates and Russell Means and begins shooting in New Mexico in November. It will be followed by "A Classic Hollywood Story" in which McGuckian will turn her fire on Tinseltown for "a healthy look at the unhealthy world of the egos that are involved in the making of movies." You've been warned.


Lurid tale holds up a mirror to the tabloids
By David Gritten in Cannes | Daily Telegraph 5/14/05

    Cannes was treated to an unedifying depiction of ethics on a tabloid newspaper yesterday when the British film Rag Tale had its world premiere. Described by its writer-director, Mary McGuckian, as "satiric" and "darkly comic", it charts a week in the life of a fictional tabloid, The Rag.
    The plot concerns the efforts of the proprietor to sack the editor, who is having an affair with his deputy - the proprietor's wife - but among the highlights is an irreverent editorial meeting that begins with the editor asking: "Who shall we get this week?" The US presidential election is dismissed as "boring", and The Rag's brash, Cockney fashion editor lets out uproarious one-liners such as: "Look like Sienna for a tenner!" and "Osama - he's got a lovely little face under that turban."
    The film portrays an amoral world of faked pictures, exaggerated stories, cocaine snorting and sexual horseplay. The Rag's is the sort of office where if a couple conduct a secret liaison in a closed room, several employees listen in on headsets, then transmit events to others via e-mail. Media pundits will point to real-life parallels with the film's characters.
    The press baron, played by Malcolm McDowell, has familiar initials - RM - but is called Richard Morton. He longs for a peerage, while his glamorous younger wife MJ (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is an ambitious, shopaholic American journalist. And the editor, Eddy (Rupert Graves) a brash, jokey, youngish man with a talent for insults, gets fired for running a contentious Page One story.
    McGuckian, 41, insisted: "It's genuinely fictional. But I can't help it if my actors are inspired by what goes on in real life. It's not about people, it's about the use and abuse of power in the media."
Rag Tale seems to be set in a fishbowl resembling a modern, high-rise glass office building in London. In fact, it was shot in Luxembourg over six weeks last year.
    McGuckian sketched out a basic story, but her mostly British cast - also including John Sessions, Bill Paterson, Lucy Davis (Dawn from The Office) and Kerry Fox - improvised their dialogue.
The Royal Family, too, comes in for a bashing. Eddy launches a Rag campaign to throw Buckingham Palace completely open to the public and suggests converting it to a skating rink. But his republican stance enrages his pro-monarchist boss.
    McGuckian asked her cast to find mentors in journalism, so they could act authentically: "Lucy's was the PA to the editor of The Sun, who told her she'd be fired if she behaved as she did in the film."
    Her previous film, soon to be released in America, is a big-budget epic shot in Spain - The Bridge of San Luis Rey, starring Robert de Niro and Harvey Keitel. But she conceived Rag Tale after making Best, her 2000 film about the football star George Best, played by her husband, the actor John Lynch.
    "I'd never made a film that had such acres of coverage, so reading tabloids was new to me. I thought this would be a great world to make a film about," she said. The couple, who divide their time between London and the Riviera, "keep a low profile", she said, and so had avoided the tabloids' clutches. Rag Tale has a British distributor and should be released later this year. It is being screened in Cannes to attract foreign buyers.



Richard Morton on a PC screen conference

Together Again

2006 - Malcolm, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rupert Graves, Lucy Davis and Ian Hart were in Funny Farm.

This page 2004-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net