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'Days Of The Bagnold Summer is such a low-budget film but it's bizarrely prescient'

Coming-of-age movie Days Of The Bagnold Summer is directed by Simon Bird. He tells Georgia Humphreys why the film feels very relevant right now


Food for thought: Monica Dolan as Sue and Earl Cave as Daniel in Days Of The Bagnold Summer

Food for thought: Monica Dolan as Sue and Earl Cave as Daniel in Days Of The Bagnold Summer

Press Association Images

Simon Bird

Simon Bird

Press Association Images

Food for thought: Monica Dolan as Sue and Earl Cave as Daniel in Days Of The Bagnold Summer

Simon Bird admits it's a shame that his feature debut as a director isn't getting a "proper cinema release".

However, the 34-year-old Guildford-born actor - star of The Inbetweeners and Friday Night Dinner - was able to take the coming-of-age story to a few film festivals before the coronavirus pandemic began.

So, luckily, the cast and crew did get the experience of watching it on a big screen, and witnessing the audience reaction.

And now, with cinemas still currently closed during lockdown, Days Of The Bagnold Summer - which stars Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Rob Brydon and Tamsin Greig - is being launched digitally.

"Ultimately, it's such a low-budget film, it's main home was always going to be online," reasons a chatty, amiable Bird.

"And then, on top of that, it's so bizarrely prescient as well; it's about somebody whose summer holiday plans are cancelled and suddenly finds themselves stuck at home with their mum. So, for that reason, it feels like it's probably relatable to a lot of people.

"As it goes, it's alright for our film; I feel sorry for a lot of other films that are less lucky."

The funny and tender story - which is adapted from the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart - follows heavy metal fan and teenager Daniel (Cave), who was due to spend six weeks of summer with his dad and his dad's new wife in Florida.

When he has to spend it with his mum (Dolan) in suburbia instead, it leads to an epic war of wills as they each deal with private tragedies, and pursue their personal passions.

The screenplay was actually written by Bird's wife, author Lisa Owens (the pair married in 2012, having met at Cambridge University, and have two young children together).

"It was an amazingly smooth process actually, and we're still happily married!" he quips.

When it comes to his previous directing work, back in 2016, Bird made a short film - a darkly comic fairytale called Ernestine & Kit.

But he admits he felt like he had to prove himself throughout the process of making Days Of The Bagnold Summer.

Trying to get funding for the film was "the most stressful and difficult process", he continues.

"Actually, being on set and all that stuff came weirdly naturally and I felt quite comfortable doing it. I didn't feel comfortable raising the money.

"And you slightly have to fake it until you make it, you have to convince people that the film is going to be really successful and make loads of money when in your heart of hearts you've got no idea that that's the case at all, or don't really believe it."

Bird knows that Will McKenzie - his character in The Inbetweeners, which ran from 2008 to 2010, followed by two films in 2011 and 2014 - is a part he will be asked about forever.

The Channel 4 sitcom, which followed the escapades of four hapless school friends, had a huge fanbase, and has cemented itself as a national-treasure sitcom.

Was there a part of him that thought turning to directing would be an effective way of taking control over how people see him?

"I guess so," he muses, thoughtfully.

"Maybe that is on a subconscious level. I never thought of it as, 'What can I do to distance myself from The Inbetweeners?', because I knew it was something I wanted to do.

"I guess it's just natural that I will distance myself from The Inbetweeners, because that's not my thing; I didn't write it, it's just an acting job I did for a few weeks every year.

"Despite that, I think for my first project I have chosen something which unfortunately does have quite a lot of similarities to The Inbetweeners, in that it's contemporary and suburban and there's a teenager in it.

"But that was not deliberate... this was the story that most jumped out at me for whatever reason."

Bird recalls how seeing The Inbetweeners creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley - who also produced the show - directing The Inbetweeners films made him realise he could have a go at directing.

"They are just such normal people," he says.

"When they started doing it they were in their early 30s, so I was like, 'Oh right, it's not some super skill that you need to have done years of training for, it's sort of doable'.

"And, if you surround yourself with good people who do the technical stuff and you have a clear vision of what you want to do, it's possible."

He says the casting directors for Days Of The Bagnold Summer really pulled it out of the bag with Brighton-born Cave, who is only 20 and is actually the son of Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave.

"I'd never heard of him or seen any of his stuff and that was obviously the part that we were most worried about," he says.

"We saw lots of kids and a lot of them were amazing, but a lot of them were doing the classic grumpy Kevin And Perry Go Large teenager thing, whereas someone like Earl, he does that, but you can see underneath he's really sweet and nice, as he is in real life.

"So, I hope that's there in the film, even though he's quite narky with his mum it's clearly just a phase, and you can see Daniel has a sense of humour."

Bird would love to do more directing work in the future, calling it "really fulfilling".

"I'd like to still be an actor as well because I love acting and in an ideal world, I'd be able to do both things in parallel," he says.

"I was about to say that's the plan but really there is no plan. We'll see what happens."

Days Of The Bagnold Summer is available on digital now

Belfast Telegraph