Mrs Johns had just started teaching my elder 2 sons at primary school and she had twin boys the same age (3) as my youngest. One day I was dropping him off at Stutton Seals Playgroup when I saw a well-dressed man escorting his kids in; to see any man at Stutton Seals was marked something of a turnup. It was Mr Johns and we got talking, there in the preschool, prefab playground. He was a film producer – and not just someone who liked to say they’re a film producer; he was actually producing a film right now, a horror movie shot in Suffolk. If a screenwriter bumps into a film producer in London, it’s just par for the course; when it happens in Suffolk, it’s got to be fate.
He told me he had a source of funding in the Northeast and was looking for movies that could be shot there on a budget. Did I have anything along these lines? Well, it happened that I did – the first movie I ever wrote, now called Liability (it acquired a ‘The’ somewhere along the line): a hitman and his unwitting apprentice on the A1.
Things moved fast. I sent him a treatment in January; by December the same year we were shooting, with a cast including Tim Roth and Jack O’Connell.
My eldest son, then aged 10, accompanied me on the train to Newcastle when I went up to visit the set. On the way, we played card games; The Guardian had issued a pamphlet of them and my son wanted to learn them all.
By the time we’d been picked up and driven to an executive home north of the city, the (interior) location for the day, it had started to snow. As luck would have it, we were just in time to see Peter Mullen improvising 6 back-to-back, expletive-laden takes of a scene of domestic violence. I was in a dilemma, having my 10 year old there. But it was really snowing now. I couldn’t put him out in the cold. I told him that this was drama – and people occasionally swore a lot. He was more interested in learning Shithead*.
The female lead in The Liability was played by Talulah Riley, of St Trinian’s fame. She was married to Elon Musk at the time – but about to get a divorce, which may be why she sought out a film that was shooting 6,000 miles distant from LA. The divorce went thru in 2012; the following year, she and Musk remarried – only to divorce again in 2016.
She spent the next morning talking to my son, who was – I think – a little smitten. Or maybe that’s just what a screenwriter would say.
* A card game.