In conversation with Made in Dagenham director Nigel Cole and Rosamund Pike

Posted: September 20, 2010 in Q&As, Toronto International Film Festival
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Made in Dagenham's Rosamund PikeDirector Nigel Cole has been fortunate enough to tell many great stories, most of which are ensemble-driven. But he says, “It doesn’t feel like I choose films at all. It feels like they choose me.” In a general sense, Cole says, “I like stories about small groups of people who take on a bigger enemy.” In tune with his account of his filmmaking career, Made in Dagenham was given to Cole by producers. Having grown up near Dagenham, he couldn’t believe he’d never heard the story. “I was very excited … to find a great true story and be the first to tell it,” says Cole.

Cole read and viewed records of the sewing machinists fight while researching the film. He found he preferred their declarations from the time versus their memories of events now because people have a tendency to unknowingly alter their version of experiences. Cole was worried about the women’s reactions to the film once it was completed, but was very relieved when they “loved it.” Morally, he wanted to genuinely capture history and do these women justice; practically, he knew the film couldn’t financially survive if the women disliked it. They were most pleased with Cole’s inclusion of the evolution of their struggle from a request for a small raise to a fight for equal pay.

Rosamund Pike stars as Lisa Hopkins, a woman married to an executive at Ford who eventually reveals she has some pretty strong opinions about the strike that are opposite of her husband’s. Pike says she was attracted to the character because there’s an obvious sense she had the promise of being “a really bright girl, but it’s how easy people slip into a different life without really noticing that it’s happened to them.” Lisa simply met a man, fell in love and ended up in this life; she then suddenly realizes she’s not fulfilling her potential. “We’re meeting this character in a moment of kind of self-recognition, which is why I think she comes across as an interesting character even though she’s hardly in the movie,” says Pike. “The whole point is it’s a change in consciousness in men and women.”

Both Pike and Cole believe that despite the film’s depiction of a certain moment in history, it still has a lot of relevance in today’s society. “I’m sure there are women like Lisa now, who might watch Lisa and say, ‘Huh, gosh that’s sort of my story. I wonder what I could have been?’” says Pike. Cole thinks the story is actually more significant now than it was then; he sees two aspects to it. One is the fight for equality, in which he notes the battle between the sexes is not yet done. Therefore, “it’s very relevant to be reminded of where these things started and that we’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go,” says Cole. Secondly, he thinks we are returning to a time “where we might need to stand up for our rights a bit more than we have done.” These women “simply one day decided they weren’t going to take it anymore. I think they were as far as possible from power and influence as they could get … yet this small group of women changed history in their way. I think it s a great time to remind people what it is you can do,” adds Cole.

Pike is very proud of the moment in which Lisa tells Rita to keep fighting. But we all agreed the “rights, not privileges” scene is an undisputed favourite moment in the film. “It’s a moment of personal revolution,” notes Pike. Cole also has a fondness for the opening sequence that has Bob Hoskins’ character anxiously entering the machinists’ room, which is occupied by a large group of only partially dressed women, because Hoskins’ apprehension was quite genuine.

It’s apparent both Cole and Pike enjoyed working on this project and the result is a wonderful film that remains interesting from beginning to end.

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  1. […] read my interview with Cole and Pike at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival click here. LikeBe the first to like this […]

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