Its the new – but decent – V For Vendetta...
At the Abbey Mills Pumping Station in East London, where a grimy waterworks has been fashioned into a bureaucratic dystopia, the whiff of Gilliam hangs heavily in the air. From the extras dressed as chavvy Camden Market regulars to the forbidding line of registration booths, today’s set detail is so saturated in Gilliamana, you half expect ol’ Terry to poke his head out and start giggling. “I will hold my hand up,” chuckles Franklyn’s writer-director Gerald McMorrow, “and say that I’m a child of Gilliam and Tim Burton. There are elements of Brazil here, but it’s more Victorianism via the Kingdom of Brunel.”
Franklyn marks McMorrow’s feature debut, coming on the heels of his sci-fi short Thespian X, about aliens signing on at a dole office that snagged awards and the attention of producer Jeremy Thomas (who wrangled Franklyn’s £6.5 million budget together). Set between the alternate realities of contemporary London and a futuristic, faith-dominated metropolis, Meanwhile City, where declaring a religion – any religion – is compulsory, the film weaves a karmic mosaic about four damaged souls including Eva Green’s self-harming artist, Sam Riley’s lovelorn Iraq War vet and Bernard Hill as a man searching for his son.
Rounding out the quartet is Ryan Phillippe, today wandering through Meanwhile City’s Faith Registration Centre looking suave in a brown leather coat over fitted black dress-trousers and waistcoat – despite the fact that his face is concealed under a blank, grungy mask. “I love how expressionless the mask is,” says Phillippe. “It unnerves people, and there’s a real arrogance to it.”
As shadowy vigilante Jonathan Preest, Phillippe seeks revenge for the death of a girl he’d tried to protect. Apart from McMorrow’s clever script, it was the chance to show off his real-life martial arts skills on screen (he earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do at 11) that lured Phillippe to Franklyn. “I’m not the kind of actor who would typically do action-oriented material but within the construct of this really original piece, it’s exciting,” he enthuses. “Unfortunately in most of my fight scenes, I’m in a mask so it could have been anyone! But it is me…”