Ant Timpson’s Come To Daddy hits select theatres and VOD February 7th, just in time to give your sappy Valentine’s love affairs a vicious wallop. On the surface, the story is a black comedy about a young man trying to reconnect with estranged father but at it’s core, Come To Daddy is one of the most uniquely bizarre movies you will ever see. Our very own Grant DeArmitt called Come To Daddy “[A movie that] flew in the face of every term you can use to describe it. It’s a crime thriller that has none of the usual crime thriller beats. It’s a family story with a much weirder father/son team than we’ve ever seen before. And it’s a horror movie, but the lines between monster and victim are seriously blurred.” Read his full review HERE.
Come To Daddy marks Ant Timpson’s directorial debut after decades of producers, including The ABC’s of Death, The Greasy Strangler, and Deathgasm. We were fortunate enough to speak with Ant Timpson about his debut feature last September at Fantastic Fest 2019 about a lifetime of inspiration, influence, and involvement in films that shaped such a bold and bizarre vision.
“…it’s not the dark, personal grief-stricken statement that was like the original concept […] it just completely changed gears and became this sort of real absurd black comedy.”
Jonathan Dehaan for Nightmare on Film Street: First off, congrats on your debut!
Ant Timpson: Thank you.
NOFS: How does it feel to finally be in the director’s chair?
AT: It feels good. Feels like a long time coming. I feel like…I feel old. I feel like it was like, yeah, it was like a midlife crisis, last chance to be that kid again who used to make movies and I’m glad I had fun. I had the best sleep of my life at the end of each day. I was creatively exhausted and I was like, ‘shit, that’s the difference between producing and directing’. Producing you just go to sleep with stress, worrying about shit constantly and [while directing] you still have that but it’s a really enjoyable exhaustion. You feel like it’s productive and great, whereas producing is like this endless whirlpool of problems. As a director, you’re just constantly supported. As producers, you don’t feel that support. Like, as a director you’ve just got everyone there working towards this one vision that you want and then as a producer you just feel like you’re alone. [laughs]
NOFS: So you used to make movies when you were younger?
AT: Yeah. Well, like, home movies. Then I went to the arty-farty, I’ll get a grant and make a 35mm black and white film that’s an homage to Todd Browning, and fathers & sons as well, so I made this really sort of very artistic short and I was gonna be that serious filmmaker. And then I just got totally derailed and went down different paths and worked in all facets of the industry but yeah, I was going to be that man, I was going to be a director and focus on that. Then, for 25 years, I went and did everything else except, and I think that maybe it was like, you build up because you become that movie obsessive and maybe deep down I was like, I don’t want to make something because if it’s shit I would be a fraud, because I’m the guy who’s like totally movie obsessed and I’m like, “this is what makes a good film, and that’s shit,” and talking shit up about other films, and so when you finally put yourself on the line, when you get older, I- I felt like I was wanting to make serious art and then as I got older, when I went to make this one […] I just wanted it to be escapism and what I loved about movies as kids. Being a populist at heart I just wanted to make something that certain audiences would find really entertaining.
NOFS: So what is that you liked about movies when you were a kid?
AT: They were a total escape for me. My life wasn’t tragic and hard or anything, but I spent a lot of time going to the movies as a kid in the 70s. Literally, there was a cinema up the road and I guess life was boring as fuck in the 70s. You definitely didn’t suffer from ADD or anything, it was very slow, glacially paced. Kind of really beautiful in a way, but I found movies [as] a way to see crazy worlds and crazy characters, out of suburbia, and really connected. I don’t know, it’s hard to know what that magic thing is. Some people just really fall in love with film on a way deeper level than most. It’s strange when you hear people talk about films, and it’s just disposable stuff, like it’s buying a burger or something that is completely meaningless. And then they have no understanding when you’re talking about vivid memories from 45 years ago, like things that completely blew your mind and you still remember every second of that experience.
NOFS: Were movies a big thing that you and your dad shared?
AT: Yeah, absolutely. This film is completely up his alley, he would totally love this movie because he had a gallows sense of humor. There’s a lot of a British thriller kind of vibe in this, and we watched films with Oliver Reed and Robert Shaw, those kinds of guys. I grew up watching all the Michael Caine stuff from the 60s and 70s in cinemas. They’d keep playing for years and years after they were released, you know, so you could still see them in cinemas, and so yeah- we went to see them. We didn’t go to hundreds and hundreds of films but you remember the ones with your dad because it felt like you were watching adult material as well. Not like “adult” [laughs] but just, like, grown-up stuff so when I was really young, I was watching, I don’t know, just really serious dramas and thrillers and stuff. It just felt like it was a long way from the Terrence Hill & Bud Spencer stuff that I was watching with my other mates. Just the goofy stuff you watch as a kid. I mean, there’s so much rank shit, that back then you thought was amazing, but seeing really serious sort of films with him are the ones that made the biggest imprint that formed a lot of the stuff that Come To Daddy resonates with.
We built this cinematic DNA of the film and there’s like nine films that are kind of all inspirations, from things Straw Dogs is there for the moment where [a character turns], becoming a violent person. There’s that, and the really rich dialogue from Withnail and I, that kind of British comic sensibility. There’s The Birthday Party that Friedkin made, one of his very early films. It’s a [Harold] Pinter play that it’s based on. And then there’s The Servant, the Joseph Losey thing, where it’s like you have these characters trapped in this claustrophobic settings. Then there’s Death Trap and Sleuth– which were huge inspirations on me- which is like a chamber piece where they’re like cat & mouse style escapade. That was kind of also the basis, so there’s a lot of meaty inspiration from all these films from that period. Not that I want to Xerox anything. You take it, but you don’t paint by numbers because then that’s […] completely nostalgia porn, and everyone recognizes it. All you do is, you get that stuff and then it’s more like afterward, you can start saying that.
“We built this cinematic DNA of the film and there’s like nine films that are kind of all inspirations […] but you don’t paint by numbers because then that’s […] completely nostalgia porn, and everyone recognizes it.”
NOFS: I understand this is a really personal movie for you too.
AT: Yeah, I mean- it wouldn’t have been made without my dad carking it in front of me so it was pretty much a traumatic, life awakening moment. So yeah, it came from his passing and there’s lots of similarities between what happens to the character in the film and what I had to go through. It sort of formed the basis of the structure of what we started developing from there. Then Toby Harvard, the writer, just took that and ran like a million miles and had heeps of fun with it. So, it’s not the dark, personal grief-stricken statement that was like the original concept that was going to be shot for the next to nothing in the house that I had access to it.
NOFS: Oh, was it really more of a drama initially?
AT: No, it was gonna be like a fucking scary Begotten style The Gotham [laughs]. No, it was going to be like a real very dark, grim, serious horror film. And then it just completely changed gears and became this sort of real absurd black comedy.
NOFS: Was that all Toby or was that more of a collaboration between the two of you?
AT: Toby brought it all man. All I gave was the framework and then he filled it in. Once we had a rough [draft], then it became this great thing of just bouncing and trying to make each other laugh and coming up with ideas that were more interesting. What I brought to that draft then was that I started tweaking, making sure the tone didn’t go too far either way, making sure that balance worked. So there was moments that were very- and I think probably annoyed Toby when I said it was way too greasy, from Greasy Strangler, so it was how to ride that dialogue because I love how he writes the dialogue but he also references a lot of stuff that- he has a pool that he goes back to, so we didn’t want it to appear like it was happening in a house down the road from the Greasy Strangling couple. But also, it’s like once we knew who we were working with- the actors- It’s like you could push it a little bit more because they ground it as well.
NOFS: Yeah, I can imagine you could go even crazier with a guy like Stephen McAttie.
AT: Absolutely. But, you know, he’s a guy that brings so much heaviness to it as well, straight away, He’s got that amazing face that instantly- he doesn’t have to do much but he just does small things that speak volumes on the screen. So it was all about defining those moments of how much to go, and when he needed to go big, and just let him loose. That whole sequence when he starts abusing [Elijah Wood] and they have a big climactic confrontation, it was just fun watching him just go for it. And Elijah’s reaction is just like pure intimidation.
NOFS: I was gonna ask- How were the two of them during filming?
AT: We kicked it really loose, that whole thing, so we filmed it in big, long, handheld and just let them go all out. So the energy was pretty high and the thumping and pushing was very real and visceral. His reactions are completely believable in it.
NOFS: He’ like a caged animal that you let loose like, “Okay, I guess the room is his now”.
AT: He’s one of those guys that brings a lot of weight, just by walking into a room. He’s really imposing. I like him a lot.
“Each time you make a film, it’s all-new. Even though it’s the same old, same old, there’s different people involved, it’s always a mixture that could blow up in your face”
NOFS: I’m sure being a producer helped make you a better director. Do you think being a director now is going to make you a better producer?
AT: Absolutely. That’s what I said straightaway after finishing. I said, “I bet I’ll be a better producer,” because you just understand so much more from that point of view, like being in the trenches and what they need to hear and how to actually communicate and catch things and what they want. At the end of the day it’s just support and, you know, there’s ways to go about delivering information to people and yeah- I felt like knowing both sides now, I’ll be good on both sides of the fence. You learn so much each time. Each time you make a film, it’s all-new. Even though it’s the same old, same old, there’s different people involved, it’s always a mixture that could blow up in your face and t’s just how much heat comes to the project or not.
Ant Timpson’s demented debut feature Come To Daddy hits select theatres and VOD on February 7th. The film stars Elijah Wood (Maniac), Stephen McHattie (Pontypool) Martin Donovan (Inherent Vice), Michael Smiley (Kill List), Madeleine Sami (Super City), Simon Chin (A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2019). Let us know us you think of Come To Daddy over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook.