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Film director Mike Newell explains how he fought to recruit Lily James

Four Weddings And Funeral director was interviewed by the New Journal's Dan Carrier in a fund-raiser for Highgate Library

18 October, 2018

Lily James in The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

FILM director Mike Newell has told an audience in Highgate how he battled to make Lily James the star of his quirky hit film about love in post-war Guernsey.

He was interviewed by New Journal film critic Dan Carrier on Thursday evening at a fundraiser for Highgate Library, during which he revealed the negotiations that went into casting for The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society.

Mr Newell, who directed Donnie Brasco and Four Weddings and a Funeral, said: “I have made films that cost a quarter of a billion and they have made it back. This was more modest, costing $11.5m to make. But investors want to see a return and the most important element after the script is the casting process.”

He described how he had seen Ms James in the live action version of Cinderella – and knew she would be perfect as leading character Juliet Ashton.

He said: “We knew we wanted Lily but she was not available, or the agent was not sure about it. We then went through three or four other young women. They were ok – there was an American I really liked – but we were not sure if they would raise the same excitement. “She [Lily James] was a com­mercial proposition and we had to find someone who will make the investors feel they will get their money back.”

Mr Newell decided he would give it one last try – and so met Ms James’s agent.

“I took the agent out and was very rude to him because I thought we were being messed about,” he said “And then the actor herself stepped in. I think she may have got the idea we were still there and was still interested. She agreed to read the script again. She came back to me and said she was wrong to say ‘No’. As soon as she said ‘Yes’ the taps turned on and it was all alright.”

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