Interview with Director Paul Weiland

Paul WeilandThis weekend a great little movie called SIXTY SIX may open in a theater near you. Click here to read my review on the movie . A few days ago, thanks to special ops media, I got the opportunity to interview the director whose real life childhood story was the basis for this movie. His name is Paul Weiland.

Some of you might be familiar with the romantic comedy titled Made of Honor starring Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monahan. Well, Paul Weiland directed it. I interviewed Paul about Sixty Six which centers around a Jewish kid whose Bat Mitzvah party happened to fall on the same date as The World Cup Finals of 1966.

Understanding a British accent has always been a challenge to me. That’s why I have to use subtitles whenever I watch Harry Potter movies on DVD. Director Paul Weiland has a very thick British accent but I was willing to try an understand every word he said.

Our conversation was done over the phone; he in London and I in sunny Southern California. How cool is that! He was nice enough to give me 15 minutes of his time.

The movie is said to be based on your real life childhood experience, how much of it is accurate and how much of it was added into the storyline?

“Everything was accurate, absolute story… the people were based on those I grew up with, some things and some of the names were changed for theatrical purposes and to protect the family. It’s an accurate sort of period movie. The whole room, the paintings; we even used the same original props. The place I got picked on when I was a kid and the same synagogue I got my Bat Mitzvah in”

What motivated you to take your childhood story and turn it into a movie?

“It happened at my 50th Birthday Party. I made a speech and in the speech, I included the story of how when I was a child, my Bat Mitzvah happened during the World Cup finals. Afterwards one of them came up to me and said that I should make a movie out of it….I didn’t want a Jewish writer to pen the script because I didn’t want it to be too cartoony.”

Let’s talk about the cast. How did Gregg Sulkin, the kid who plays the character Bernie who is supposedly a representation of you when you were a kid, get the role?

“I grew up in a working class environment. The neighborhood now is filled with different cultures and ethnics but there were many working class Jewish people back then… we were looking among hundreds of possible child actors. I knew Greg’s father and when his boy came in he was kinda handsome so we knew we had ‘geek’ him up a bit.”

How did Helena Bonham Carter and Eddie Marsan get involved in this? I’m asking this because Helena is used to starring in Tim Burton’s big budget movies. How did you convince her to play the role of the mother?

“Helena and I are good friends, she was at the birthday party, the one I told you about. When she heard that we were planning to make a movie about it, she said she wanted to play my mum Now anytime we meet, she’ll say to me ‘hello, son!’ and I’ll say to her, ‘hello, mum!’ Eddie Marsan is a wonderful, talented actor who was great in the movie Vera Drake. We wanted him to play the father but there was some scheduling problem because he was set to star in an HBO pilot but something happened and the series didn’t happen. We were lucky to have him play my father”

This movie was released in the UK back in 2006 and then it went from one film festival to another and now it will hit select theaters in the U.S. this weekend. Why did it take such a long time to finally be seen by audiences here?

“I think it was mostly the studio’s decision…. back in 2006 when the movie was released, we went up against a big blockbuster movie called Borat. The whole situation was just like my Bat Mitzvah going against the World Cup finals. The movie did all right. Jewish people embraced it and adopted the movie very well…. and now we believe that it will find audience in the U.S. as well.”

What do you hope for people to get out of watching this movie? What lesson would you want families and kids who are growing up to learn from this heartwarming, surprisingly inspiring story?

“We can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family. The movie actually has an alternate ending but the point remains. Things don’t have to stay bad, you can make things better if you’d just believe in yourself.”

In the past, you were associated with the popular comedy series Mr. BEAN, but you did not direct any of the BEAN movies. Would you direct the third movie?

“No…I mean, I’d love to work with Rowan Atkinson again, we did the movie Backadder Back and Forth, I’d love to work with him again.. but not on the character ‘Bean'”

What is your next project and can you say something about it?

“My next project will be a sequel called 69… I’m joking” (laugh)

Arsenal FC or Manchester United FC?

“I would have to say… Manchester United, they have so many trophies.”


All work and no play makes the Young & Successful feel unbalanced! To rescue our overworked souls, YSN member and movie aficionado Rama Tampubolon discusses the latest hot topics and movie reviews every Thursday on Waste Time Wisely. He runs the movie review and discussion blog, Rama’s Screen, and was featured in “United 300,” which won for “Best Spoof” at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards.