Interview with BULL director Paul Andrew Williams

Jason Wood, HOME’s Director of Film & Culture, spoke to Bull director Paul Andrew Williams about his new upcoming feature, starring Neil Maskell (Kill List) and David Hayman.

Bull previewed in our FilmFear 2021 season and is available in cinemas from Fri 5 Nov.

Jason Wood: How did the idea for Bull originate? It’s a striking work as it falls between genres and – despite the element of horror and fantasy – has something of a social realist premise…
Paul Andrew Williams: Basically the idea came from a few things. What one person will do to protect or save one’s son. How does one compartmentalise horrific things and a genuine paternal love. And finally, having worked in the many pubs I have I’ve witnessed all these characters that had no ties or desires or interests in anything other than that day.

JW: The interplay between Neil Maskell and David Hayman is fantastic. I imagine you were familiar with their work but were they uppermost in your mind for the parts or did they just come to you through the casting process? What do you think is the secret of the electricity between them?
PAW: No secret really they are just really good actors. Neil I had in mind very early on in the process as I’ve wanted to work with him for ages. David stepped in at literally the last minute after my hand was forced to use someone who messed us around for ages. I ended up getting the right person for the job.

JW: As well as the characters the location is a central part of the film. It adds an authenticity and also explains some of the moral compromises of the characters. Was this something you thought about when considering the locations?
PAW: It was in lockdown and Dom, the producer, had taken loads of pictures of Dartford. There was so much about it that I loved for the film. It is a way away from regeneration and the places have been left to fend for themselves which I think lends itself to the story. I also wanted the locations to be lived in with no real thought other than getting by. The houses where great for that.

JW: Despite the horror and the violence of the film there are some pithy moments of humour too. I am thinking particularly of the drug dealer and some of the verbal interactions. These are all in keeping with the film and Bull’s character but did you also want to give the audience a breather?
PAW: There’s a lot I think is funny within the film. Yes it’s dark but it’s also kind of silly the extremities that these people find themselves in. Hopefully there are characters that will remind the audience of people they may know or have known. Characters that are just a little bit slow and say funny stuff without meaning to.

JW: Bull’s humanity is rooted in his love for his son Aidan. It’s his moral compass. Was it also important that you show him as being capable of humanity, and not just a seeker of revenge?
PAW: Yeah. If he didn’t love his son so much there would be no need for revenge.

JW: I think the film also gets right the notion of organised crime at a grass roots level. How much research did you do into this area?
PAW: I made it up based on those guys in the pub that only dealt in cash and had little meetings in the far booths of the pub. Just imagining what went on in those.

JW: It’s an incredibly kinetic film in terms of the editing and the cinematography. It feels a bit like being on the Wurlitzer in the film. Was there a sense that you really wanted to take the audience on wild ride?
PAW: I definitely wanted it to be relentless. Like the waltzers you can’t get off and either you love that or you hate it. But it’s rarely a “hmmm, take it or leave it’ ride. Get on at the start and get off at the end. How you take the middle is up to you.

JW: A lot of the reviews have spoken about this as a comeback film. It isn’t of course as you have made lots of work following London to Brighton. Is it gratifying however to have the film meet with such positive responses from audiences and critics?
PAW: Of course it’s great to have positive feedback. I’ve done telly and film that have received negative feedback so it’s always good. Ultimately you make something you like and then if others like it, super. You can never second guess what happens once people start watching. Lap of the gods. I loved the experience of making this, very much like London to Brighton but I’ve made some TV that does some good and reached much wider audiences. So I’m very grateful for that. Basically if I can get the money to tell a story, I will do either.

Watch Bull at HOME from Fri 5 Nov.