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Exclusive Interview: In the Loop’s Armando Iannucci

July 23rd, 2009 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Heavily laced with an impressive display of profanity, In the Loop is a scathing satire comedy about politics, specifically taking aim at the British and American government for their actions leading up to the Iraq war. In it, the British Secretary of State for International Development tries to stop the U.S. president and the U.K. prime minster from starting a war. It’s the process of diplomacy — and the petty actions of the people making public policy — that provides the comedy. James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) does a turn as a cunning U.S. Army general, but it’s the Brits who run the show here, with a brilliantly acerbic performance by Peter Capaldi as the prime minister’s perpetually irritated director of communications. Hulu launched an exclusive clip from the film earlier this week (which joins the trailer and a deleted scene). We exchanged an email Q&A with the film’s director, Armando Iannucci, in hopes of learning more about becoming “The Swear Doctor.” Read all about it below the embedded exclusive clip. — Rebecca Harper (), Editor

Hulu: Who are your comedic inspirations?

Armando Iannucci:I love Woody Allen, Billy Connolly, Buster Keaton and anyone who writes lots of original, imaginative gags, like Monty Python.

How much of the spectacularly vulgar dialogue was improv and how much was scripted? It would seem that once you get a head of steam going like Peter Capaldi does, improv would follow …

Surprisingly little of the out-and-out vulgarity is improvised. We spend a lot of our time trying to make the swearing as interesting and as varied as possible, so we put a lot of thought into it. The cast are more than happy to learn the swearing syllable by syllable so it all spews out without a moment’s hesitation.

“The Swear Doctor:” fact or fiction? If that’s for real, how does one apply for that job?

In the credits, you see “Additional Dialogue by Ian Martin.” Ian has become known as our swearing consultant, simply because he’s very good at coming up with elaborate and articulate vitriol. He does more than this, though. I discovered him via a U.K.-based satirical website he does called Martian.fm, which I’d heartily recommend. It made me laugh, so I got in touch, and asked him to write.

How do you find the transition from directing television to directing film? What are the biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge was to avoid getting carried away. I wanted to avoid playing with the Director’s Big Box of Tricks, like swooping crane shots and Technicolor sunsets and parping comedy music. These things never make it any funnier. What I loved, though, was having more time to lay the story out, to play with the structure more, so I could delay the arrival of big characters and dramatic moments until well into the film. In TV, with 30 minutes, you have to get everything into the air within the first five minutes. With a 90- to 100-minute film, it’s great to focus on one group and one storyline for a while before choosing the moment to bring the next strand in.

Speaking of television, there has been buzz (perhaps wishful thinking) of adapting In The Loop as a cable series here in the U.S. Can you speak to that?

Well, early stages at the moment, and all I can say is that I’ve done a two-project deal with HBO to develop a couple of story ideas, one of which will be set in Washington, D.C., and the other of which will be somewhere else very, very different indeed.

This film is shaping up to the kind that people pass along as a found treasure. Do you feel that way about any movies or TV shows?

There was a show in the U.K. called Fifteen Stories High, set in a tower block, by comedian Sean Locke, which I thought was genius, but got buried and then forgotten. You can get it on DVD.