Ken Loach aims to combat society of 'aggression, greed and acquisitiveness' in new film starring Eric Cantona as a mentor to a football fan struggling to save his sons from a life of guns and gangs
Friday 5 June 2009 12.42 BST
Film-maker Ken Loach was determined to show how guns and violence are destroying Britain's youth in his new film, Looking for Eric, he said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference in London also attended by stars Eric Cantona and Steve Evets, along with screenwriter Paul Laverty, ahead of the film's UK release next weekend, Loach said the movie's gangland storyline was inspired by the growing prevalence of violence in the UK's inner cities.
"The issue of guns is a huge one," he said. "We've made a society which is built on aggression, on greed and acquisitiveness. We've destroyed the pattern of people becoming adults and we're now surprised when kids with no visible future want all the things that we're told we need and, of course, resort to violence and guns."
Looking for Eric centres on Manchester United fan Eric Bishop, who is struggling to keep his two sons away from a life of violence. One night, after smoking cannabis, his hero Cantona appears to him offering sage advice on how to solve his problems.
Laverty, Loach's regular screenwriter, said there was no way he could have ignored the issue of guns when writing about life in working-class Manchester.
"You have to be faithful to the premise and the characters," he said. "This wasn't just bolted on to the script to make it melodramatic. The film's main character, Eric Bishop, lives in a certain area in Manchester, and if you go to those areas, one of the biggest worries for many parents is what's happened to their teenage children. There is massive unemployment and a great problem with guns."
Cantona is played by himself in the film, which premiered at last month's Cannes film festival to positive reviews. The footballer said he made the approach to Loach.
"We wanted to make a film and the first name on our list was Ken," he said. "It was a dream for all of us when it happened."
He said playing himself in the film had not struck him as a particularly strange thing to do. "I am proud that they developed this part of my personality," he said. "It's not harder or easier to play a part of yourself. It's just another way to work."
Loach said he and Laverty had at first thought they were being wound up when told Cantona wanted to work with them.
"We thought it was a joke but it turned out to be true," he said. "Eric's idea was to make a film about his connection to the fans, which as you all know, is very special. We wondered for a while if we could pull this off because you can't just make a film because you admire someone's personality and their skill. There has to be a real core and content to the film. Then Paul wrote the character of Eric, and that was really the key that unlocked the narrative and the imaginary connection to Eric that's in the film."
Evets said his experiences making the film had inspired him to start attending football matches for the first time. He has become a fan of FC United, the non-league team founded by former fans of Manchester United.
"When I got the part, Ken gave me these DVDs of Eric's matches for research and I just loved seeing what he was able to do on the pitch," he said. "I can honestly say now I got to see FC United and it's just great therapy. We go there and shout and scream and it's such a liberating thing."
Looking for Eric
Cert (UK): 15
Runtime: 116 mins
Directors: Ken Loach
Cast: Eric Cantona, Gerard Kearns, Lucy-Jo Hudson, Stefan Gumbs, Stephanie Bishop, Steve Evets