Acclaimed screenwriter, and film & TV director-producer, known for romantic comedy films like Bridget Jones’ Diary & Notting Hill, talks to Shalini Saksena about his association with Comic Con Delhi & how romance as a formula has become a little stale now. The below interview was published in the Pioneer newspaper in India.
Tell us about your association with Comic Con in Delhi.
Stan Lee and Graphic India have created two new Indian superheroes, — Chakra, The Invincible, and Mighty Girl. The two characters are fighting crime and also poverty and injustice, across India. The characters are central to our World’s Largest Lesson India campaign, where we have created comics and animated films designed to help teachers and educators to teach children across India about the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is through our partnership with Graphic India that we are delighted to be engaged with Comic Con in Delhi, where our comics and films are available for people to read and watch, for free, in a range of different Indian languages.
You are a passionate campaigner for various social issues. Could you tell us a little about these?
I lived in The Philippines when I was young and ever since then have wanted to do all I can to work with people to help make their lives safe, fair and happy. These feelings have been reinforced by my travels round Africa where I’ve been horrified by the idea that people actually die of malnutrition, or of a preventable disease like malaria. I’m also concerned about things in the UK. Issues like domestic violence, homelessness, bias against women — we all deal with them. I’ve been amazingly lucky in life and would like to help others fulfill their potential, as I’ve been allowed to fulfill mine.
Reason why you have chosen to make so many romantic movies?
The truth is that when I was younger, I was very interested in, or prey to, the problems of love. I remember being deeply in love at age seven with a girl called Tracey, and it never really stopped. So when I started writing movies — love was clearly going to be the big subject with me. I’ve got no experience of war, or serial killing, or superheroes. But love — I’ve been there.
Do people come to you and say that watching your movies has changed their perspective of love/romance?
I don’t know about that. I think that my films make people hopeful that things are going to work. Strangely, my most recent film, About Time, is the one that I get the most precise reactions to. People who watch it often say it has changed their relationship with their father, or son, made them more urgent to make sure that they spend time well with the person they love.
Do comics change a person’s views on issues like gender equality, climate action etc?
Comics reach a massive global audience, often of a young age. By integrating social good messages into comics, we are able to reach people we would not normally be able to reach. As such, people learn about new issues by just taking part in a normal fun activity.
People used to read comics for fun. Has that changed?
It is still for fun! We are trying to integrate social good messages into fun and engaging narrative, rather than trying to make comics educational.
Is there a comic character on whom you would like to make a romantic film? Which one and why?
Because I had so much trouble with love when I was young, I’ve often wanted to make a romance set at university — by the time I started working with Hugh Grant, we were both in our 30s. But I think now I’m too old to write that one. I’ll have to leave it to my very talented daughter.
Why has Hollywood stopped making movies like Notting Hill?
Things go in cycles. For about a decade, Hollywood thought it had a formula for romantic films and quite a lot of them worked out well financially. But the formula went a little stale, and so now there aren’t quite as many romantic films. But there are some lovely films about love like 500 Days of Summer, Like Crazy, Sing Street, etc always coming out and I’m sure it won’t be long until we have another romantic golden age.
What are the other projects/films that you are working on?
I’m working on a new film which is about a musician and has lots of songs and two romances and one real idiot in it. Otherwise, I’m doing a lot of work with the UN of their excellent new Sustainable Development Goals. I’m a great supporter of my friends at Global Citizen, who recently did a concert in India. I love all that stuff and it takes up a lot of my time.