Interview: Malcolm Venville, director of 44 Inch Chest

A highly praised photographer and director of TV commercials, music videos and short films, Malcolm Venville’s first feature, 44 Inch Chest (Image, DVD $27.97, Blu-ray $35.98, released April 20, 2010), concerns a cuckolded man (Ray Winstone) who breaks down over the dissolution of his marriage, prompting him and his motley group of buddies (Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Dillane) to kidnap his wife’s lover and exact some sort of revenge. Rage, humiliation, guilt and passion are the emotions of the day as Winstone and company ponder what to do in a story that contemplates the nature of love as much as it questions what it is to truly be a man.

In the case of 44 Inch Chest, Venville doesn’t just take on an intense and idiosyncratic screenplay by the writers of the hit film Sexy Beast (2000)—he also rises to the challenge of helming a project that features five of England’s most intense and idiosyncratic actors.

“I think the trick is to make sure you understand your material and the feelings of the characters and, most importantly in an ensemble piece like this, the feelings that the characters have between each other,” Venville told me in a recent phone interview regarding his work on the film. “Yeah, these men have a lot of acting experience between them and they know what they want.”

In crafting his film “about a big man brought to his knees by a woman,” Venville still felt it was important to have a “raw, beating heart at the center,” particularly in a piece that is filled with wall-to-wall dialogue and that takes place in more or less one location.

“When you have five English actors crammed into a room together for six weeks, it’s kind of interesting and some heart has to emerge,” he said. “And I can tell you that none of the actors [did this] for the money. It was a chance for them to come home and step inside some rich character and have fun with it for a while.”

Of the quintet of men in the film (along with leading lady Joanne Whalley), Venville gave us the impression that he got the biggest kick out of Ian McShane of Deadwood and Kings fame (most recently).

“Ian McShane’s been working since 1962 and he’s worked with everybody,” laughed Venville. “He’s a tough man with high expectations—the kind of actor that likes to eat first-time directors alive. But we got on just fine.”

About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.