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A Strange Start To An Interview

May 22, 2008

The funny thing about waiting for a few weeks before getting around to transcribing an interview from voice recorder to page, is that it's easy to forget what the conversation with the subject was like in the first place.

I interviewed Mike Leigh in mid-April for a piece I am writing about the brilliant British film director for The Believer Magazine. For one reason or another, I've only just got around to listening to the recording I made of our morning together. It was quite a lively interview. The first few minutes in particular got things off to a rollicking start.

It all began with Mr. Leigh, who was wearing a baggy beige suit, exclaiming that his braces (that's "suspenders" to all you Americans out there) had come undone.

"There are two kinds of men in the world," I said, trying to be suave as we walked into the interview room together and the director fiddled with his trousers (or "pants" if you're tuning in from the U.S.) "The ones who wear belts and the ones who wear braces."

Leigh said, "I wear both."

"I know how it feels to lose your braces," I continued, clearly on a roll. "Women are always worrying about their breasts falling out of their strapless dresses."

Leigh then launched into a bizarre little story which went like this:

"One day a waiter I know at The Savoy Hotel was serving a woman when one of her tits suddenly fell out of her dress. So he very discretely popped it back in again with a spoon. When he was done, he went back to the kitchen where he was greeted by the head waiter. "I saw what you did. Bravo," said the head waiter to his subordinate. "But remember this: Here at The Savoy we use warm spoons."

On the recording, there was a barely perceptible moment of silence while my mind raced to process the anecdote. Then I started laughing perhaps a little too hard. "That's a good story," I said. My enthusiasm evidently knew no bounds.

"It's what we call a joke," replied Leigh, dryly, dippping his beard into a cup of tea.

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