Reports of Ken Loach's retirement as a director of fiction appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The veteran British film-maker and champion of the left has told the Hollywood Reporter he is not, after all, eschewing drama film-making in favour of documentaries ahead of an appearance at the Cannes film festival.
Loach's producer Rebecca O'Briensaid in August that Jimmy's Hall was likely to be the last feature film from the veteran director. "This is probably the last narrative feature for Ken," said O'Brien, who has collaborated with the 77-year-old Loach since 1990. "There are a few documentary ideas kicking around, and that will probably be the way to go, but this is a serious period-drama with a lot of moving parts so it's a big thing to put together. I think we should go out while we're on top."
But Loach now says he was in the heat of a harrowing preproduction battle for the Irish drama, which will debut in competition on the Croisette, when he announced he would move into documentaries. "I kind of thought I wouldn't get through another one just as we were beginning Jimmy's Hall because it's a moment of maximum pressure when you haven't shot a thing but you're knackered from all the prep, and you've been away from home for a long time and you still have to get through the shoot," Loach said. "It's quite a daunting prospect, the effort you've got to find from somewhere and the nervous and emotional energy and all that. But now having come out the other side, while I'm not sure we'll get another of that size away, we'll at least get a little film together of some sort [with longtime writing partner Paul Laverty] more akin to a documentary scale."
Loach said a "small contemporary film" might be a possibility, though it appears he is still winding down his activities as a director. The film-maker is due to appear at his 12th Cannes as a competitor, a record. He won the top Palme D'Or prize in 2006 for Irish historical drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and was the recipient of the jury prize in 2012 for The Angel's Share. His children's period drama Black Jack won the critic's prize in 1979.
Jimmy's Hall will be Loach's 29th film in a career which began on TV, then moved to the big screen for 1967's Poor Cow, before attracting international attention with 1969's Kes. A drama set in 1932, Jimmy's Hall centres on communist leader James Gralton, who returned to Ireland in the 1930s after decamping to New York for a decade.