’No’, says director Chris Morris, ‘It’s just a funny film’
FOUR Lions is a Comedy about a group of inept home-grown jihadist suicide bombers and their mission to blow up the London Marathon.
Controversial? Not so, according to director Chris Morris. Here’s a man who likens terrorist cells to “stag parties and five a side football teams.” With that kind of viewpoint ‘Four Lions’ was crying out to me made. The man behind the comedy reveals why he was so eager to tred into what many would view as a ‘no-go zone’…
How did the film come about?
I was reading about a plot to ram a US warship. In the dead of night with the target moored just offshore, the cell assembled at the quayside, slipped their boat into the water and stacked it with explosives. It sank. I laughed. I wasn’t expecting that.
You know the Hamburg cell was lead by Mohamed Atta – but did you know he was so strict that the other plotters called him “the ayatollah”? That every time he formed an Islamic discussion group he was so critical he fired them all within a week? The unfathomable world of extremism seemed to contain elements of farce. Cases in the high court and meetings with Muslims only confirmed the impression. People go to training camps in the wrong clothes, forget how to make bombs, fight with each other and then fight again over who just won the fight, volunteer for the mujahedeen and get told to go home and “do the knitting”. They talk about who’s cooler – bin Laden or Johnny Depp.
What interested you about the subject matter and why did you want to make it?
Well the subject matter is turning a massive global wheel at the moment. How could you not be interested? Once you’ve had your preconceptions flipped – and discovered it can be funny too, how could you not make a film about it?
How much of the film is based on real events and situations you discovered through your research? Are there any scenes which are actual recreations?
No actual recreations – though sometimes it was tempting. Sometimes reality was almost too ridiculous. Like the jihadi who disguised himself as someone from MI5 to try and trick his parents into letting him go to Pakistan. I heard a surveillance recording of two suspects in the middle of the night. These guys have had 600kilos of fertiziler in a lock up for two months. The 17 yr old wakes up the 20 yr old and says “brother – that fertilizer’s not for gardening is it?”
Moments like that can work as a starting point. They give you a clue about the set up of the group – who keeps what from whom – who’s on the ball and who’s not.
Did you have any difficulties raising the finance to make the film and get a producing partner on board? Did you make any concessions?
Considering how much it’s influencing the world at the moment, people know incredibly little about this subject. When it came to funding, a lot of people were unable to think beyond their jumpy gut reaction. The people who ended up funding the film were those who could spot the difference between what we were doing and the desire to cause trouble. They could see the film was not racist, was not attacking a culture, but may just be suggesting that killing people is not a good idea. So we made no concessions. Anyone who wanted to “change the ending” got very short shrift.
Do you think people will feel you are trying to shock and offend? Might they feel you are mocking Islamic beliefs?
Only if they haven’t seen the film. You might use shock to mock overblown public attitudes to things that don’t matter. But terrorism does matter. We’re trying to make you laugh – to entertain – to surprise – to move even. You don’t have to mock Islamic beliefs to make a joke out of someone who wants to run the world under sharia law but can’t apply it in his own home because his wife won’t let him. About someone buying bomb making materials and then forgetting how to make a bomb. About someone performing elaborate “anti surveillance” techniques including running in circles and wearing a cowboy hat – in full sight of two surveillance teams. Or indeed about an intelligence officer setting up a surveillance station in the boot of a car – which is then jacked by joy riders.
Four Lions releases nationwide on May 7