10 Things We Learned From The Filth Commentary

Thursday, February 20 2014
10 Things We Learned From The Filth Commentary

The Filth Blu-ray not only looks fantastic – in both its luminous O-ring and Steelbook SKUs (the latter with embossed lines of cocaine) – but it is also a carefully crafted, lovingly put together package too.

In an age when additional features and goodies are seemingly pared down on disc, reduced to additional electronic press kit (EPK) and other materials, it’s great to see something so well put together, from its menu through its extras.

The menu features an animated James McAvoy riding a pig, bucking bronco-style, and harks back to an era when, in the early days of DVD, designers, animators and distributors attempted to do something fun at the same time as innovating.

Its additional features include a commentary from director Jon S Baird and writer Irvine Welsh and is, put simply, one of the funniest and most interesting we’ve heard for some time. Where commentaries are now becoming increasingly asinine – if, that is, they’re there at all – it’s great to see something that is not only interesting in the insight it offers, but as shocking as the film itself and potentially libellous too. As you’d expect from a bestselling writer, Welsh is a marvellous raconteur too, teasing out anecdotes and offering up barbed asides.

And it seems to have worked too – week one sales from the release are an impressive 40,000 or so, with more copies shifting in its second week and, we reckon, as word of mouth spreads, more being picked up thanks to its packaging and extras too.

So here then, are 10 things we learnt from watching the commentary on Filth on Blu-ray

1 Jon S Baird and Irvine Welsh are great pals
The director and writer quite obviously get on like the proverbial house on fire, although their friendship is obviously based on barbs and a wicked sense of humour. Within seconds of the commentary starting Welsh has laid into Baird: “In case you’re wondering,” he says, “what the S stands for, it stands for shagger.” As the opening credits come through, Welsh is at it again: “They wouldn’t let me have my logo on [the opening credits] but I wouldn’t want it on this scab by film.” Minutes later Baird counters back: “The Filth book, no-one remembers it, it’s like the flyer for the film.”

2 James McAvoy “does all his own stunts”
McAvoy’s character Bruce Robinson breaking wind at the start of the film? It’s the real deal, says Baird. “That fart there, by the way,” he notes, was a real fart. James, we’ll see how incredible he is, but he does all his own stunts.” “This one I’ve just done is real,” adds Welsh.

Later, when McAvoy vomits, “that’s real spew. It’s real spew, real tears, real farts”.

“That was a real van went past,” deadpans Welsh.

3 There’s plenty of scurrilous gossip and anecdote
So we learn, again within the early minutes, a bit about John Sessions, one of the senior actors on set, who, says Welsh, was not a fan of one of his previous outings: “He walked out [of the premiere] after 20 minutes. Saying ‘this is terrible, Welsh is a bum, he’s a disgrace to Scotland, get rid of him’. Next time I saw him it was ‘Irvine, darling, how are you?’”

And we’re not sure of even how to spell it, but Welsh’s description of what a “spot-the-baw” was is fantastic.

Oh, and we’re still trying to work out who the musician on valium is, another marvellous tale from a born raconteur…

4 James McAvoy was a “revelation”
Initially Baird and co were sceptical about McAvoy taking on the role of the jaded copper. Baird says they thought he looked “about 15”, although within 20 minutes he’d transformed into Welsh’s creation. As Welsh says: “Watch his performance. I’m not indulging in hyperbole, but it’s one of the greatest ever screen performances.

“He runs all the emotion gamut, all the different emotions and makes the audience feel that way about such a despicable character. If you looking at those fantastic incendiary solo performances over the years, from De Niro in Taxi Driver to Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper, Eric Bana in Chopper, even Ewan in Transpotting, all these guys in a big breakthrough. He’s taken a step backwards, he’s already a Hollywood star, he’s already established himself. In terms of performances, he’ll be remembered for this, it will take some beating.”

McAvoy’s towering performance inspired the rest of the cast. “They all raised the bar for each other,” says Baird. “James put this performance in, everyone had to match him.”

5 Irvine Welsh’s cameo didn’t make the final cut
He was scheduled to appear, but was somehow excised during the editing process. “Oh well, what you going to do? I’ve got to take one for the team. You’ve never heard me complaining about it,” Welsh recounts. “I’ve taken it well.” “You’ve taken it like a man,” adds Baird. In fact, Welsh didn’t even spot it on first viewing. “The first time you showed me the rough cut, I didn’t realise my scene had been left out. I didn’t even notice, I was so engrossed.”

6 The film is littered with in-jokes and other references
Kubrick gags abound in the film, although Baird doesn’t [point all of them out. “I could have done this commentary and end up being all wanky and talked about that,” he says. “But we’ve done that too much so we’ll just be idiots. No-one’s going to listen to it anyway.”

“Except me on sad and lonely nights, sitting with my cup of Horlicks,” adds Welsh.
One scene with McAvoy and his colleagues walking in slow motion was described in the script as being ‘like a shit Reservoir Dogs’.

Baird’s further mentions of Kubrick are met with cries of “here’s beardie with his chin-stroking liberal… bollocks references… namby pamby left wing…”.

And later, Welsh notes: “Whenever it gets sexy, you talk about Kubrick.”

7 Baird ended up knowing Filth better than its creator
For Welsh, as soon as he’s written a book he tends to forget about it and, as he explains, “move on to the next one”. But when Baird kept talking to him about his creation, he felt compelled to read it again. “This bastard’s showing me up,” he says. “I read it five times in a row,” explains Baird.

8 Edinburgh wasn’t the only location
The film was shot all over Europe, as the duo, especially Baird, reveals. “This was shot in a cupboard in Sweden,” he says, during one scene. “The film was shot in five different countries, we were picking up scenes everywhere.” Other locations included Chiswick and, in place of Edinburgh, even Glasgow.

9 The Trainspotting factor
The film was long mooted for a screen adaptation and before Jon S Baird came along, the one word everyone else used in discussions was a previous Welsh adaptation, but for Baird it was something he was keen to avoid. “A lot of people said ‘we love Trainspotting, we want to do a film in a similar vein, out there, in your face’,” Welsh recalls. “[Baird] said ‘fuck Trainspotting’.” Baird says: “I’ll probably get hatemail now, I love it as a film and a book, I just didn’t think we should be tied to that, we’d have failed miserably.”

10 Jim Broadbent doesn’t know who presented his Oscar…
The actor was part of an impressive ensemble cast, but won over everyone with his refusal to behave like the Academy Award winner he is. “He was very generous about it,” says Baird, “he didn’t want to speak about it. ‘What was it like when you picked it up?’ He was very bashful, ‘who gave you your Oscar?’ He said he can’t remember. It’s a testament to the guy, he’s not in it for that, he’s in it for the work.”
Welsh butts in: “You got him once for nothing, you can’t get him for free again.”

And with that, it’s all over, with the pair continuing over the animated end credits (Baird: “Why not give everyone a bit of light relief at the end?”), showing off their mutual admiration before agreeing: “Let’s go and get pissed.”

Tags: , , , ,