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Interview With Writer Terry Deary (“Horrible Histories”)

The Film Is Done And I Think It's A Triumph!

19th July 2019
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If there’s one film festival you will find the world’s most original comedy, it’s without a doubt the London Comedy Film Festival.

This year the film opened with the Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans from director Dominic Brigstocke and based on the world-famous books by writer Terry Deary. We spoke to Terry to talk about this new film, the world-changing, and his future plans.

Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Terry, how is it for you to be here [at the LOCO Film Festival] and to see your books becoming a film again?

Terry Deary: It’s another day at the office for me. Everybody is getting excited but I can’t get excited anymore. We’ve done the books so many times in so much media and while this film is beautiful, it’s just one step. Maybe it’s in my nature that I don’t get excited. I’m not as excited as I think I should be or as people think I should be.

LV: Maybe you’re just getting used to this?

TD: Yes, indeed. Which is awful actually.

LV: What were your thoughts when they came to you and said: “We want to make another film based on your books”?

TD: It takes so long to make a movie and especially to reach the state in which the movie is being made because of all the negotiations. I just said “Let me know when you’re ready to start filming” and then I would get interested in hearing more about it. The lovely thing is that they involved me in every stage of the scriptwriting process. They let me comment on the script which very often, people, who adapt my work, don’t. During the making of this movie, they consulted me even though I’m not a film specialist.

LV: Were you also involved in the casting as well?

TD: No, but they came up with so many surprises. You might not know Derek Jacobi but 42 years ago his career really took off when he played Claudius in “I, Claudius”. It was in black and white and he was just perfect as Claudius. When the filmmakers of this film [Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans] came back to me last year and said that for Claudius they’ve got Derek Jacobi, I was so surprised and over the moon. He started his career as Claudius and he’s going to finish it by playing the role again (laughter).

LV: The fact that people still read your books and see your work coming to life must mean something to you?

TD: Well, I’m always interested in the next project. What’s done in the past has been fabulous but I got so many things happening at the moment. I got a television series of my own that has nothing to do with Horrible Histories. I’m working on podcasts at the moment. For Horrible Histories, they’re planning on doing an escape room. There’s a museum exhibition I’m planning with major British museums. Sadly, I can’t say too much about it. The film is done and I think it’s a triumph but there are very exciting things to come.

LV: Why do you think that people should watch this film?

Because it has everything a family movie should have. Drama, fun, excitement, some very dark comedy at times and there’re also some factual elements to it. When people watch the television series or a stage play about it, they always say “it was entertaining and I learned a lot I didn’t know before”. I hope that’s what they will say when they saw this movie.

LV: If you would re-write the books today, what would you change?

TD: I would change a lot! First of all, the books wouldn’t be published today because the culture of the world has changed a lot. I wrote one at the end of last year and the editor came back to me that it was insensitive. People are insensitive about histories. Today you can’t get away with the things I said 25 years ago. The world has changed. You upset people who get sensitive easily. I will never forget getting a letter from a boy when I made fun of Claudius’ stutter. The mum said that her son stutters and that he loves my books but that he was upset because I made fun of Claudius. So I would probably have to leave out all the sensitive bits due to which the book would become very thin.

LV: One last question: Will you attend the film festival yourself?

TD: No, I just came from Durham. I live 250 miles away so sadly not.

Thanks a lot for this interview!

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