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!… knocking on the door of Moronville …" In conversation with Peter Mullan. Interviewed for The Drouth by David Archibald. Cargo, scripted by Ken Loach"s regular collaborator, Paul Laverty, is the first fictional feature directed by Clive Gordon. Previously Gordon directed a number of award-winning documentaries, including The Betrayed and The Unforgiving. The film is set on a cargo ship travelling from Accra in Ghana to Marseille. We interviewed Peter Mullan who plays the captain of the ship, Brookes in March 2005. What"s your reaction to the recent comments by Stuart Cosgrove about wallowing in failure? I was really chuffed to be included with James Kelman and Ken Currie – that"s seriously gifted company. What really made me laugh was how dumb Stuart is and was. He was also blatantly self-promoting himself with controversy and, of course, the media has to respond to it. The basis of his argument I found hilarious, !There"s not a lot of laughs between those guys." You"ve obviously never seen fucking Orphans; you"ve never fucking seen anything I"ve ever done. You"ve certainly never seen the dark beauty of a Ken Currie painting and you"ve never read Kelman. Kelman"s written some of the funniest fucking sequences, he"s up there with Irvine Welsh. Countries around the world know the three people he mentioned, they"ve seen their paintings, read their works and watched their films. Does the penny not drop with you then that these are international works? They are not inward-looking parochialists, quite the reverse. For Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who I"m reading now, the universal is in the specific. Marquez draws maps, Marquez talks in such stunning detail about a piece of fucking fruit that you can only get in Colombia. Anyone that reads that and thinks, !All he"s doing is telling us about Colombia," is obviously a complete fucking moron. And Stuart definitely is knocking on the door of Moronville. I couldn"t believe how daft it was. It was just dumb. In Cargo, you"re playing a character called Brookes, the captain on a cargo ship who inadvertently picks up some stowaways in Africa as he heads back to Europe…

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Captain Brookes. A mythical baddie, could have been a goodie, should have been a goodie, took a wrong turn and now he is pursuing his nihilist dream. It"s good fun. All the characters in it are really interesting, because Paul Laverty is very much into the internal machinations of the human soul. It means you get to play out all your Catholic frustrations. The notion I had was of a guy from Glasgow who had travelled the world once when he was seventeen. He"d jumped on a ship, travelled the world, and came back !mister cultured". !Let me tell you stories about Ghana, let me tell you stories about Argentina, let me tell you stories about South Africa." Literally and metaphorically he travelled the world a second time and he saw the horrors, the injustices, the abuse. He saw the ravages of capitalism, the abuse of Sovietism. When he took the second journey he almost hated himself for being so stupid that he did not see it the first time. And this is his seventh journey, that"s how far down the road he is, but there"s still a part of him that is the guy from the first journey. There"s a brilliant part in The Hitcher where Rutger Hauer says to the boy, !Stop me. Just fucking stop me." And the boy cannae because he"s stronger than the boy. But there"s a bit of that in Brookes which is saying, !Stop me doing this, I don"t want to do this." He is a very intelligent, guy. He"s erudite, and well travelled. His arguments are very much survivalist, like working-class capitalism; accept your lot, kill anybody that gets ahead of you and accept the fact that you"re never gonnae be rich nor happy. So he"s a fairly complex character then? Paul"s into complex characters and from my end of things that"s always interesting. If history has taught us anything about dictators, extremely unpleasant human beings, it"s that they usually started off as idealists. I remember going on marches where it was Mugabe and Mandela – the banners were mixed. Now there is no doubt as to what kind of monster Mugabe is. But so many of the real historical bad guys, the

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nasty genocidal socio-psychopaths, at eighteen or nineteen you wouldn"t recognise them. They are the ones who would be in the pub banging away about people"s rights and poverty. Then something happens, and you never know if it is an innate opportunism that comes through, or if they get the power like in the beautiful Brecht comedy about Hitler, or do they just start off as monstrous idiots that get lucky and end up the dictator, the guy with all the fucking dough and the power and the madness. Brookes is in that category.

of us have that capability. In Magdalene, one of the biggest stories for me was the heartbreaking change of Bernadette, the feisty one, the one you root for, very pretty, and slowly but surely she turns petty and nasty and vindictive and it broke my heart. That was inspired by an article I read about a woman who was one of the victims in the Balkans war and this woman said the most amazing thing, she said, !Don"t let anybody tell you that we all sat round supporting one another, if I could have given them my daughter I would have. I couldn"t take it anymore."

Can you tell me more about the script? It is one great big allegory about globalisation and what it does to people. The ship is very much the symbol of the rotting vessel of capitalism trundling through the waters destroying any weakness that it sees. It is a festering, unpleasant, haunted environment. On the surface it"s a horror-psycho thriller, and I like that. I like the idea that the left is starting to play with genres and not just banging the old social realist drum. I love the social realist drum, but fuck, I like a bit of variation. This is actually about a guy who understands the workings of global capitalism and justice and poverty. I think the reason that they were keen on me doing it was they would not have to educate me as regards that. How does this shoot compare to the time spent on other films that you and Paul Laverty have worked on? For me there was a key moment in My Name is Joe when in the script all Joe said was, !Fuck it." It is the moment when he is back on the alcohol and Liam comes in. There was a crucial moment for me when I improvised this huge long speech about what I was going to do and how I hated him. I was just trying something and Ken came over at the end and, I swear to God, unbeknown to Ken, our relationship was based on that one moment, because I thought if Ken comes over and says to me, !A bit too dark, we"ve been rooting for this guy the whole fucking way and you"ve just turned into an absolute nightmare." For me, that would have made him less of a director. That would have been the coward"s way out. And for him to have the courage to allow me to go that dark with that character – it"s examples like that which make Ken a total genius. Because if I had been in his shoes I would have had doubts, !Shit, I like it, but it scares the fuck out of me." Maybe I would have asked for a lighter version, !Be nasty, but don"t be talking about shooting weans. That"s no" the guy we"ve seen." And for me that was a manifestation of just about everything I"ve ever done anyway, which is that we all

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That"s what destroys you more than anything. How you get so wound down that you can turn on another human being because you cannot take the pain anymore. And I loved her for that because that takes guts to say that. When the whole world"s press is saying, !Give us the story," and they line up Nicole Kidman to play the part, !Give us the story of how you stood up to these men who were raping you every night," and of course the woman could not take it. Nobody can. For me, politically, spiritually and philosophically, I think that is more important to look at because that really tells us something about the human condition. If you take that as a given, as opposed to the Hollywoodisation of the human spirit, it shows that when you give in then you realise what oppressors really do and why you have got to stop them. Because as we have seen in Rwanda, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, everywhere, once you put an oppressor in you are incapable of anything. Particularly for those of us in our forties, it never seems to amaze you how there are new means of oppression, torture and abuse. You had to laugh about Abu Ghraib because they were doing that in Belfast in the sixties. Talk to the Palestinians, talk to the older Israelis about what the Brits were doing to them in 1947. The press tells us that this is new and this is terrible. Wake up and smell the fucking blood. You have been outspoken about the treatment of asylum seekers in Scotland and their detention at Dungavel. Was that a factor in being involved with this film? Immigration is going to be the big issue for the next two or three generations. It"s a twenty-first century issue – the mass movement of people who are poor and want better lives. The immigration in this was huge to me. Paul does his research very thoroughly and I was in no doubt about the accuracy of the stories I had heard about black Africans being thrown overboard like pieces of meat. Before I came over I met a captain on a cargo ship in Greenock, it was an entirely Indian crew. He was a lovely guy and I asked him about the truth to these

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stories and he replied, !Obviously in my case no. We get stowaways all the time. If they are willing to work they work, if they are not willing to work then they go in the hold, which is pretty unpleasant. And there"s a lot of paperwork at the other end. A lot of countries won"t take them because they have thrown away all their papers." Paul really tapped into the discrimination between a white stowaway and a black stowaway. If a white stowaway is found washed up on land then questions are going to be asked, the papers might even report it. Unfortunately, in our racist culture, five or six black people being found wouldn"t even merit a mention. In relation to Scotland, Dungavel is one of the great modern scandals. Ten years ago if you said to me that our country would be locking people up for being victims of torture and abuse I would say that you have got to be fucking kidding me. We don"t do that sort of thing. The Scots are traditionally a very welcoming kind of nation. I"m not saying they"re perfect, but I have found a lot less racism in Scotland than I have found in other white continental countries. That"s not to say it"s not there, but, on the whole, I think that the Scots are pretty hung up about justice and the majority are saying, !This guy is here because he has been wronged. Nine times out of ten he was wronged by systems that our government is supporting." In the film Paul goes to great lengths to stress the difference. Although there is never a suggestion that Brookes and the guys are racist, which I liked, it"s just that your collateral is substantially reduced according to the colour of your skin. What are you acting in next? I go to Boston to do a film with Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio, Damon and one mister Jack Nicholson. I"ve only got one scene with Jack, as I can now call him. Most of my scenes are with DiCaprio and Damon. It"s cool, but, to be honest, I was not going to do it. When it was first put to me it was twenty weeks in America. So I drafted out a letter saying that I had already been away from my weans for 7 weeks and I cannae bear it. Much as I love to see different cultures, that length of time is just too much. Anyway the agents went back and forth and the money goes up, blah blah blah, although the money had nothing to do with it because the money I made on this will buy me enough time to write until August or September. Me and the missus are very careful, we don"t live flashily so that I don"t need to be away that much, we try and avoid the middle class trap of a holiday home and all that shit. We"ve got one house and one motor, that"s it. Then the agent came over last week and she said, !You are working seventeen days, that"s the total you are working. And you won"t be away for longer than seven weeks. In the contract they"ve put four first class tickets so you can get back four times. You"ll be back for five weeks and then away again for four, etc." When she first told me I imagined twenty weeks in Boston. It"s weird. If someone ever says, !Will you do a film with Martin Scorsese?" you"d think, !Fuck the weans, fuck everything – I"m doing it." But I"m forty-

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five and your weans only grow up once and you think, !Even for Marty it has to be something that will be alright with the weans." What other projects are you working on? I"m up to play James Connolly. I was over in Dublin just before Christmas and they"re fighting the good fight to get the money to make it. It"s a cracking script and I was a big Connolly fan from teenage years when I first read his work and his biography. What stunned me when I was over in Ireland was how few people had a clue that he was Scottish and that the tricolour was down to him. And any plans to direct? I"ve got between 27 and 31 ideas. Whatever one makes you think that you can spend the next year trying to get the money. Because it"s 24/7, and because it is your heart and soul, it must mean a lot to you on every different level. And you have to know that, as much as I love film festivals, I came into cinema to reach as many people as I can and I will not abandon my family and class to the proto-fascism that you get in the multiplexes and that"s what I loved about this script because Paul feels the same as I do. If the politics become subtler, so be it. Other times we can be more blatant, like with James Connolly, a film about a man who fought back against the British Empire and gave his life for that cause. That is an overtly political film and with a bit of luck we"ll get the money. How it does at the box office, who knows, but at least we"re finding the forms and banging on the door.

Cargo is due for release in 2006.

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Interview peter mullan iss18