In her new film Powder Room, director M.J Delaney allows the audience to join lead character Sam and her band of friends on a girl’s night out. However, she combines this with a tender story about judgement and the power of friendship. Flickfeast caught up with the director M.J Delaney and star Jaime Winstone to chat about the film.
Originally a stage play called ‘When Women Wee’, it was optioned by Damian Jones, the producer behind such hits as The History Boys and The Iron Lady. M.J told us a little about how she became involved in the project. “I met Damian in June/July last year and he had this locked box money from the Iron Lady… everyone else put it into development and he was like ‘I am going to make a micro budget feature with it’. And so, I met up with him. He gave me the script for ‘When Women Wee’, which was the stage play that the film was based on. I read it and I was like it’s hilarious. In September, he rang me and said we are doing it and we are going to shoot it in Nov. At that point, the only script we had was for the play, which was just a series of vignettes in a toilet; it didn’t have any central storyline. None of the main characters or the relationships between them really existed and so we had to develop the script in tandem with the pre-production. So Andy (Casting Director – Andy Brierley) and I were casting characters who were simultaneously being cut. It was mental, and then we had to finish it all for Cannes in May because Damian wanted to go and sell it in Cannes, which he did to Universal which was pretty amazing.”
The debut feature for M.J Delaney she found both pros and cons in choosing to tackle a project with a single setting. “I think the pros were that considering we had the tiniest budget in the world it was the only way we were going to be able to make a film on this money. I think the cons are trying to make it filmic… so in terms of what I wanted to do to it aesthetically, it was all kind of tied into how could I make it feel like a bigger space than it is? How can we make this four-walled box more interesting than just this one room that we are stuck in for the whole night?”
The single setting was obviously an advantage for the cast and crew as they were clearly up against a grueling schedule with the film being completed in a matter of months. This limited the freedom the actors could be given and M.J shares her thoughts about the importance that casting had on the project. “We were so up against it in terms of time with the schedule that we didn’t have a huge amount of time to experiment or be free with it…I was so confident in every single one of the girls and not only how good they were but how much they loved the character they were playing and how invested they were in it, that I largely just left them all alone and they did an amazing job”.
For Jaime Winstone, who plays Chanel, this was a project that was very much love at first sight. “When I first read the script she just leapt off the page and I just absolutely fell in love with her, I thought it’s the first time I’ve read a really strong female character whose confident about talking about sex, whose confident in herself and is not a bad person… I think as women we’ve all kind of met girls like this or experienced friends who are hopeless romantics and do believe they are going to meet the man of their dreams behind the bar whilst pouring a white Russian. In the real world, it’s maybe not going to happen but she holds out for it and she believes in it.” Jaime’s performance as the sexually confident Chanel is both funny and moving. This appears to be something that is tied into the central location of the club toilet as Jaime explains. “You’re in there, you’re all getting ready, you’re all helping each other. You’re all advising each other. Someone’s in tears, someone’s having phone sex in the one cubicle, someone’s trying to do this and it’s real, it’s very true. I think it’s brilliant and it’s naturally funny… When women are in clubs you know you have this sort of certain thing, when you go into the toilet you are sorting your shit out, you’re getting your face on… you’re getting it together, kind of like putting a front on and going out and you’re fine again and that’s what kind of amazing about women toilets because nobody judges anybody really, you have that kind of thing but at the end of the day you are in there to sort yourselves out”.
The humour and truth within Powder Room is made all the more authentic by the close relationships between the cast. Jaime tells us about the joy she had at being able to finally work with her friend Sheridan Smith, who plays the lead character Sam. “M.J finally put us in the same room we were just like ‘Oh my God, we are finally doing this’ and it was amazing because we are super close and we’re very similar and she’s an amazing actress, she’s really inspiring to me. I watched her in this and she’s got so much range and she’s such a down to earth, beautiful girl and she’s fucking cool”. Whilst the chemistry between the cast is palpable on screen, one of the film’s biggest joys is explored by M.J. “I think that we kind of look at the young girls characters within it and get kind of nostalgia for it…I hope that the generation above us kind of sees the main set of girls and has a nostalgia about that as well”.
There is certainly enough within the film for a male audience to relate to and enjoy as well but it seems as if any discussion of a sequel set in a male toilet is not about to happen any time soon as M.J points out. “From my understanding, in men’s toilets people go in, piss silently and leave. I imagine that wouldn’t make a hugely interesting film”.
This is certainly not the case with Powder Room, which is released in cinemas on December 6th.