Lee & Wayne Lennox came down on a train for the premiere of their film ‘AmStarDam’ and managed to stop in with Elliot Burr & James Baxter-Derrington. As opposed to other interviews when we’ve included [laughs] to indicate someone laughing, we decided against it this time, because otherwise the article would be twice as long. What follows is just… just sublime.
Lee Lennox: Writer/Director
Wayne Lennox: Writer/Director
L: You’ll have to get the thesaurus out for us to make us sound intellectual.
W: We’re from Essex so…
Congratulations on being nominated for Best UK Feature. I really enjoyed the film the other day, something completely different from everything else I’ve seen. Really good fun, completely original. I suppose our first question is: What was your biggest inspiration for writing this film, did you get many different influences that you could make into one thing?
L: It came about so organically because Wayne lived over there for 6 years, which meant I was over there a lot anyway. Everyone says “write what you know”.
W: Yeah, I dunno, we don’t smoke weed anymore but we was like “what film do we wanna make?”, and we started compiling ideas together and we thought “Ah, no one’s made a stoner movie about Amsterdam!”
L: Which is weird ’cause it’s the smoking capital of the world and people go there in movies for 5 to 10 minutes and then that’s it, you know, they just go there for a laugh, but no one’s made a film about the place, man. Especially with Wayne living there for that long…
W: We started off like “let’s make a story about Amsterdam” and then it ended up with… I know Cheech & Chong touched on it years ago but that was obviously like 300 years ago when that film was released, so then it progressed from there. But then we wanted to make more than just a stoner comedy, you know? Even though it’s been labelled that by the industry now, they’re using that to market it but yeah, we try to make more than something that’s just people getting wrecked and telling boner jokes! It’s very silly.
L: It’s still bonkers, man. Hopefully it’s got an analogy and a bit more heart than other stoner comedies have.
W: A bit of love and a bit of everything else in there, man. We love 80s films, so that whole 80s vibe, man, we wanted to capture that.
L: Someone said at the screening the other day afterwards: “like a theatre show, but live action”, and they felt it was like a Baz Luhrman thing where it didn’t know if it was stage or screen. We never thought of setting it out like that but it does feel a bit-
W: – comic book-y though. Every time you look at the screen, you’re like “this is fucking, bonkers! I don’t know whether it looks shit or if it looks really creative, it was just like aaawww!” Y’know what I mean? It was like an old Home & Away set… but on crack. If I like, had a whole load of ketamine blown up my arse, and then fuckin’… watched Home & Away in the 90s or whatever, or 80s, that’s how I was looking at some of the sets. I was like… “Dunno what the fuck we’re doing here really, but it looks cool.”
I thought that it looked like a really adult pantomime. Like Shrek.
L: It’s like a cartoon isn’t it? We didn’t necessarily set out to do it that way. When we were starting, they said “what films are a good reference for it?” and we couldn’t think of any, we were like, I dunno man… maybe Amelie in the style of some of the camerawork and the fairytale aspect.
W: Fear and Loathing… so we wanted to go bonkers and hyper, didn’t we?
L: But not too hyper that it’s arthouse, we still wanted to be commercial.
W: Yeah, maybe ’cause we didn’t fuckin’ go for one style and that’s why they didn’t come out!
L: It’s just mental.
W: But we’re certainly happy with it. When we were in the grade room, we certainly were like, yeah, we’re not really watching a live feed from a theatre so…
L: It’s definitely not a theatre thing but, yeah, it’s just cool. It’s cool man, we’re happy with it.
“Dunno what the fuck we’re doing here really, but it looks cool”
That’s good. If Amsterdam was the inspiration, how difficult was it to film on the streets? I went there this summer, and the place when Eddie is riding the Segway around by that crooked house… that’s just down from Rembrandtplein? I can remember it vividly. What was it like filming on location?
W: We just had a scout out there that sorted it all out for us and we done a recce and we went picked all of the spots we loved going to, getting wrecked as a youngster. We just thought “that would be amazing, that’s amazing”…
L: So bonkers. Just a perfect background really, man. Wacky characters. You don’t have to try hard to find anywhere that’s a bit… weird.
W: But we did want to film away from the tourist attractions as well, we didn’t really wanna use too many, you know, the main Damrak street and the cheesy coffee shops, we wanted to use really beautiful parts, like that wide camera shot where it comes down and you’ve got the two roads that peak off, if you remember it. It’s really picturesque, and there’s just some really lovely alleyways and bridges and shit in Amsterdam that are fuckin’ awesome to exploit on camera, man.
It looked amazing on camera and it’s a lovely place for sure.
L: Oh, cool man. When we were out there we met up with the Amsterdam Film Commissioner and he was just so, like, honoured that someone was making a film about the city that he just said: “wherever you wanna film, you can do.”
W: Normally they get their knickers taken down for something else like a big American blockbuster or something and we were like “Nah, we wanna make it all about the culture, not-“
L: – and not the dirty, dirty side of it. We just wanna make it… they just so happen to smoke weed ’cause they live in Amsterdam.
W: It’s got drugs in it, but it’s fun. It’s not glamorising it but y’know, we all get stoned… let’s do this fucked up thing with a fucked up competition at the end, let’s get Howard Marks in and just go for it, man, know what I mean?
We looked at the cast list and picked out a few really great comic actors… we’re both big fans of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, so Alice Lowe…
W: She’s naughty.
…and Javone Prince.
W: Javone’s naughty as well.
He’s in Phoneshop and we’re from Sutton so…
L: No way!
W: We love it. Do you know what: we were sat there one day, and we didn’t know, but all of a sudden we looked at this sheet, ’cause it was Hubbards that cast it – we were very lucky to get Hubbards to cast it, with an amazing casting agent – and we was like “Fuck off, man, it’s him from Phoneshop!” And we’re just great fans anyway, he used to come in… you know what I mean?
L: How can you say no to that, man?
W: Yeah, some people, we were like “wow, this is amazing to have you guys”.
So did you not meet with any of the bigger actors, such as Billy Boyd –
L: – they auditioned!
W: Everyone auditioned, man. Not gonna mention no names, but we had, like, pretty much the whole cast of Harry Potter auditioning and shit, we had some massive names put in front of us. But me and Lee were just like, look, we don’t care and we had the executive producer shoutin’ down our heads going “look, they’re gonna do great on sales and all of that, it could go straight to cinema!” We were like, we don’t care, we’re not making a film for this guys, we want the right actor, the right person to play the right part. That’s why we went for Alice Lowe, Eric Lampaert –
L: And Jonathan Readwin man. Jack.
W: Yeah he’s the lead. Totally unknown dude.
L: On paper, you’d probably think “oh, what sale is he gonna give?” and we were like… he’s such a cool guy. He came in with his skateboard. He just walked in like Jack, he looked like he does.
W: Smelt like him…
W: Fuck, man.
L: He’s coming tonight, isn’t he?
W: I think he is!
What is it like working together as a brotherly duo?
W: It was awesome on the film, man.
L: It was really good man. We done a little, Wayne edited it, this little behind-the-scenes thing and you watch it and it’s just like… fuck, man. You know when you’re stressed – I don’t know if you’ve been on a film set, we were stressed a lot – but when you look back, man, the laughs we had. It was just wicked.
W: We were there to balance each other out, man, know what I mean? We’ve been good mates as brother for years anyway, and we’ve got a weird thing – it ain’t telepathic weird shit or anything –
L: – it is weird.
W: We sorta know what the other person wants so we ain’t gotta sit there going: “is this ok?” or giving thumbs up or anything. It’s just like… if he’s over there doing something it’ll be exactly what I want done and vice versa. And we’re there just to like… if someone needs a shit, the other one can just take over shifts and we ain’t gotta stop shifts or anything.
L: Like when others actors go “Ahh…”
W: Yeah… “sorry, gotta be a wanker for a half hour… gotta get a blowjob.” We could do that all day long and still keep the set running.
“It’s just so crazy. And we had no budget left so he was like ‘go for the cheap filling!'”
You guys have mainly done music videos in the past. As this is your first feature length, what were the different challenges that you faced compared to what you’ve done before?
W: It’s just fuckin’ mental.
L: Yeah, it’s the difference between doing a 100m sprint and the London marathon, man. You’ve got to like… we were going in for the sprint! Everyone’s going “nah, you’re gonna burn” and we were like “no we won’t, we’re hardcore!” But we burnt in the first week, we was like “this is mental”. Having like two hours’ sleep… So we were turning up trying to do everything, that’s we always do on our music videos, we love to have an input on everything, we’re co creative. Not just ’cause we wanna control things, we just genuinely love doing every single element of everything and we just tried it didn’t we, man?
W: It’s like… if you’ve got a cold or something like that… I can’t imagine what it’d be like. If your back went out…
L: Yeah, I put my back out, didn’t I?
W: Yeah, for like… however many weeks you’re shooting, nothing can go wrong, know what I mean?
L: If it does, you’re fucked. Even if the lightbulbs went.
W: I was wearing Pampers just in case I shit myself, I’ve got to cover all angles!
L: And when your tooth fell out as well! You were on set with blood goin’ like… *noises of pain*
W: Literally, my whole tooth had come out with a sweet and I had blood all over me, still on set… I couldn’t go anywhere and we still had to film. Had to do an emergency thing afterwards. It’s just so crazy. And we had no budget left so he was like “go for the cheap filling!”
I noticed with the music for the film, you had the punk bands juxtaposed with a whimsical, orchestral score which added to the fairytale aspect. Was it recorded in Prague?
W: Yeah, we had a 90-piece orchestra, the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra done it, scored most of the film. The rest of it was filled up with our mates’ bands. Everyone who we love as bands, none of them are signed at all –
L: We wanted to do the same as the actors, we want to give people a chance that don’t… they were like “you need to use this band” and we were like, “nah, they’re our mates, they need the exposure.”
W: Yeah, they were like “Put Jimi Hendrix in it, Bob Marley” but it ain’t that type of movie, stop making it… just ’cause yeah, you smoke weed in it, you’ve gotta do that but, nah man…
L: We wanted a bit more rock n’ roll.
W: Yeah we wanna put some of our mates’ bands in this, man, they’re fuckin’ awesome these guys. Positioned correctly, the sound and the vision – we’re really happy with the sound. That was the first time I got emotional in the movie, when I was sat there in the orchestra room with 90 people playin’ away and it’s just like… oh, God – know what I mean?
L: Incredible, incredible experience. That was probably one of the best experiences of the film, man.
W: It was.
L: This tune you’ve been humming to yourself, then seeing an orchestra play it live, it’s like… woah.
W: In Prague as well so the chicks are fuckin’ hot so, y’know. There was like a brass house like, literally opposite, so it was like, breakfast in there, then a bit of music, lunch in there, so yeah… lovely.
“We had to beg, steal and borrow and blag for everything, y’know, and try to get favours”
How did you get involved with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra?
W: We just blagged everything! We had a budget of like a million pounds, then something fucked up in the beginning where we lost loads of money –
L: – we had to start the film twice.
W: Yeah, then we ended up with 6 or 7 hundred, half a million to make the whole movie. Fuckin’ hell.
L: We had to beg, steal and borrow and blag for everything, y’know and try to get favours.
W: ‘Cause it’s been three years as well we had waited, we had a friend worked at… Richard Fearon, who does all the Terry Gilliam stuff and that, we went to school with him, we were just like “dude, man, fit us in in the evenings. So we were going there at night just bangin’ out music and he was just grading it in the middle of the night and stuff.
L: And our composers were good mates and they knew Universal Music and they said “guys, we can either use the samples in the keyboard or you can go record it in Prague”, but we have to beg from Universal Music and they would probably pay for it ’cause they do a lot of stuff for computer games. Universal just loved the project so much and saw some clips, some rushes, and saw us and what we were about and just paid for the whole Philharmonic thing.
W: The script just done wonders, it was brilliant, like everyone who was on our wishlist we near enough got. It weren’t like we had to settle for anyone. It was really weird man, ’cause we were meeting, and just hit it off. They thought the script was just fuckin’ bonkers, we just wanna fuckin’ do it for a laugh. Everyone earned peanuts on it but they were all up for it. I came across on set – everyone was just there, y’know?
L: Hard graft. Especially Mariano, who built the tree you see, her team built the tree in Pan’s Labyrinth for Guillermo Del Toro, so to get her to be the art director on our movie we were like “sold!” When she mentioned she done the tree in Pan’s Labyrinth, we were like “we’ve got a tree!”
W: Hair and makeup were people for Avengers and that…
L: Guardians of the Galaxy…
W: You looked around and you were like, “Fuckin’ hell man, this is just fucked up shit, y’know?” Everyone was just there ’cause they wanted to do this fucked up thing!
L: And they had a laugh doin’ it man, they didn’t regret one bit of it. They didn’t get paid but they had such a laugh.
W: “Oh, we’re gonna be on set today and one of the actors is gonna shit himself from really strong weed, this is a good day!”
L: It’s not work is it?
W: “I’m livin’, mum! I’m alright! I’ve earned a fiver but I’m livin’!”
What’s next for the film after the festival?
L: I think UK Distribution, man. It’s coming out in America, Germany, Australia and New Zealand next month, I think America has a big release.
W: We’re just learnin’, man. It’s our first film and everything all the way along we were learning it, the whole process, and now we’re learning the back end of it with sales and distribution and all that, it’s like… yeah. We’re in the middle of all that at the moment. Fuck knows really. Just fingers crossed people get to see it, y’know? If it gets released and doesn’t go anywhere, I’m just gonna go online and fuckin’ put up so many copies –
L: Put it on torrent?
W: Yeah, just dress up and go around with loads of DVDs for sale, but it’s only gonna be AmStarDam… that’s it. That’s how I’ll have to work.
L: Pirate Bay, man – that’s it!
W: Yeah fuckin’ stream that shit, know what I mean? Lose everyone’s money! I think I put 20 quid into it as it goes, so…
Do you have any ideas for any more feature films in the future?
W: Nah, ’cause we work separately as well as ‘The Lennox Brothers’, we’ve always done that our whole career. Lee’s amazing at animation and everything and I’ve been involved in early jungle and drum n’ bass stuff and makin’ stuff and that. We cross together and come together to make projects and we work separately and that as well so…
L: We do a bunch of projects together and apart, man. That’s always the way it’s been. It just so happens this one was our first feature film and it was together, wasn’t it?
W: Yeah, which was cool, man.
L: It was cool learning ground for both of us, man.
W: So we’re just gonna see. Keep it excitin’, keep up the thrill, man, know what I mean? See what happens!
We definitely hope to see more, if we’re back… We love to wing it, hopefully we can take some inspiration from you guys!
W: Fair play!
L: Just say you’re doin’ it. Just do it, man.
W: It’s confidence, innit?
L: All about the confidence.
“Fingers crossed at best, it’ll be a slow burner that ends up kinda becoming a cult classic, one where you’ll go ‘oh, have you got that in your DVD collection? Ah, sweet, put that on, that’ll be a laugh!'”
Fantastic – have you got any plans for any other film festivals as well, is it a circuit you’re gonna build on?
W: Nah, haven’t got a clue, the producer handles it all, man. We’re just knees deep in other projects, we just don’t know. As we found out, you sorta get kept in the dark, y’know, you’re the writer, the director and you do all of this work and it’s your life. As soon as it’s finished, they just take it away from you. Even in America, they’re calling it Stoner Express… it’s just like bending us over and doing really bad stuff to us. Like… what?
L: You sell it to a distributor and it’s almost like sending your kid off to school and just hope they don’t get beaten up. You literally sell your kid. It’s gone. And you can’t really do much about it. We know Pineapple Express and they’re tryna –
W: – the greatest stoner movie!
L: Yeah, they’re tryna sell it on that.
W: You see Stoner Express and they’ve changed the front cover and it’s like… “c’mon man”. We thought we were making more than just a stoner movie anyway, it just happens to be in Amsterdam, yeah there’s a lot of weed in there but fuckin’ hell. To get on the trailblaze of something so amazing, and I just love everything about Pineapple Express –
L: – same –
W: – to all of a sudden to look like, we’ve just –
L: – ripped it or something –
L: We’re gonna apologise to Seth Rogen, if we ever meet him, and Franco. “Sorry guys, it weren’t our idea.”
W: If they watch it –
L: – there’d probably be a lawsuit.
W: It’s just disgusting. It’s something that we stand so strongly against. We hate the industry as it is anyway, with all the bollocks and palaver that goes on in it. But then to do something like that was just like… ah, and you can’t say nothin’, y’know what I mean? They’re in charge.
It sounds like you guys have made the film that you wanted to and you want as many people to see it, no matter how.
L: ‘Cause we know if we hadn’t made this film, we’d wanna see it, man. Having a background of going to Amsterdam a lot, I’d so want to see this film, man.
W: We can honestly say, y’know, we’re in it for the art, making films and to entertain people. From the shit world, 2 hours they can sit down and watch something and just be entertained.
L: It’s escape, man.
W: Yeah, but to everyone else we meet, it’s all about the Box Office and “how many hits is that getting?” and “will that get tweeted?” and it’s like… oh, man. What the fuck’s happened to the industry?
L: We didn’t wanna force nothin’, we wanted it to be organic. Hopefully it’ll do that, man, once it’s been here and a few people have seen it. Noone’s really seen it yet!
W: Fingers crossed at best, it’ll be a slow burner that ends up kinda becoming a cult classic, one where you’ll go “oh, have you got that in your DVD collection? Ah, sweet, put that on, that’ll be a laugh!” So fingers crossed.
Certainly, best of luck with it all guys, it’s fantastic to talk to you. It’s been so good for you guys to take your time to come and see us.
W: Honestly, any promotion is fuckin’ awesome, for anyone.
L: We appreciate it.
W: We don’t normally do interviews or talks to anyone, as you can tell! There’s someone else in charge of us!
We’ve loved it. It’s great to hear it – it’s honest, it’s great to hear guys that care and give a shit about what they want to do. It’s fantastic to meet you guys, thank you so much.