Crafting An Unromantic Rom-Com: A Conversation with Filmmaker Mark Murphy
FOR LOVE OR MONEY follows Mark, and life is sweet, or so you might think if you were in Mark’s shoes. He’s about to make £20 million on a business deal that he’s kept secret from everyone, even his best friend Tim. To add to his luck, a chance encounter at a funeral has given him another shot with the love of his life, Connie. The two fall head over heels in love and not long after get engaged.
Two problems though: first, Connie doesn’t genuinely love him; and second, his belief that no-one knows about his impending success and wealth is, in fact, incorrect. An old classmate, Johnny, knows everything and encourages Connie to marry Mark. After stumbling upon some incriminating texts, Mark discovers their plan to rob him of half his impending fortune. Refusing to be made the fool, Mark quickly puts a plan into action. With the help of Tim and Connie’s ex-bff, Kendra, he embarks on a mission to see just how far the devious pair are willing to go to get their hands on that money.
In our interview, Mark Murphy tells The Fan Carpet‘s Marc Jason Ali about the initial idea for FOR LOVE OR MONEY, why the name change and tells us about his passion project…
The film’s incredible, I watched it this afternoon, it is incredibly funny. What was the initial impetus for the film?
Well originally I had a situation, many years ago with a Producer who it turned out as not to quite having my back in the way that I thought he had, and things got rather sort of ugly and I started to write about the experience, but I didn’t want to write it and turn it into a depressing story about how things had gone wrong and I thought maybe there was a way to turn it into a romantic comedy and turn it into something funny and that was the sort of gestation of the idea, but it sort of moved on quite a lot and that happened quite a long time ago so in the intervening years various new drafts were written and eventually it sort of distanced itself from the real thing, I wish it had been like it is in the film; something that wasn’t quite funny or romantic and seeing if I could turn it into that.
Okay alright cool. Well, sorry that happened, but at least something good came out of it (laughs)
Yeah I guess so (laughs)
The chemistry between Rob and Sam makes the film, what was it about these two that made them the perfect choices for the roles of Mark and Connie?
I think there’s a few things, obviously they’re both really good actors, and it seems kind of a shame that Sam hasn’t done more comedy, this is her first one and you know she’s doing very well on Broadway, I don’t think she’s too unhappy about that (laughs).
But I think they’re both great actors and they’re both also really nice people, so whilst they can play this, they’re both their characters to some degree, to some degree nefarious, they also bring quite a lot of charm to those characters which is part of their natural personality, you know, and I think that’s what the audience sympathising with them, but they are both just two lovely people and it makes me sick but it works well for the camera so they……to be honest a lot of it comes down to luck and they do have a great chemistry.
Yeah they do. It’s just shame you don’t have Sam singing because she has an incredible voice…
Yeah that’s true but that being said there’s a second film I did I had Diana Vickers starring in and she did the song for the end credits and I really liked that song but no one else cared (laughs) which was fair enough.
So, Sam did sing off camera so we got to enjoy that but nothing on camera unfortunately.
Not bad, next time. I absolutely love the priest he’s really funny with his irreverent humour and just not giving a damn. Was that a conscious decision to turn a priest, a man of god, turn the trope on its head?
I’m trying to think when he first came into it, I think it must have been when writing the funeral, that’s obviously the first time you see him.
I thought “let’s just make this the worst funeral ever” and then a lot of things that happened we ended up saying “no this scene’s too long”, so we kept it a lot more simple, I think originally in the script we had Tim falling into the grave, but what we did keep was a Priest who is a little bit of a contradiction, you know, who doesn’t give a damn, who doesn’t even believe in God. And I love this character, I especially loved his last line which one of the producers did say “oh I think we should take that one out” and I’m like “you’re crazy that gets the biggest laugh”, I don’t think the kind of people who are going to be offended by that line are going to be the kind of people that would be seeing this film, so, well, screw it (laughs) I find it funny, I like it so lets keep it there.
Yeah well he’s funny, he’s incredible. You’ve assembled a great cast like not just Sam and Rob, but you’ve got Rachel and Tony and the chemistry between the main four is really great. What was it like working with them all?
They’re all horrible people actually (laughs) no I’m joking, they’re really nice and Tony is actually someone who I had in mind for that role even before we started casting, I was really happy we got him because he’s such a terrific character actor. Rachel, I’m surprised that we got her, she’s got some great stuff on her CV and I was really really chuffed that she was open to doing the role of Kendra, because she is sort of……you know……I’m sure her agent would have preferred her taking the lead role but she did such a great job and she’s got her own unique kind of quirky quality that shines through. But fundamentally they’re all really nice people and very very chilled out and I think that’s what sort of shines throughout that dynamic that they had between them.
It’s brilliant. So, do you have any memorable moments that you had on set that you can talk about?
Interesting stories, there were various things happening, let me think, I think the scene with Ed Speleers as Johnny, you know the scene of him in the kitchen, that was basically the first scene that he did, the first scene that he shot, you can imagine how surprised the crew where. The only direction I gave him was, you know, “assume your character has done three or four lines of coke and then just go a little bit off on one”, so I didn’t give him any direction to start climbing the surfaces or do any of that so he had free reign to go as crazy as he wanted which was a lot of fun. But because we only had four weeks to shoot, we powered through very quickly and we managed to do it with out too much disaster which was good.
On the subject of Ed, he’s a great actor himself and you must have been chuffed to bits to have him in the film in any capacity.
Yeah, I mean that’s the thing, you know, whenever you sort of describe a film and say “right I’ve got this actor and this actor and he’s that guy in that film” kind of thing. With this cast, it’s such a great cast and they’ve all got such a great body of work behind them and you say their name and people go “oh Les Miserables or Downtown Abbey and so they’re all instantly recognisable which is great fun.
I saw, in fact, Rob today posted on Instagram a post from Starbucks where instead of having his name written on it someone had drawn one of the robots from Pacific Rim and a giant great big monster (laughs).
Okay. So what does the future hold for For Love and Money? Obviously it’s had a name change, but do you see a sequel in it’s future or do you think it’s a one and done?
I don’t know, a lot of people have sort of said that “see where it goes next”, but I thought maybe do a trilogy but do something completely different so each film tells the story of a different character. We saw Johnny go off to jail and then him coming out in the third film and then become a manager for a girl group/pop band or something, thought that would be quite funny, I know Sam came up with a funny suggestion that the second film should start when they’re all at the funeral of Ducky the dog (laughs) and I said no, he’s my favourite character. So yeah she thought we should start with a dog funeral but I think the stories done with it?)
Right okay. Let’s see what happens. With the popularity of streaming services like Netflix, what do you think the future of cinema is going to be?
I don’t know, this is the thing, you know, a lot of people say Netflix and Amazon are killing cinema but I’m sure back in the 50s and 60s people said the same thing about TV, I just think cinema needs to change its game a bit and I think perhaps the biggest and most dangerous thing for cinema is the cost of tickets, cinema should be about escapism but cinema tickets should not be costing you £18, but you go into central London and it will and that just puts people of.
I think in many ways it’s upping the game because services like Netflix and Amazon are not necessarily for the films but for the TV series, they do them so well and the writing and things like Better Call Saul and Narcos and all those shows are so so good that its sort of set the challenge, sort of laid the gauntlet for cinema to start doing stronger films and whilst I love the superhero films I think it’s time for something different now, because we’ve had about 10/15 years of 3 or 4 superhero films a year and it sort of feels like it’s done and obviously it wont be because there’s still money to be made, but I think we need to start coming up with better stories and I think when we do I don’t think Netflix and Amazon are necessarily competition or a threat I think there something that can be, you know, collaborated with.
Absolutely! Couldn’t said it better myself. Who inspires you within the industry?
Well Spielberg I think is an inspiration for everyone. David Fincher is probably my favourite director, I’m a massive fan of his. I like James Cameron, basically his approach to film-making, he’s got his vision and he goes for it and I think that shows why he’s got two of the most – well Avengers: Endgame has probably taken him over, but two most successful films by a film-maker absolutely driven by passion and that’s inspiring.
Yeah it is absolutely. So what else are you working on at the moment?
Well I’ve got a couple of comedies and I’ve just been developing a romantic comedy as well, because I realise with having a romantic comedy come out it’s probably my easiest one to sell, and so we took a few projects down to Cannes, a few scripts, and we’ve had some interest. I think basically we see how For Love or Money gets released and take it from there, but after the release, it was released in the US in March, I had a few producers get in touch with me so we’re sort of developing things there. I’ve started writing a project with Rob [Kazinsky] from the film, so yeah, we’re working on a couple of things to do together next.
Nice one. So just out of interest, what prompted the name change?
The sales agent (laughs) nothing to do with me. I liked the original title but I don’t dislike For Love or Money, but yeah they felt that The Revenger: An Unromantic Comedy didn’t sound too romantic or comedy enough despite having romantic comedy in the title but they just thought of international sales and it needed to be something different.
Right fair enough. Is there a book that you’re a fan of that hasn’t been adapted to film yet that you’d love be a part of?
Yes I bought an option for it, not a comedy or romantic, but there’s a book I bought the option for called The Storm Front and it’s the true story about the civil war in Oman in the early 70s and this particular story is based on nine SAS soldiers that defended this village from 400 communist insurgents and if they had failed it could have changed the face of everything, I mean, the frontline of the Cold War, but it was a covert war, you know, no one knew that the British where down there and it was only declassified in 2010, it’s sort of like Zulu meets The Thin Red Line, it’s a very powerful story and I picked the option up on it and that’s basically my dream project. Something like that isn’t cheap to do so it requires a lot of work but yeah that’s my pet project.
Great well we look forward to that one when you get it made. Just before I let you go, what advice do you have for someone embarking upon a career in the film industry?
Well put it this way, I was at a meeting about a year ago, 6 months to a year ago I was looking outside of film-making during down time in the year it’s always good to have something else happening, and I went to speak to this company that do a lot of commercials, you know high end commercials, car commercials and things and I thought it would be great if I could be doing that.
I went in and I met the MD and got very little time to talk about me doing anything it was all about asking me that question “how’d I get into film” as a guy whose had 20+ years of experience and whose had his own company doing high end commercials and the thing is that’s it. Getting into film you’ve basically got to be prepared to slum it for as long as it takes because, you know, you need so much momentum and generally speaking that momentum has to come from yourself and no one’s going to pay you at the start, you’ve got to have the enthusiasm to keep you going for however, maybe six months maybe even a year maybe even 10 years, you’ve just got to have a dream that you’re not prepared to give up on and a part-time job (laughs).
Right okay. Well once again the film’s incredible, I wish you all the success in the world. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
Thanks very much, I’m glad you liked the film.
FOR LOVE OR MONEY IS AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FROM JULY 8