AD: It’s a really refreshing thing to see a movie about something original when there’s so many remakes and sequels going on. I want to know how did you come up with the idea?
LA: I used to grow up in this world in Germany. My brother got me involved in being part of one of those firms and as I was going through that, I didn’t know at that time that I would be a filmmaker. But as I was going through that I thought, my God, this is such an adventure and adrenaline trip and traumatic world.
It’s adventurous on one side and then it became traumatic because you see people get hurt and see people go to jail that you didn’t want to see go to jail. So, I always knew there was this environment that if people would know about it, that it would blow them away. Then when I did become a filmmaker, I kept thinking about it. It was just haunting me and I needed to tell this story.
AD: Was the football community happy with what you did? Was England?
LA: At first, I think they were very concerned because Americans, a woman, you know, like coming to England and showing really the core of the country and I understood that they had apprehensions of us portraying them the wrong way. But now that they’ve seen it and they see that I really paid attention to being authentic and being honest, I think they have a lot of respect for it.
AD: Was this your first feature?
LA: Yes, it was.
AD: And how was the transition from making a short film to a feature film?
LA: Well, my short film was pretty long. It was like a forty minute short film so it wasn’t like going from a four minute commercial thing to …but at the same time it was a world of difference because on a feature film, as I found out, there is bonding and insurance.
When I was doing the short film, I was the boss and I decided whether to spend the money or raise the money or not. I don’t think we had insurance or rain coverage or bonding companies. So it becomes like a whole different thing. While still being independent, but certainly for a young person it becomes like … “Oh? You have to have insurance?” It’s like a different thing.
AD: Is the movie based on actual events?
LA: A lot of the characters like Petey, that’s a friend of mine, you know, I mean, not all of the characters are, but I had the friend who was the top guy. At the same time he was a teacher and at the same time he was the top guy. So a lot of these characters are based on true backgrounds and some of the events like on the train, having to push the emergency brake, that was all stuff that I experienced.
LA: Of course, we were idiots and we got caught pushing the emergency brake and we all had to pay like a thousand dollars.
AD: I like the way you said it yesterday, but I wanted to ask again how did you film an actual football match?
LA: It had a lot to with the fact that we had Elijah Wood because obviously West Ham is not a club that is famous, they don’t make money like Manchester United. Manchester United, you can even go to a sports store here and buy one of their jerseys. West Ham doesn’t have that much money. And they can earn more money through publicity and having Elijah Wood there and having that in their magazine and having kids come. Obviously, that’s huge PR for them. So I tried to make like this trade with them. To be honest, I didn’t necessarily tell them what this film was about. I think in the end they were quite surprised that it was such a violent film. And had they known, they probably wouldn’t have done it. But at the same time, now they’ve written us a letter saying that they really liked the film, but they just don’t want anybody to know that they were connected with it.
AD: So, where did the title come from?
LA: These kinds of guys all over Europe are called hooligans. I learned later that Americans use this word in a different way, kind of more for like a little kid, like hoodlum, hooligan, and I had to decide whether or not that bothered me because I actually heard people here at this festival saying, “I thought this would be animation or would be about a bunch of kids,” but you know it’s such a great title because this is the name … they are hooligans. But I think again that it sticks with authenticity. This is what they call them in England. In England, if you say, I just met a bunch of hooligans, no one laughs. Everybody is like, “Where? Let’s go take the other train!” So to them it’s a very serious word.
AD: I think you’ve given a rebirth to the term. It’s like see, look at the word “hooligans” now and see that they don’t f*** around. It’s not a childish thing or a joke.
LA: I agree. I was actually hoping for that, you know, I was really hoping for that. You’re right. I wanted to reinvent this term. Because I don’t actually like this whole thing, maybe it’s me being European, but like seeing somebody choking somebody and saying, “Oh, you little hooligan.” It’s an important word all over the world. It would be like telling a German, “you skinhead” or “you neo-Nazi.” Hooligan is a big word and I’m hoping that the word will be reinvented. Do you know where the word comes from? There was an Irish family who moved to England and they were called Hooligan. Their last name was Hooligan. There were seven brothers and they were just notorious for walking through the street and head butting people and breaking their noses. It became this family of Irish brothers who everybody was afraid of. And then football violence started and this family was so notorious for violence and being brutal that they called these people who started these fights after football matches,” hooligans” and it’s actually a real family name.
AD: What we were talking about today is that it’s so difficult to understand what they’re saying all the time with the British slang. What is your favorite British slang?
LA: I have so many of them. And by the way, I had a friend yesterday who saw it for the second time and said I just loved watching for the second time because now I understand some of the things that I didn’t understand before.
We’ve seen this film a hundred times and still we sit there and when they say certain things … like “Bish, bosh, bash.” What else, what else is good? Bollocks! I love to say “bollocks.” Bollocks means bullshit. Like these guys are amazing. This whole cockney rhyming. My crew would f*** with me all the time because they don’t explain it and it’s so interesting because they use a word that rhymes, but they don’t really, but then they use that word that rhymes and then they change that into another word, so that it’s almost like a secret language. And so the crew would just talk about me and they would just get a kick out of the fact that I didn’t know what they were saying.
AD: So was all this slang scripted or was it improvised?
LA: Some of it was scripted, but only the stuff we knew they really used. The typical stuff. But what I did with my actors was say, “ You know this world that I don’t know. I’m relying on you to make it as authentic as possible.” I said “ It’s your face on the big screen, so don’t make an ass out of yourself.” And in the end, most of the stuff people laugh about today they made up. I didn’t write it for them. They made it up.
AD: What do you want people to take from this film most of all?
LA: I always said that number one that I wanted people to know that this world exists, but most importantly, I had so much love for these guys. And people always misunderstood that. They say “ Why do you like guys that beat the shit out of each other?” But it wasn’t about that. Back home I have fifty friends that would all die for me, like each one of them would jump in front of a train for me and for each other and I just think that those kinds of friendships are dying out and really this film is about loyalty and friendship and a certain love that exists between these guys. You will find out when you are in trouble that they won’t leave you behind. They don’t ever tell you something like you are my best friend. Because they won’t leave you behind. So I always say that maybe people can watch this movie and have a little more integrity in their friendships. That doesn’t mean that if you get mugged in an alley, that your friend should stick with you, but that means that if your friend is in a crisis, don’t run. If your friend gets sick, don’t stop calling. In their world, it’s like fight and trouble. But it’s also about losing your job or not having enough to eat or being a single mother all of a sudden. And even again, even in America, it can mean a lot of things.