From director Toby Haynes and screenwriter James Graham, the biographical drama Brexit (airing on HBO and available on HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On-Demand) connects all of the dots to illustrate how Dominic Cummings (Benedict Cumberbatch), the lead strategist of the Vote Leave campaign, launched a micro-targeted social media campaign that played on emotion rather than facts to convince British voters to leave the European Union. The result and the consequences of this referendum campaign are still playing out in Britain today, and will have an effect long into the future.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, director Toby Haynes talked about telling a story that’s still playing out in real time, presenting both sides of the argument without judging one over the other, what he enjoys about working with the film’s star Benedict Cumberbatch, who he worked with previously on Sherlock, what makes Dominic Cummings an interesting character to center a story around, the subtle A Clockwork Orange references, and Cumberbatch’s transformation for the role. He also talked about his next project, an American remake of Utopia, written by Gillian Flynn and about a group of young adults who get a cult underground graphic novel that leaves them with the dangerous task of saving the world.
Collider: I watched this movie before the holiday, and I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience where I felt like I watched a movie, and then got to watch the sequel playing out in real time. It’s been quite an interesting experience.
TOBY HAYNES: Yeah, well, tell me about it. I’ve never had the experience where, when I was going to work to make a film, it was on absolutely every form of media. It was very weird to be working on something that’s so much a part of the national conversation.
When you made this movie, could you ever have imagined that it would be premiering in the U.S. while so much drama is going on currently?
HAYNES: I know. We wanted it to go out as soon as possible because maybe it would influence things. Who knows what it would do? I kept thinking, “Well, the thing about this saga is that it’s not going to stop being relevant. Even if a general election or another referendum happened, it just makes our film even more relevant.” That was the smart thing that James did, in the first place, by picking this moment in time to cover this film. I don’t know how this project came about, but I assume he sat down with producers and they said, “Okay, James, what’s your take on Brexit?” To cover this particular moment makes it one thing because we’re talking about the past, but it’s also incredibly relevant to the present for Great Britain because it isn’t going to go away overnight.