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Craig Roberts: “Nobody knows what’s going on”

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Craig Roberts
Short Profile

Name: Craig Haydn Roberts
DOB: 21 January 1991
Place of birth: Caerphilly, Wales, United Kingdom
Occupation: Actor, Director

Craig, you’re only 24, but after starting your career as an actor you’ve already written and directed your first feature film. Did you ever fear that people would argue that you don’t have anything to say at such a young age?

Not really. Struggling with your identity is something that everyone struggles with. Nobody comes of age. I don’t think anyone gets to that point. Story-wise my film is based on my childhood. It was a nice way of me almost laughing at my former self and looking at how pathetic I was as a kid. I went about it completely wrong as a teenager. I wanted to be cool and that for me is like the message of the film. That being yourself is what you should do and not strive to be something you’re not, because it usually ends up wrong. That’s what I wanted to show.

What would you have told yourself back then?

To be myself! Be completely myself. I just always wanted to be like somebody else, like the cool kids. But the kids who were cool in school are probably not that cool now… It’s really weird how the world works out. In school you don’t really know what’s right and what’s wrong and there’s no way of figuring that out. Most of school for me was trying to find a place where I fit into the social status of things, what group I was in. And I was kind of just not really in any group. I remember just going to the cinema a lot and spending a lot of my money on Xbox games. I was quite a boring teenager and I was afraid of showing that, so I tried to be somebody I’m not.

On the bright side, maybe if you were more confident as a kid you wouldn’t have spent so much time in the cinema.

I’m not confident even now! I don’t think I’ve gained any kind of confidence in any situation. But cinema definitely helped me express who I am, yeah.

You must have learned something since your school days…

To a certain degree, yes. I stopped trying to conform and I started doing my own thing. And it isolated me from everybody else. I became more of a loner, but it meant that I could do my own thing. I don’t think it made me socially accepted though.

Even today?

Well yeah, but that’s because it’s a generation where the idiosyncratic people are cooler than the people that try to conform. Also a lot of people are scared. You walk around and people are scared because nobody knows what’s going on. The only people who seem confident in any kind of way are just bluffing their way through pretending they know what’s going on.

Did growing up in a small town in Wales isolate you from the wider world of culture somewhat?

Yeah, I mean the town that I’m from in Wales is nihilistic. There’s not a whole lot going on. It’s a very beautiful place, but there’s nothing for kids to do. You spend most of your time just thinking. It’s a very strange space. It’s like Twin Peaks. It’s so slow and almost Roy Anderson-esque where you believe that maybe life doesn’t exist beyond it. I remember the first time I got out, I was like, “Wow, there’s so much to see.”

Were films your connection to the outside world growing up?

Yes, absolutely. When I was younger, cinema was definitely escapism for me, complete escapism. I remember watching King of Comedy, that’s one of my favorite films. Just watching Scorsese films when I was younger and stuff.

Dakota Fanning started saying she wants to direct when she was only 12 years old. At what point did you start thinking about it?

A couple of years ago I started getting asked the question, “Who are your role models?” And I was never really saying actors. It was always directors, like Paul Thomas Anderson or Scorsese. Just because they were people that stood up for what they believed in and told their voice without compromising. I suppose seeing Punch Drunk Love and seeing how weird and wonderful it was made me want to make something that I thought was interesting

Quentin Tarantino used to want to be an actor, but now he can’t imagine having to help make someone else’s film. Could you imagine directing something someone else wrote?

If Paul Schrader wrote a script for me, you know, like Taxi Driver, then yeah, sure. (Laughs) I don’t know. I like directing my own thing because as an actor you’re for hire and you’re telling somebody else’s story. I do find it strange when people don’t direct something they’ve written, because they’ve obviously created that world, so would they not want to follow that through? But I would have loved to see Quentin Tarantino become an actor. I think that would be the best thing in the world.

He was horrible in Django Unchained

Yeah, I’m saying that completely sarcastic. That scene… I don’t know why he’s Australian, it doesn’t make any sense! He’s not a good actor, but he puts himself in everything. He’s just Quentin Tarantino in his movies! But he’s such a fascinating character. I spend endless nights watching interviews with Tarantino because he’s so hilarious to watch.

He’s also famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of cinema. Do you feel guilty when you haven’t seen an important or classic film?

Yeah, and what really frightens me is that there are so many movies that I will never see. But that also excites me that I could probably watch a good movie for the rest of my life if I planned it properly. But I’m 24, I can only watch the amount of films that I’ve watched. I would love to freeze time and then watch everything that came before the ’80s and then pick it up again. I feel like what we should start doing is almost re-releasing old films.

You mean in theaters?

Yeah, maybe stop making films as much as we do and put all the money into campaigning old movies. Like if we would re-release Cool Hand Luke and there was posters everywhere for it. Because there are great movies. I wonder if the best movie of all time has already been made. I hope not.