Catherine Tate brought The Nan Movie to cinemas last week, with no sign of original director Josie Rourke – and it’s all rather odd.
Notwithstanding the fact that it was snuck out in cinemas without being shown to anyone who’d review it – save for a special screening two days before release for invited guests – the big talking point surrounding The Nan Movie turned out to be something other than Warner Bros’ shyness to show it.
The film, if you’re unfamiliar, sees Catherine Tate reprising the role of the foul-mouthed granny that she successfully brought to the small screen many times over. There’s a well worn path of British comedy characters subsequently getting a crack at the big screen, and the box office returns of movies such as The Inbetweeners Movie and Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie more than gloss over the many others who’ve failed to attract numbers to cinemas.
As it turned out, The Nan Movie earned relatively modest returns, grossing just over half a million quid in its opening weekend in the UK. Decent, but nothing to suggest there’s even a sniff of a cinematic universe there. Yet the talking point hasn’t been about the movie, but about the credits for it.
The pedigree of the film looked decent. Tate is no slouch, and co-wrote the script with the rather splendid Brett Goldstein. Then came the news that Josie Rourke was directing, and as anyone who saw her previous movie – Mary Queen Of Scots – can testify, she’s far from a hack. With a real pedigree in theatre directing too, the creative team here was comfortably enough to lift expectations.
Of course, lockdown and pandemic stuff had its part to play when it came to The Nan Movie. The film was originally due for release nearly two years ago, and it’s only now that it’s found a space on the release calendar. Yet with little fanfare, the publicity materials for the movie suggested something was amiss. Whilst present earlier on, Rourke’s name was missing. When our reviewer popped along to the first screening we could get into last Friday, he confirmed the same: she’s listed as executive producer, and there’s no director listed. Instead, the movie is described as ‘A Catherine Tate film’.
But where, then, did the director credit go? I’ve heard of directors taking a pseudonym when they don’t want their name on a film – a big hello to Alan Smithee and Thomas Lee to name but two – but for there to be no director credit whatsoever is curious.
Bleeding Cool’s sources have tried to fill in some of the blanks over what happened with the movie itself. It reckons that Rourke did – as was widely reported at the time – direct the film, and shot a movie that was primarily a period piece set in the 1940s, with some modern day footage. When that cut was delivered, somebody somewhere felt it had strayed from the television sketches, and fresh, contemporary footage was filmed, that Rourke wasn’t calling the shots on. The reshoots were said to have been on the economical side.
Even so, the norm here is that the original director retains credit, particularly under American Director’s Guild of America rules. Films such as Bohemian Rhapsody (where Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher for the last few weeks, and post-production), Geostorm (where original director Dean Devlin has all but disowned the final cut that was overseen by Danny Cannon) and Dredd (where Alex Garland took over post-production from Pete Travis) all had their moments, but in each case the original director retained credit.
There are exceptions. Take Solo: A Star Wars Story, that saw Phil Lord and Chris Miller dismissed in favour of Ron Howard long after filming began, but Howard in that case reshot lots of their material. Lord and Miller get ‘executive producer’ status instead. But they’re just that: exceptions. Even in all of those cases, a director was credited.
In the case of The Nan Movie, chatting to one or two UK directors, there are two main reasons why there could be a lack of credit here. Firstly, and we’re not for a second suggesting this is the case, is that somewhere along the line, Rourke broke her contract, and as such the studio didn’t have to credit her. Again, to be clear, we’re not even slightly implying that: that’s just an instance where a credit could be withheld. There is zero evidence that is the case here.
More likely, but she’s been silent on the issue, is that Rourke took her name off the film when she didn’t, for whatever reason, oversee the reportedly hastily put together new material. Given it sounds like that extra material changed the film a lot, that at least feels feasible. Bleeding Cool reckons that Rourke’s cut was completed and is in existence somewhere, but it’s said to be reasonably removed from the film we got.
However, if this was the case, the precedent here is usually a pseudonym.
That said, digging around on the Directors UK site, it does present a list that suggests this issue has at least been anticipated somewhere along the line. In an article on hierarchy of credits – that you can find here – it lists the ‘A Film By’ credit as first priority, but that’s “in the absence of a director credit”. Well, there’s no director credit on The Nan Movie, and instead we get ‘a Catherine Tate film’. It’s hard not to take the implication therefore that Catherine Tate – even beyond her writing and performing duties – was the creative force somewhere along the line behind the new version of the film that was prepared.
Outside of the film itself, on both IMDB and at the BBFC website, Catherine Tate is now the credited director of the film (the former is a free for all, but someone must have submitted a form somewhere for the latter). At the moment, without any of the parties concerned telling their sides of the story, it’s left to gossip and guesswork to fill in the blanks. But in all the time I’ve been reporting on film, I’ve never seen a situation quite like this one.
Just as with Dredd, maybe the full story is one we need to wait a couple of years to get…
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