The IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade makes his feature film directorial debut on Submarine. Based on the book by Joe Dunthorne, the film portrays teenage Oliver’s views on life as he tries to figure out his first romantic relationship and save his parents’ strained marriage. We spoke with Ayoade during his trip to Los Angeles for the film’s U.S. release.
Crave Online: Did you view your life like Oliver does when you were a kid?
Richard Ayoade: No, I don’t think so. It was just really liking the book which made me interested in it, rather than any particular similarity to my life.
Crave Online: I could relate to where he was coming from, that idea of trying to figure everything out intellectually. Of course we all have to learn we can’t control others or fix their problems.
Richard Ayoade: Yeah, I think that’s the thing that exists in general. It’s very hard when you have an awareness of the way things have been in the past to experience them properly for yourself without the feeling that you’re doing something that’s a cliché or that’s been done before.
Crave Online: Do you think Submarine has a very different sense of humor than The IT Crowd?
Richard Ayoade: I’d say it’s pretty different, yeah. The IT Crowd is very much from Graham and it’s a sitcom in front of an audience. So necessarily it exists in a more heightened world than this film I’d say.
Crave Online: There is still a sort of whimsical sense of humor in Submarine though, isn’t there?
Richard Ayoade: Yeah, in a way I don’t think it’s necessarily that someone who liked The IT Crowd would find nothing to enjoy in this or vice versa. But I suppose it’s hard for me to make comparisons just because I’ve got such different jobs on them. In The IT Crowd I’m a performer and so it’s difficult to be objective about it.
Crave Online: How did you do the visual effects like the room turning into the ocean, or the Matrix style stills of people in midair?
Richard Ayoade: We had an effects company but they’re done in very old fashioned in camera ways. You just have people freeze and you move the camera around. There’s no technique used that’s particularly much more advanced than would’ve been done on The Old Man and the Sea.
Crave Online: I guess it’s a modern thing that we think high tech because we’ve seen the extremely high tech version of that.
Richard Ayoade: Yeah, I suppose I sort of like effects that have some organic elements rather than ones that are entirely generated by a computer. Just because no matter how complex the algorithm is, it’s still an algorithm.
Crave Online: What did you add to Submarine on your own, that weren’t from the book?
Richard Ayoade: I find that in the end, you’re really not thinking of it in terms of what you added or what was in the book. I suppose to try to digest it fully and then it really doesn’t matter. There’s no point at which you go, “Oh, I created this” or “That was from the book” because you just stop thinking of it that way. You only think about it in terms of the film.
Crave Online: Since it’s rated R here, and 15 in the UK, did you want to be able to address things teens really think about?
Richard Ayoade: Oddly, I think the main reason in England it’s 15 is because of swearing. In a way, that seemed present in the book and it felt weird to ignore it.
Crave Online: Was directing always your goal?
Richard Ayoade: Not since an early age, simply because it didn’t feel like it was something that you could do for a living or you could get to do. But I suppose once I became more interested in film, and also largely it grew out of writing and wanting to make sure things turned out how they were written I suppose.
Crave Online: But once you started a career as an actor, was directing your goal?
Richard Ayoade: I was directing before I started doing The IT Crowd. It wasn’t something that led on after acting I guess. I was sort of doing this stuff before acting.
Crave Online: Well, we’ve seen you before The IT Crowd.
Richard Ayoade: Yeah, yeah. But for example, I directed Garth Marenghi which I guess was the first thing I was in.
Crave Online: How did directing Community come about?
Richard Ayoade: That was through I think a combination of Joel McHale who I knew and had met before and him recommending me and I think Dan Harmon had seen some stuff I’d done.
Crave Online: How did directing American television compare?
Richard Ayoade: Well, it’s on a much larger scale. There are more people. Shows run for much longer. In England you wouldn’t have different directors for different episodes. One director would direct the whole series. It was interesting to come into something that was already working very well and see what you could contribute.
Crave Online: Funny, we’ve done away with the studio audience.
Richard Ayoade: Yes, certainly on NBC.
Crave Online: Is there going to be more IT Crowd?
Richard Ayoade: I’m not sure. I thought Graham’s writing some and I guess unlike here where you know a new season is going to start at a certain time each year, it’s really when Graham feels he’s got something ready. So I think if he feels he’s got something ready then there’ll probably be something.
Crave Online: I guess even to do four seasons is a lot for a British show.
Richard Ayoade: Yeah, and it takes four or five years to do 24 episodes, unlike here it would take one year.
Crave Online: What would be new for Moss in a fifth season?
Richard Ayoade: Oh, I don’t know. That would be Graham’s domain.
Crave Online: He doesn’t share until it’s ready?
Richard Ayoade: He’ll mention things but normally when you start doing the prerecorded on location things, maybe a week before you find out stuff.
Crave Online: Have you ever had to call tech support and you know they’re just reading a script?
Richard Ayoade: I am not brilliant with computers anyway, so I probably would’ve buried the computer before it even got to that stage.
Crave Online: What are you looking at doing after Submarine?
Richard Ayoade: Just writing really. I’m just working on some scripts at the moment and that’s it.
Crave Online: What is your writing schedule? Do you give yourself a 9 to 5?
Richard Ayoade: You try to work regular hours but that doesn’t really work for ideas. It’s quite hard to sit down and say, “I’ll have an idea by 3.” It’s a bit more random.
Crave Online: Do you keep a notepad by your bed because sometimes it can come while you’re falling asleep?
Richard Ayoade: Yeah, I normally keep writing materials close to hand.
Photo Courtesy of: WENN