The theatre and film director on doing the school run, shooting his first film and working with ‘abnormal’ Damon Albarn

I’m not sure being a director is as glamorous as people think. Often I will get up at six in the morning to make sandwiches for the kids and do the school run. And I’ll get home really late. If I am fortunate enough to be in a busy period where I’m doing lots of work, I don’t get the chance to go home very often, so I think my wife would give me a pretty bad press. During the cycle of doing a play or film, there is quite a lot of pressure and stress. You’ve got these great highs along with the dips and troughs.

I shot my first film recently, Broken [starring Cillian Murphy and Tim Roth], and took it to Cannes. It was my first time at a film festival, which was very nerve-racking. There is a lot of fun to be had, but it’s really a marketplace for films and so it was a lot of hard work.

When I’m directing, I try to be the smallest ego in the room. If you work with people like Tim Roth, it’s no good telling them what to do, because they already know how to act. It’s all about creating a space to allow them to work in the way they think best.

I find it tough to get the right balance between work and life. You get into the habit of not turning work down and worry that you are only as good as your last job. Before you know it, you’re a workaholic. It’s not very healthy. I guess that’s true of a lot of creative people.

I’ve been working on an opera, Dr Dee with Damon Albarn, who manages to even out his work and home life very well. He actually takes the school holidays off to be with his daughter. I wouldn’t say he’s a normal bloke because he’s not – he’s very abnormal. He has a strong work ethic and a low boredom threshold. That combination makes life around him quite inspiring, because he doesn’t hang about. If he has an idea, he wants to act on it there and then, so sometimes the most extraordinary work can happen very quickly. There’s nothing you would expect from a rock star, no stroppy behaviour. He works very hard and you have to be awake to keep up with it.

I admire Damon, because he is very willing to kill his audience. He wants to keep things moving. People ask him why he can’t stick to making music that sounds like Blur or Gorillaz, but he keeps moving on. He’s very good at following his nose and doesn’t have any musical inhibition.

During my working week, there’s never much rock’n’roll behaviour. I have never been involved in that side of stuff. I’ve been with the same woman for the last 25 years and will be for as long as I live. When artists are younger, they have a period of time when they can work effectively under the influence. I have never done it because I don’t think I could get anything done if I was stoned.

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