Andrew Haigh

Interview by Adam Baran

British filmmaker Andrew Haigh is the man behind one of the most talked about gay films of the year. Weekend is a sexy, realistic and well-made movie where two young men hookup, fuck and then proceed to spend the whole weekend talking about what it means to be a fag. Turns out Andrew is somewhat less confident and assured in daily life than when he’s in the director’s chair. He mentioned being terrified on his flight from the UK to the US, and we took it from there.

Adam: Why were you so scared during your flight over to New York?
Andrew: I’m always scared of flying. I’ve tried every way I can possibly think of not to be. I’ve done hypnosis, read books, taken valium, and nothing works. I know all the reasons why it’s not dangerous, but I sit there and expect that something’s going to happen.
What was hypnosis like?
It was a really terrible experience because it didn’t do anything whatsoever. They took me into some hypnotic state, and then asked me what animal best represented who I was. In my hypnotic state, one animal came into my head: a beaver. So I said, ‘I’m a beaver,’ and the hypnosis girl started laughing. When I came out of my hypnotic state, she told me that whenever I’m feeling stressed, I just have to say, ‘I’m a beaver.’ Then I went to the door, and I turned around and said, ‘I’m a beaver,’ only to realize there were like six people in the lobby staring at me. I don’t know what it says about me as a person. I quite like beavers. They’ve got nice tails and they build dams. Although they destroy environments and eat trees.
Have you tried saying ‘I’m a beaver’ in stressful situations?
Yes. It doesn’t work.
Well, phobias are irrational.
Yeah. On flights, I’m waiting for turbulence. It’s not that I think I’m gonna die. I suppose it’s a fear of losing control of my inhibitions and screaming or throwing up or tearing my hair out — that’s what scares me.
Was there a formative plane scare that triggered this?
I had a dodgy flight once, but it was probably no more dodgy than a lot of flights with bad turbulence. Still, it freaked me out. The way I’m afraid of flying is pretty much representative of the way I feel about life: I’m always waiting for something bad to happen. Everything is nice and smooth, and I’m waiting for a little bit of turbulence, for it to be a disaster. Like I’m terrified I’m going to get a cold. Or there’s the expectation that I might get ill or get food poisoning. I cook chicken until it’s so dry because I don’t want to get salmonella.
Do you have foods that you can’t eat? Like do greens make you nervous?
Why would greens make me nervous?
I don’t know… E. coli, pesticides?
I don’t like foods beginning with the letter A for some reason.
With A?
Avocados, apples, artichokes… I think it’s because the name begins with A. In the UK, we have aubergine, which you Americans call eggplant, and I can’t even look at it.
What about aoli?
I don’t really like that.
Alfalfa?
I don’t like that particularly. I can cope with them. It’s a phobia. Like envelopes… Although I don’t eat envelopes, I have a phobia about envelopes. The idea that it would just slice the end of your tongue off is horrific to me. I always make sure I get envelopes that have the sticky bit that you just pull off.
Have you always been phobic?
Probably. I mean, I’m not like a crazy person. I suppose it’s just that I’m quite an anxious person. I was an anxious kid. You can’t escape that. If you’re anxious when you’re young, you’re always going to be anxious.
Are you anxious that your film is going to be a massive failure?
Maybe it’s just failure that’s terrifying. I feel like it’s so hard to get out of it once you become a failure.
Where do you live?
I live in Norwich. It’s nice. I had my fill of London. I’m in that stage where I like someplace less busy. My boyfriend went to university there. There’s a big writing school. He wants to be a writer. We didn’t think we were going to stay there, but it’s just quite nice to be surrounded by a little bit of calm.
Who are the big names in Norwich?
Stephen Fry… He lives near Norwich or he’s from there.
Do you have pets?
No. I’d quite like a dog, but having a dog is like having a baby — you can’t go anywhere. I’d like to live in New York for a while, or LA, but then be able to escape and go back home.
Tell me about your boyfriend.
He’s very nice. He never likes me talking about him. He’s unbelievably supportive. If I’m anxious, he’ll be there and tell me I’m doing great, and it’s just really comforting.
How long have you guys been together?
Six years. We met in a club when we were drunk. I was dancing onstage.
When was your first time with a guy?
Twenty-four, maybe twenty-three. I was in a relationship with a woman at the time. He was a friend of mine and we had kind of been flirting for a long time. Then we had a drunken encounter, which was followed by a lot of guilt. It took a long time for me to be able to even say to myself that I was gay. I couldn’t even go to a gay bar. I used to write down on a piece of paper ‘I’m gay,’ then scribble it out and throw it in the bin.

Andrew’s film, Weekend, opens 4 November in the UK. Go see it, it’s very BUTT in a way.

End