BAFTA winning Sam Bain on Barnes and Sundance Festival
He’s the co-creator of TV hit Peep Show and now has Demi Moore starring in his latest film, Barnes local Sam Bain tells Chantal Borciani his story
BAFTA-award winning writer Sam Bain has come a long way since playing on the greens around school in Barnes. Together with his writing partner Jesse Armstrong, Sam created and wrote the hugely successful comedy Peep Show, which attracted legions of fans both at home and abroad. The duo also went on to write Channel 4 series Babylon and Fresh Meat and penned the film Four Lions in 2010, which won yet more critical acclaim.
Sam’s new movie, Corporate Animals, tops the bill this summer at the Sundance: London festival and stars Hollywood big hitters Demi Moore and Ed Helms (The Hangover). Directed by Patrick Brice, the story follows an egotistical CEO, played by Demi Moore, who takes her long-suffering staff on an ill-fated team-building trip in New Mexico. Trapped underground, the mismatched and disgruntled group must pull together to survive.
Sam’s film joining the star-studded line-up of Sundance: London is no mean feat; previous festivals since 2012 have welcomed artists including Idris Elba, Toni Collette, Ethan Hawke, Michael Fassbender, Gemma Arterton, Ryan Reynolds, Rose McGowan, Minnie Driver and Rufus Wainwright.
While hobnobbing with Hollywood’s great and the good could make even the most humblest of heads turn a little glam, Sam’s heart is still very much rooted in south west London, even if his work successes mean Hollywood is currently home…
Tell us about Corporate Animals
I would describe it as a survivalist comedy. It brings up that question we all ask ourselves about what would we do if we were trapped with no food or water and how we would react. I’ve always been fascinated with those stories, whether it’s the plane crash as portrayed in Alive or more recently the Chilean mining disaster.
Do you enjoy being on set?
I was on set the whole time with this film – it’s something I’ve always done since the Peep Show pilot. I think it’s really important – and it’s fun. If I’ve done all the hard work of writing the scripts it seems crazy not to be there for the fun of making the movie. [Corporate Animals] was really collaborative. It’s a big ensemble cast and a lot of them are world-class improvisers so we massaged and moulded the script during shooting much more than I’d done before.
What was it like working with Demi Moore and Ed Helms?
They’re both really fantastic people and I got to really like and respect them. Demi is obviously a bit of a legend and that was kind of exciting. I didn’t really know what to expect but when we first met she was so disarmingly modest and professional. I was really delighted because you never know with a big star like that but she couldn’t be more down to earth so that was a huge bonus for everyone. All the cast really bonded actually. We still hang out – we all went for dinner the other night so that’s pretty special.
Do you look back on Peep Show fondly?
People still send me tweets about it on a daily basis, which is amazing. That’s actually how Patrick [Brice, the director of Corporate Animals] first knew about me because he was a fan of the show before we ever met so that was kind of how we bonded.
Do you have a set writing routine?
I don’t write in coffee shops. I usually write at home. I lived in Golders Green, Tooting Bec and Shoreditch during the writing of Peep Show but for me it’s less about where I need to write and more about my writing relationships – with Jesse in the case of work like Peep Show and Fresh Meat, and with Corporate Animals the script really came alive when collaborating with Patrick and the producers.
Does London still feel like home to you?
I think you might possibly make me cry with that question. I have been in LA for about two years and it is always emotional coming back to London. I have put down roots in LA but it’s not the bucolic parks of Barnes Common or the rolling hills of Richmond Park.
I’m a south west London guy – I grew up around Twickenham, East Sheen and Mortlake and then went to school in Barnes at St Paul’s. When I was young I worked at the Wimbledon tennis championships for a couple of summers as a court coverer. You know, you cut me and I bleed south west London! It’s going to be nice to be by the River Thames during Sundance. And hopefully I’ll get time to sit outside the Sun Inn over looking Barnes Pond counting the ducks!
Are you looking forward to this month’s Sundance: London festival?
Sundance Festival has been a beacon of light for independent cinema for a very long time and to be honest those are some of my favourite movies. To be in this category of film is really exciting.
Did you excel at English at school?
Excel may be a little strong but it was my favourite subject. For me the game-changer was actually going to Manchester University and doing creative writing. That’s when I started writing fiction and short stories and that’s where I met Jesse Armstrong.
What’s next for you?
I just shot a movie in New York with Drew Barrymore so we are editing that at the moment. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of the best actors in the world – in the UK with people like Olivia Coleman, Mitchell and Webb, and in the US with actors recently like Demi Moore and Drew Barrymore.
They’re these huge stars with huge history and huge profile but in the end it’s about handing someone a script and putting a camera on them – it’s the same wherever you are in that respect.
Sundance: London runs 30 May to 2 June. Sam Bain and Patrick Brice will also be participating in a panel event, 1 June at 6:15pm. All tickets on sale are on sale at: picturehouses.com/sundance