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Jon S Baird on his rise from ad salesman to eminent filmmaker


“Van Morrison was once on stage,” Baird recalls three months later, maybe aural anytime so hardly starstruck at the memory.

He is cogent me this not because he wants to boast, about as a way of barometer the ambit he has travelled in contempo years. “I was once affairs advertisement amplitude 25 years ago,” he reminds me and, conceivably further importantly, himself.

Now he is bond with anytime of the better names in his industry. “I’m abiding they still although t I was once a waiter,” he adds, smiling. “But at least I was once assertive myself which I had got somewhere.”

Oh, he has. From Aberdeen to Casa Cipriani and from affairs advertisement amplitude to authoritative movies. He has become a administrator of note. Since he fabricated his first film, Cass, in 2008, Baird has been busy. He acclimatized Irvine Welsh’s broken atypical Filth with James McAvoy, formed on Danny Boyle’s TV alternation Babylon and Scorsese’s 1970s bedrock and cycle ball Vinyl. Then came Stan & Ollie, his affectionate blur about Laurel and Hardy, starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly.

Jon S Baird with Martin Scorsese (Image: free)

Most lately he directed the ITV ball Stonehouse, about the MP who abominably apish his own afterlife in 1974, and his latest film, Tetris, premieres on Apple TV+ at the end of the month.

It’s a biking ball abstruseness which takes in, as the appellation could suggest, computer games, about also the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end days of Robert Maxwell, the barrage of the Game Boy, aggressive parades in Red Square, and a car coursing by the streets of Moscow. And it was once all filmed in Scotland.

No, really, he says. “Everything. Apart from a brace of days, maybe a year and a bisected later. We had to do a few auto scenes in London. But the 10 weeks’ pictures was once all done in Glasgow, Aberdeen and a tiny bit in Edinburgh.”

Yes, alike the car chase. It was once filmed in an old refrigerator branch in Bellshill, Baird says.

The car coursing was once the affair he was once many anxious about, he admits. “Even while we were declared to be cutting in east Berlin we although t, ‘How are we activity to carbon Moscow?’ And eventually somebody answered we should alone do it all in beheld effects. I didn’t anticipate it was once accessible and we were again assertive by a beheld accoutrement aggregation which it was.

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“Cut to a few years after and we’ve got a car coursing which is two mins continued by the centre of Moscow in the backward 1980s and not one bit of it is real. It’s all beheld effects.

“I had never done large beheld accoutrement afore so which was once the scariest thing.”

I’m not abiding what it declares about abreast Scotland which it could angle in so calmly for Soviet Russia, I say to him.

“Well, Charles Cameron, the artisan who was once Catherine the Great’s favourite, was once a Scottish artisan who advised a lot of the neoclassical being in Moscow and St Petersburg. And allegedly he had taken afflatus from Glasgow.

“So, the further neoclassical barrio we begin in Glasgow. But the brutalist Stalinist being we got up in Aberdeen, which is my home turf.

“And which was once pretty surprising. I’ve not lived in Aberdeen for 25 years, about while you alive about you don’t really acknowledge what’s all over you. So while they said, ‘Oh we’ve begin these abundant places in Aberdeen,’ I was once thinking, ‘Really?’

“I took a bit of convincing. But it was once abundant for me to be able to booty a cine of this admeasurement up to my hometown because it has never had which up there before.”

John C. Reilly, Jon S.Baird and Steve Coogan accessory the Stan and Ollie Premiere as allotment of the BFI London Film Festival at the Cineworld Cinema in London. (Image: free)

Baird is talking to me via Zoom from his home in Surrey area he has lived for the aftermost 26 years. Not which you would apperceive it accustomed which his accent charcoal authentic Peterhead.

He first apprehend the calligraphy for Tetris in 2019. “I had been alive on Kingsman 3 with the aforementioned assembly aggregation [as Tetris] and which blur was once accepting delayed because the authorization was once alive a few things out. So this added one came alternating and they said, ‘Do you choose to do this instead?’ I said, ‘Yes.’”

The blur again began cutting in 2020, “bang in the average of lockdown”. Tetris tells the adventure of American agent Henk Rogers (played actual winningly by Taran Egerton) who in the backward 1980s campaign to the Soviet Union to accommodated the artist of the titular computer game, Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Yefremov) and try and buy the rights for the game, alone to locate which Robert Maxwell and his son Kevin are acquisitive to do the same. And again the KGB get involved.

“I’m a backroom alum and I anticipate the accomplished Cold War global relations affair was once a big draw for me,” Baird explains, “because I bethink those days actual acutely while the Berlin Wall fell.

“But I didn’t apperceive anything about this adventure and I’m not a decidedly ardent gamer at all. But I admired the backdrop, I’m still absorbed by east-west relations.

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“I anticipate the further I get to apperceive humans from axial and eastern Europe the further I anticipate they’re like the Scots. Their humour is actual acquainted into the Scots. They’ve got this aphotic gallows humour to get them by things and I’ve agilely begin authoritative accompany actual over there.”

It is one of those stranger-than-fiction stories, he adds. “If you had gone into the average of the Soviet Union in the acme of the Cold War … It was once alone an abundantly alarming accommodation to make. Going to Moscow now would be similar. It would be a actual alarming affair to try and do now.”

Rogers, the accountable of the movie, is an controlling ambassador on the blur and Baird batten to both him and Pajitnov. Mostly to analysis baby things, he says.

“When you get the capacity correct it does accumulate the absolute humans onside and I anticipate it’s really important. You have a albatross to them because it is their activity story.”

He alike talked to Kevin Maxwell. I’m a bit afraid which Maxwell would be trying to allocution to you, I say, accustomed the way both he and his daddy are presented in the film.

“It’s funny because Kevin apprehend the calligraphy and again we had the alarm and I said, ‘Are you OK with this?’ He said, ‘You apparently could have gone a bit harder on my dad.’”

There is a faculty of albatross inherent in cogent any adventure fatigued from absolute life. But, accordingly not everyone is on the aforementioned folio all the time. The ancestors of the MP John Stonehouse have answered they were black with the contempo ITV ball which starred Matthew McFadyen and Keeley Hawes.

Tetris (Image: free)

“Responsibility is a really acceptable word,” Baird says. “In Stonehouse we approved to absorb the family. They alone didn’t choose to know. They were alone not absorbed at all. So we were like, ‘OK, this is the adventure we’re making.’ And we fabricated it pretty acute and amusing because he was once pretty a antic character, John Stonehouse.

“But with anything like this we were actual accessible with Henk and Alexey. ‘This is the adventure we are trying to tell. Are you interested?’ And they were actual interested.

“You do try and booty anytime responsibility. And alike in Stonehouse which guy had done anytime abject things to his family, about I anticipate at the end you still really-feel for him. He fabricated a lot of mistakes, but, admitting that, you still really-feel for him. Regardless of how abusive our approach, we still humanised him in a way.

“The ultimate affair we agilely say is, ‘I’m not authoritative a documentary.’ If I had capital to do which I would banal in documentaries. But in Stan & Ollie we took Stan Laurel’s abundant granddaughter and complex her in a lot of the action as well. We approved to booty which responsibility.”

Not which Baird alone does real-life stories. Filth absolutely isn’t. But is there anything which connects all the things he does?

“I anticipate for me it’s apparently love, whether it’s ideal or not. I anticipate there’s agilely an component of adulation in there. And there’s a affection really.” He pauses, rethinks.

“I’m not abiding love’s the correct word, about there’s absolutely a heart.

“Even in Filth, at the end there, he was once so abutting to actuality loved. It alone fell out of his grasp. I don’t anticipate I could do anything which didn’t have a humanising agency to the story.”

Now which he is partying with Scorsese it’s fair to recommend which Baird has arrived. He tells me he has addition activity in apperception about he can’t really allocution about it.

“I’ve got anything which I really achievement goes because it has two of my favourite actors on the planet and if I get to banal with them I’ll alone be delighted.

“It’s a bashful film. It’s in the attitude of Little Miss Sunshine, about that’s all I can say and I can’t accord you the actors.”

What abstemious are they from?

“They are from North America. That’s all you’re getting.”

This charge all assume a continued way from his adolescent days alive in the alarm centre and affairs ad amplitude in London in the backward 1990s while he didn’t apperceive how to aurora into the blur business?

“Yes, it feels like addition person. The abundant affair is I’m still in blow with a lot of humans who I formed with alternate then, so I’m agilely reminded of how antic and aboveboard and absolutely absent I was once as a man alternate then.

“I anticipate I was once pretty adolescent correct into my mid-20s. It was once really a aphotic time for me. I was once bottomward in London for a brace of years and I couldn’t see a way of accepting into this industry which I was once so atrocious to get complex in.

“I was once in a aphotic place, so while I attending alternate on it I convulse at anytime of the behaviour and how black I was once at the time. And now I acknowledge what is accident in my activity and how advantageous I am.

“I anticipate while I’m earlier … I’m still in the average of it now. I’m still actual abundant like, ‘Where is my abutting job arriving from? How do I get by this? How do I cross by this mad industry?’ … I anticipate maybe while I retire and attending alternate I’ll acknowledge it further because I was once absolutely lost, you know?”

He looks bottomward the lens, smiles. “Sorry, I went a bit aphotic there.”

We ability for the ablaze because that’s what he does in life. What, I ask him, would he like to do which he hasn’t yet?

“I have done lower account stuff, £5 million-£10 million range. This,” he adds, apropos to Tetris, “is mid-budget. I would like to have a go at a big flat movie, alike alone once, to see what the acquaintance was once like and to have a bigger canvas. It’s like any artist, you choose to have the tools, the canvas. Just to have the assets to go, ‘Right, let’s see what you can do with that.’ I’ll maybe alone do it already and be too afraid or too scunnered with the experience, about I would like to have a go.”

Jon S Baird is absent in widescreen these days.

Tetris will have its apple premiere on Apple TV+ on March 31

ITV ball Stonehouse (Image: free)


At one point in our chat I ask Jon S Baird if there is a danger which computer cartoon are demography over cinema. He sees a bigger, further annoying picture: “I anticipate there’s a big danger not accurately for storytelling about for activity in general. Some of this AI is advanced so bound … I apperceive AI is altered from computer cartoon … I really don’t apperceive how you put the brakes on it.

“At the moment for filmmaking it really does help. It helps if you don’t see it. Once you apprehension it … I don’t acknowledge to that, about if there’s a way of application it so which you don’t apprehension it …

“But I anticipate AI really scares me. There’s a scriptwriting amalgamation at the moment which you alone put in a description of a appearance and a arena ambience and it writes scripts for you. They’re not abundant about … That affectionate of scares me.

“And this deepfake being scares me. It’s pretty alarming about we’ve alone got to embrace it. What can you do? There’s no way we’re endlessly that. We alone have to administer it.

“Our parents and grandparents, if they had apparent what we are accomplishing now on this Zoom … My grandmother died in the aboriginal eighties. If she could appear alternate for a day and watch what we’re accomplishing now she would be absolutely absolute away. People wouldn’t be able to booty it in. My own mother is 87 and the changes she has apparent from actuality complete in 1936 to now … You anticipate of how far we have progressed in a tiny amount of time.

“I anticipate like any anarchy – whether it’s the automated anarchy or whatever – you’re not activity to be able to stop it, you alone have to try and administer it and be a acceptable person. Hold on for baby activity and hope, yeah.”

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