Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa has several reasons for being. One was an article from a British tabloid about an ex-convict on a GBH charge who claimed in his defense to be protecting ladies of the night against their Maltese pimps. Steve Woolley, who had produced my previous film, The Company of Wolves, felt a movie could be made from this scrap of information that would give London the dramatic presence of Paris in Le Samouraï or of New York in Taxi Driver. I was interested in making a film about the total and absolute gap of understanding between a man and a woman, and would have hung this obsession onto any coat hanger that became available. We commissioned David Leland to write a screenplay, which developed into something else in turn. The project floated in this kind of apsic or limbo for a while until I met Bob Hoskins and suddenly I knew I had found the central character. I rewrote the whole story, with this inarticulate romantic at the center of it, brutal, pitifully simple, with a beautiful heart.

I never watch the films I’ve made after they open. This one, for obvious reasons, I had to watch across a gap of ten years. I could see all the above influences in the story, all the generic traces that would shape a film like this. But most of all I could see a film of a kind there is no generic name for, but for which there should be. A film that is indistinguishable from its central performance; the moods, light, perspectives, emotions of which are defined by the central character, George, played by Bob Hoskins.

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