In the Loop Filmmaker Armando Iannucci on Sweariest Oscar-Nominated Script Ever


Movieline's first stop on the Oscar-reaction rounds is Armando Iannucci, the In the Loop director whose caustic political satire today earned an Adapted Screenplay nomination for him and his co-writers Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche. However, more than just being rewarded for the innovation of its characters and story -- which focuses on how one press-office zealot engineers a multinational war effort -- the Academy may very well have nominated Iannucci and Co. for their exhaustive efforts in developing Loop's stirring new lexicon of profanity. Their side-splitting effort is the only comedy recognized in its respective category -- no doubt an underdog against the likes of Up in the Air and Precious, but one that will be happy just to be in the Kodak Theater March 7.

Iannucci spoke with us this afternoon about his reaction to being nominated, Loop's improv factor, and taking Oscar to the outer limits of screen vulgarity.

So -- you and your co-writers shared an Oscar nomination. Congrats! What were your first impressions?

It still hasn't quite sunk in, really. I haven't had time to pause for breath, either. Since the moment I got the news, it's just been constant phone calls and interviews and press stuff like that. Obviously it must be real. And I'm in London at the moment -- not ven n the middle of the frenzy where you are. So it's thrilling, and it's great that the film got the recognition, because it's just a little film that we always had high hopes for. I'm honestly just going to enjoy the next... I don't know. When is the ceremony?

March 7?

Four or five weeks' time? Right. I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it.

A lot of probable nominees react with, "Oh, I never expected..." But In the Loop was definitely a genuine underdog. What were your thoughts heading into today?

Well, we got the New York Film Critics Circle award for screenplay, and I think we just missed the L.A. Critics Circle. And we've been shortlisted for the BAFTA here, so there was an element of thinking, "Wellll, who knows? It could just happen!" But I honestly didn't want to explore that too much because I knew the chances are that I'd be disappointed if I thought about it too much. But there was a little tiny flicker of a hope that we might just get some kind of recognition. I knew the nominations were being announced today, and I gave myself a very busy day so that I wouldn't be spending my time thinking, "Oh -- an hour to go. I wonder what's going to happen?"And I just couldn't be more delighted.

It's interesting because when I was in America promoting the film, particularly from writers I was getting a lot of strong reactions. I could see that within the writing community there was a tremendous affection for the film and support for the film. And that clearly came through in the vote.

It's a great story with great characters, but do you think there was something to the writers branch rewarding this operatic level of profanity?

[Laughs] As in, "Bad language gets good results?" Well, it's just a screwball comedy. That's the model we'd been working with: the fast-talking, dialogue-heavy, smart one-liners flying thick and fast. That was what we were striving for. And the thing about a screwball comedy is that the script is the main character. So it's nice that if the film is to be recognized, it's recognized for the script. That's what drives the energy along; the words are the action in the film. It's just nice that the work that we put into the script paid off, really. Beyond today, I haven't a thought. I'm not even going to dwell on the night itself.

This may be the most vulgar script ever nominated for an Academy Award. How do you feel about that distinction?

Do you reckon? How did Goodfellas do? I remember that and Pulp Fiction.

Those were nominated, but come on. This is really next-level swearing.

It's funny how swearing and violence is considered defensible. If somebody attacks you physically, you're allowed to swear. But swearing in a comedy is seen as a slightly disturbing, unsettling thing.

Right! Especially a political satire, where I guess we're supposed to be so dignified.

That's exactly the point we were making: It's just grown-ups acting like children.


Was there much improv by your cast here [including Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini, featured at right]? How much of this do you share with them?

Every scene, I'd shoot it as written, and we'd a spend a lot of time absolutely nailing the performance to the script. But I always shot in a way where there is additional time in each scene for us to try one where we're improvising. And the improvisation is really not about about coming up the something completely new; it's just about making those words on the page feel like they're being spoken for the very first time. What normally happens when we improvise is that that the script is said again, but just in a slightly different order -- or just a few additional phrases added here or there, or people interrupting each other a little bit more. Or feeling free to interrupt each other. And what you get is a slightly more frantic performance from the script. It's as if the actors, knowing they're allowed to improvise, end up doing the script again --but somehow they've turned it into something that sounds completely spontaneous.

There's no theory or school of thought behind it. Every time you do it, it always comes out different. It's very difficult to draw up rules about it. But the cast feels free to improvise because every time they do it, they know they've got the script. That's their safety net.

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