Three Great Things: Craig Roberts

The writer-director of Eternal Beauty, out now on digital and on demand, on some of the films and music that had the biggest impact on him.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the release on demand and on digital of Craig Roberts’ new film Eternal Beauty, starring Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Alice Lowe and Penelope Wilton, actor turned writer-director Roberts discusses some of the films and creators who’ve had the biggest impact on him. — N.D.

Punch-Drunk Love
My first choice is Punch-Drunk Love, because it is a great movie that I love and it gets me through every day. If I feel anxious or out of place or I need a pick-me-up, I’ll watch that movie. To me, it’s amazing that Paul Thomas Anderson took the idea of social anxiety, or any kind of anxiety, and turned it into a superpower. The way he tackled it is fantastic.

Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love.

I think my anxiety kicked in when I became a teenager and started to be more aware of myself. As a kid, you just float along but when you get slightly older and try to be the best version of yourself – and that’s when the anxiety will appear. Anxiety is certainly part of my life, but it’s not crippling. I keep it at bay and respect it, and hope that it respects me. But I feel like it’s probably going to be with me for life.

It’s a really difficult thing to be totally yourself and feel comfortable around people, so the journey to get to that place is the journey of life. My new movie, Eternal Beauty, is inspired by a person I knew and lived with who had paranoid schizophrenia, and I was blown away by how she was such a full person, to have these struggles and be so amazing and kind to people at the same time. It definitely inspired me to want to be a better person myself and also to tell her story, so that it hopefully can help other people.

I know Eminem is a bit of weird choice, as I don’t stand for any of the terrible things he’s said over the years. But I listened to his music when I was a teenager, and his story and songs like “Lose Yourself” were empowering to me and really helped me. I loved Eight Mile, which is the rap Rocky, and got into his music through that. (I wasn’t listening to any other hip-hop; I was into music like All-American Rejects and Paramore.) I don’t think his music shaped who I am, but it gave me a confidence that I don’t think I would have otherwise.

As a young actor, I’d get pumped up before auditions by listening to “Lose Yourself,” especially the third verse: “No more games, I’ma change what you call rage / Tear this motherfuckin’ roof off like two dogs caged.” I remember listening to those lyrics, and they would make me believe in myself. I felt I could do anything.

Now that I’m a writer-director too, that confidence is so important. Directing is a strange thing, because even if you don’t know the answer, you have to pretend you do. It’s almost as if you need to be the Kanye West version of yourself, and totally believe you can do this thing. I’m not naturally someone who goes into a room and says, “This is absolutely what should happen,” but I’m passionate about my work, so I just have to remember my passion and follow that.

David Lynch
There’s so many things I respect about David Lynch. He’s so clear about everything in his life; he’s chosen the artist’s path and is doing exactly what he wants to do. Transcendental meditation has seemingly cleared his thoughts and he’s able to completely focus only on what he wants to focus on. He’s the only abstract artist who’s making movies with such a prominent platform. He has such a fantastic mind and is able to make what he wants to make, and I just hope he can continue to do that.

David Lynch. (Image by _titi, via Flickr.)

Blue Velvet was the first thing of his I saw, when I was in my early 20s. I liked Robin Williams and Jim Carrey films when I was a teenager, but when I acted in Richard Ayoade’s film Submarine, Richard introduced me to other kinds of films and really kickstarted my imagination. After that, I started to study cinema and watch as much as I could. After I saw Blue Velvet, I went on to Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man and Mulholland Drive. I love Lynch’s sound design and the worlds he creates. There’s so much detail, and I love the feel of his work. You step into his films and he takes you somewhere and makes you feel something unique, and usually spins your head so you need a Paracetamol or Ibuprofen afterwards.

I’ve sadly never met David Lynch, but he seems like such a sweetheart. Recently, he was doing a charity raffle where you could win a Zoom call with him, and I bought about 10 raffle tickets just so I could maybe speak with him! My dream would be to make a movie and have him do the sound design. And maybe the voiceover as well, because his voice is so incredible.

Craig Roberts is a British actor, director, writer and producer. His second feature as writer-director, Eternal Beauty starring Sally Hawkins, David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Alice Lowe and Penelope Wilton, is out now on digital and on demand through Samuel Goldwyn Films. Roberts’ directorial debut, Just Jim (2015), starred Emile Hirsh opposite Craig, who also wrote the film. As an actor, Roberts’ breakthrough role was playing the lead in Richard Ayoade’s 2010 coming-of-age drama Submarine, which won him rave reviews and awards such as the London Critics Circle Film Award for Young British Performer of the Year. Roberts starred as the lead in three seasons of the hit Amazon Prime series Red Oaks, produced by Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green, and starred in Rob Burnett’s The Fundamentals of Caring, opposite Paul Rudd and Selena Gomez. His other notable screen credits include: The Current War, Neighbors, Richard Ayoade’s The Double, 22 Jump Street and Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre.