Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant discuss the origins and influences behind Cemetery Junction, their coming-of-age comedy set in the Reading suburbs in the summer of 1973.
Ricky Gervais: Everything we’ve done has been autobiographical: working in an office, working our way up in TV… but there’s nothing so close as your formative years. This is about our memories of childhood. It’s also a love letter to England.
Stephen Merchant: We wanted to be a little bit more sincere. There are still traces of what we do comedy-wise in there. And, of course, similar themes. Things we’re interested in – which is your job of work and the people you surround yourself with, your family and friends, and where you’re going in life.
What films influenced you?
But the biggest influences on me for this film were probably American movies like Rebel Without a Cause and Cool Hand Luke, and Saturday Night Fever, and The Apartment – that’s been an influence on everything I’ve- we’ve – done. Such a sweet clever comedy about real people.
SM: It’s the idea of taking those small lives and making them more epic. Like Saturday Night Fever. You think of that as being slightly kitsch now because of the white suit and the disco music, but actually it’s quite a gritty film. He [John Travolta’s character] is a loser, essentially. He’s the coolest guy in that neighbourhood…
RG: But no-one’s laughing at him. They’re not going, ‘Oh, he works in a paint shop and lives for the weekends.’ They’re going: ‘Fuck me, I wish I could dance like that.’
SM: We talked about the idea that the 60s were a very revolutionary time. The late 70s you get punk. There seems to have been that period in the early 70s where things became this wilderness. The hope of the 60s had gone…
RG: About four years ago, I asked Elton John if I could use his song Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) to open a film with because I’ve always wanted to start a film with that and he said yes, so I told Stephen Merchant, and he said, ‘Right, let’s set it in 1973, then’.
Cemetery Junction is released on Blu-ray & DVD by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.