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"With comedy, we’re trying to capture lightning in the bottle." The gospel according to Paul Feig

Actor. Producer. Director. Author. Entrepreneur. Makes a mean cocktail. Looks damn good in a suit. No wonder Paul Feig is the toast of Hollywood. He takes fellow director Edgar Wright on a tour of a riotously joyful life

Paul Feig

Paul Feig has a manifesto when it comes to directing, one worth repeating in some detail here owing to its elegance and insight into Feig himself. For Feig, a film set “should be a party, where you’re just having fun the whole time. The party can get tense sometimes and weird – but you come out the other side having a great time. With comedy, we’re trying to capture lightning in the bottle. I’m trying to get that one moment that you’re never going to get again.”

With more than two decades behind the camera, Feig has captured more lighting than most. The man owns enough bottles to open an apothecary, albeit a very flashy one. He created seminal teen comedy Freaks and Geeks, a turn-of-the-millennium sensation that launched the careers of Jason Segal, James Franco, Seth Rogan, Linda Cardellini, Busy Phillips and many others – enough household names to require a loft extension.

His directorial credits include the likes of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy; comedies notable not only for their brilliance but their forefronting of female talent such as Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, Rose Byrne and Jason Statham. (Wait, not Jason Statham – although he does appear in Spy, with Feig writing the role of CIA agent Rick Ford specifically for the British actor.) Feig’s upcoming School for Good and Evil naturally stars two young female leads, plus the likes of Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron and Michelle Yeoh in an ensemble cast so stacked it would make a bodybuilder feel inadequate.

He was executive producer on the US Office, as well as directing multiple episodes. (Other shows to boast Feig-helmed episodes include Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Arrested Development and Mad Men.) Oh, and he’s written a book – Cocktail Time!: The Ultimate Guide to Grown-Up Fun. And founded a spirits brand, the award-winning Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin. And also founded a digital content company, Powderkeg Media, committed to elevating female and LGBTQ+ creators and filmmakers of colour. Polymath doesn’t really do him justice – the man’s a borderline omnimath. That he is permanently the picture of sartorial elegance – Feig swears by the suit – only increases our admiration.

How, our interviewer quite reasonably inquires, does Feig find the time? You better read the conversation to find out. (Not having kids is apparently a good starting point.) Incidentally, our interviewer is no slouch behind the camera himself – the great Edgar Wright has co-written and directed the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, et al), Baby Driver and most recently Last Night in Soho.

Enjoy a fascinating and funny conversation between two absolute masters of their craft(s) – and very nice chaps as well…

Paul Feig for Square Mile
Paul Feig for Square Mile

Edgar Wright: I’m always very impressed by how you dress and how you look. As you can see, I can barely brush my hair in the morning. I don’t know how you do it…

Paul Feig: Some people are really comfortable being casual. I’m not comfortable being casual. I almost feel like something’s going wrong. So I need structure – I hate to say ‘uniform’, because that sounds like I’m like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly and I’m just pulling the same suit out of the closet – but I need my look and my style. For some reason, if I don’t have a jacket on – a sports jacket or a suit jacket – it feels like getting on a horse without a saddle on it. You know what I mean?

EW: Well, I was just reading the intro to your book, Cocktail Time! The Ultimate Guide to Grown-Up Fun. In the foreword, you talk about your love for cocktail culture. Can you explain a little where that comes from?

PF: I’ve always been obsessed with adult life. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to be a kid. I would look at the adults and my parents would have bridge parties. My parents were religious – they didn’t drink or anything – but their friends did. So when I went to their friends’ house and hung out with their kids and we’d go in the basement, there’d always be a bar down there or something and it just looked so cosmopolitan.

And then when I was around five, I went with my parents to Las Vegas. They were going to see a Muhammad Ali fight. That was back when Vegas was at its height in the 1960s and it was still coming out of Rat Pack time and people were all dressed up in gowns and tuxedos and suits and ties.

They took me through the casino to take me to the nursery. And I was looking at this wonderland of people, drinking cocktails and smoking and all this stuff. And then they put me in this nursery, which was a glass room next to the casino. So you could sit there and look out at the fabulous adult life. And I just remember being – and I didn’t care about the other kids in there – just staring out that window, going ‘With God as my witness, I will be out there with the adults one of these days.’

And for some reason, cocktails just completely epitomised that to me, especially when you’re a kid and watching Bewitched and Darrin comes home and he mixes a martini as soon as he comes in the door. You get these weird signals. As you know, for the two of us, it all seems to come from showbiz and movies and television, and all that.

The imagery you get, I think it just implanted this idea of what adult life was. And I never went away from it. There are so many guys our age that are desperately trying to stay young and teenage and all that, and I have no interest in that. I couldn’t wait to be in my fifties. Now I turned 60 this year. So I’m now like, ‘OK, now we can stop. Now I can just freeze time and stay at this because I don’t want to get any older.’ But I like it; I really enjoy adult life.

Paul Feig

EW: It’s funny you mentioned Las Vegas. The last time I went to Las Vegas with my friend David Walliams – who is another very well turned-out fellow like yourself, and always dresses up well – he said, “What’s supposed to be the nicest hotel on the Strip?” And we did some research and found that people say Wynn is the best one to go to.

So we went there and went out on a Friday night to see a show and go to dinner and we both got dressed up. And as we walked through the casino floor, I started to think, ‘Oh, why did I bother? People are in jean shorts and flip flops. Where are the suits? Where’s the Rat Pack?’

PF: Yeah. It’s all gone. I’m telling you. There’s this really great three-star restaurant there called [L’Atelier de Joël] Robuchon. When we first started going there, they had a dress code and people stepped it up. And then over the years, one night we went in and there was all these tables of guys in shorts and T-shirts and baseball caps, and I was horrified. And I said to the maître d’, I was like, “What’s up?” And he said, “You know what? Those are the guys that have all the money and they told us, let them in, because they’re going to spend more money than anybody else.” I was like, “Well, that’s sad.” I get it, but it’s just a bummer.

EW: The most you can impose now is to wear a shirt.

PF: Exactly. Many people – guys particularly – just dress so they don’t get arrested. It’s not just covering yourself to stay legal, but this has always been my thing in life though is ‘have a style’. Life’s too short not to be able to say to the world, ‘This is who I am,’ because you are going to be judged, whether you like it or not, and you can fight against it all the time.

And so it’s up to you to go, either: ‘I don’t care. Fuck them. They’re going to get to know me once they get to know me.’ And that’s awesome if that’s your thing, do it. Or, I just think it’s just easier to go: ‘Here’s who I am.’ And now once you approach me now, I can either destroy that image of what you think I am [or uphold it.] I feel it’s almost unfair to go, ‘They gotta know me for who I am,’ without at least giving them a hint who you are just visually. But I don’t know, maybe that’s the director in me.

EW: When you were a stand-up, were you always as smartly turned out or was this a progression later?

PF: No, when I started out I was 15 and I was trying to emulate Steve Martin. So I would actually wear a white suit. It was ridiculous. I mean, all you do is copy your heroes when you’re that age. But when I started professionally in my early twenties, it was in the mid-1980s and there was a brand of suits called WilliWear – loose suits that you would roll up the sleeves on. This is the era of rolling up your suit sleeves. So I went through that baggy suit, almost David Birney kind of thing. And then sneakers, these are not even Chuck Taylor. I got these white sneakers that were fancy, but then a polo shirt and a bolo tie. That was my look.

Then I got a buzz cut. I had a flat-top buzz cut. And so my opening joke was, “Oh, boy, am I mad at Supercuts?” And it would get a giant laugh because of my stupid haircut. And that was my way in. And so I kept that going for a few years because that was my uniform. But then when I started performing at colleges, I started to go, ‘Oh, maybe I need to feel a little less put together.’ Not that I was countercultural – my act was not that edgy – but I decided it was time for a new look. So then vintage bowling shirts, loose trousers and Converse sneakers became my look.

The weirdest look I had was when I did Freaks and Geeks. I was really trying to get in touch with a teen self that I never was. I was trying to get into the heads of the freaks and the geeks, but more of the freaks. And so next I grew my hair really long and would just wear T-shirts and an Oxford shirt over the top. And that became my look all through Freaks and Geeks.

And then when Freaks and Geeks was over and I was taking all these meetings, because people liked the show, but the show got cancelled, I would carry that look into the room. But then I’d be in these meetings and all the people would be the suits. Literally, they’d be in suits and ties. I didn’t like this dynamic because I was then so clearly ‘the artist’. They’d sit you on the lowest couch in the room where your knees are in your face and they’re all up on chairs in their suits and ties dictating stuff to you and putting you through your paces.

I was like, ‘Fuck this, man. I want to dress like them because I used to dress like them.’ So I went out and bought a bunch of cheap suits at the time and started wearing them. And the minute I did that, the whole industry changed and they suddenly decided, ‘we’re not going to be the suits anymore. We’re going to dress in jeans and T-shirts and be the creatives.’

So I go to my first meeting in my suit, and everybody’s in jeans and they just looked at me like I was a weirdo because suddenly they reduced me to like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t get how the business works. He put on his good Sunday suit and he thinks you got to dress up.’ It infuriated me: ‘You can’t change the rules and then act like I’m the rube.’ So that was it: I’m going to wear the suit and tie for the rest of my career. And I have been much happier since.

Paul Feig

EW: Well, also, I mean, what I love about it is I think it has a sense of ceremony to it. You’ve always got a smart suit on – and it reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock, who would always be wearing a suit on set. Sam Raimi does a similar thing as well – and he does it because he wants to show that he’s serious about the job and respectful of the process. And I’m guessing it’s the same for you; it’s a sense of ceremony.

PF: Very much so. Sam and I are both from Detroit, so it might be a little bit of a Detroit thing too. We have a project together right now and it’s all we do is talk about our shared experience of suits and ties in Detroit. Growing up, my mom liked old movies. All the pictures I saw from movie sets were Howard Hawks, John Ford, Hitchcock, Preston Sturges – guys holding the lights are wearing ties and suits. And I’m like, oh, I guess that’s how you dress when you make a movie.

Also it is a sign of respect for the people we’re working with. We’re so lucky to get to do what we do. We’re the captain of the ship. And if I get on a ship and the captain’s wearing sweatpants, I’m going to get off the ship because I don’t trust his captaining abilities. I have these giant crew guys who will come up to me like, “Hey, man, I want to shake your hand.” I think it’s great. It’s fun. And honestly, it’s also just easier for me to put on a suit and tie in the morning.

EW: I have a lot of respect for it and I would like to do that more often. And I think you’re right. It does show that you’ve made an effort before you’ve even come to work. And it’s funny, when I was a very young director in my twenties, I was doing a TV show at the BBC with the comedian Alexei Sayle. I liked Alexei and he liked me. But there was a point where I really hadn’t figured out how to dress at all – I looked like the runner. I was wearing a Dr Seuss sweatshirt from Camden Market and black jeans. And I remember Alexei said to me in front of the crew, he goes, “Edgar, we have to get you some adult clothes.” I don’t want to ever be on the end of that withering put-down again.

Now, talk us through your transition from stand-up to writer and director…

PF: Well, back then, I was really enamoured with Woody Allen. I remember there was the cover of Time magazine, and it said ‘A Comic Genius’. And it just blew my mind. Wait, you can be in comedy and be considered a genius? I never heard that before because everybody told you that you were supposed to like better stuff than comedy. And so I did a deeper dig and watched his movies: ‘Oh, he writes, directs and stars in those things. I want to do that.’

So I set on the course to do just that. I decided to go to USC Film School – after I was a tour guide at Universal Studios – because I found out that’s where George Lucas went, and it seemed like that’s the gold standard. I went there – and I learnt I didn’t necessarily want to be a behind-the-camera director. I became enamoured more with the writing and the directing and the minutiae of it. And so came out the other end, going like, ‘Well, I’m just going to do it all.’

I was an actor for 15 years – but that entire time, I would always hang out with the director, not the actors, taking in everything they were doing and asking them questions, and hanging out in the writer’s room. So I was really working towards doing it all, but as the star also. And then finally in 1997, I got the opportunity. It was the first season of Sabrina The Teenage Witch and I made enough money to make my own movie that I wrote, directed and starred in called Life Sold Separately – which has still never been seen. It’s a feature film I shot in six days. I wrote it so that it would take place in a field over the course of one day so that I could shoot it all easily and cheaply. But it still cost $35,000 because it was all done on film.

But then I got written out of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and my wife and I didn’t have any money any more. I couldn’t get the film into any film festivals whatsoever. And so it just killed the dream of doing it all, because it didn’t make the splash I thought I was going to make. At that point, I don’t know if I wanted to act anymore either because I didn’t like how out of control my life was. I’d been a regular on five TV series, they’d all gotten cancelled. Finally, Sabrina The Teenage Witch was a hit – and you sign a contract for seven years you can’t get out of, but they can fire you at any time, just write you out. And I’d been thinking all the time, maybe you should just stay behind the camera. That’s what really kicked me out of the nest.

And then after a year of just everything going wrong, I wrote the pilot for Freaks and Geeks. That set me on the course I am now. And thank God, it did. I’m so glad I’m not about to turn 60 and still a character actor. I have nothing but love for people who do that, but oh man, that’s a tough road to hoe.

Paul Feig
Paul Feig

EW: Having been a working actor, your respect for performers is clear – you’re much more sympathetic as a director to their methods and how they want to work. It’s clear to me just from watching your films that you must create a great atmosphere on set…

PF: Yeah. That’s really important to me because when I was an actor, I was on all kinds of sets and the fun supportive ones were the ones where I thrived the most. And so I’ve always said my number one job is to create a safe environment for my actors and try to get inside their heads. I’m always conscious of the visuals obviously but I think if I have to sacrifice one, I’m always going to go for the performance and try to keep the performer comfortable. There’s things sometimes you wish you could get an actor to do and you can just tell they’re not comfortable with it.

I’m like, ‘I’m never going to make you do something that makes you uncomfortable and also I’m never going to make you do something I wouldn’t do.’ So I have a lot of times where if there’s a stunt, I’ll go, ‘I’ll do it first just make sure it’s OK.’ Also, I wanted to be a stuntman when I was a kid. There’s nothing I like more than the chance to do stunt.

EW: I’ve done that too. I think it’s the thing, especially with ascender rigs. I would do that on Scott Pilgrim, saying to Michael Cera, “I’ll do it first.” It’s a great thing to do if you’ll do it because they say, ‘Well, if Edgar could do it and he’s like 15 years older than me, then I’ll do it.’

To make a link between Cocktail Time and directing movies, there is a part of being a director that is being a great host. You are hosting, keeping the atmosphere – especially in a comedy. If you’ve got very funny people in the room, you just want to keep that magic going, which over the course of a shooting day can be an arduous thing, but it says everything about the way that you direct that you make it seem effortless.

PF: It should be a party, where you’re just having fun the whole time. The party can get tense sometimes and weird – but you come out the other side having a great time. With comedy, we’re trying to capture lightning in the bottle. I’m trying to get that one moment that you’re never going to get again.

That’s why I do a lot of cross-shooting when I do my movies so that I’ve got both people in the conversation on camera at the same time. So I can throw surprises at them; I can whisper to somebody ‘say this’ or ‘try this’. I can throw in a line out of nowhere and they’ll try it.

Whenever you’re throwing a party, whenever you’re doing anything for other people, you are the director if it’s your thing, whether you want to be or not. You can either be a hands-off director – ‘I just set everything in motion and get out of the way’ – or you can be the micromanager who’s ‘now we’re going to do this’. I like trying to create that with parties – cocktail parties. There’s a big section of my book just about how to throw cocktail parties, because I think it’s a lost art.

There’s something about a cocktail party in the 1930s style, where you’re casting the party. Like, these people will be interested in each other. Either they all know one another and they’re going to have a comfortable time or, oh, how exciting to get this person who’s never met this person, but I know they’re going to get along because they have similar interests. And then manage it through the booze and the music. If the music’s too loud and everybody’s screaming over it, it’s not a cocktail party anymore. Then it’s just a party.

There’s just something I like about adult conversation and the kind of ebb and flow of a cocktail party. You’re directing the people in it – and you hope it has a great ending and isn’t a tragedy.

Paul Feig

EW: Yes – like the seating plan at a wedding or a dinner: ‘Let’s mix it up and see what’s interesting.’ I’m sure there’s an element where sometimes you’ve made movies where some of the cast know each other very well, and also you’ve got magic out of casting where the matching is random. So in Bridesmaids, I know that Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy knew each other well before. I’m presuming that before the making of Spy, McCarthy and Jason Statham had never met…

PF: Exactly. One of the biggest parts of our job is getting the casting right. Who will play off each other well or who do I think is going to really surprise each other. And it definitely worked with Statham and Melissa – that was one of my favourite castings ever.

When I wrote that script, everybody who read it would go, ‘Oh, so you’re going to cast Will Ferrell in this role.’ Or it’s Ben Stiller. They saw it as this comedic role. I said, “No, it’s got to be Jason Statham.” And they would always crack up because they never thought that he would do it. Jason is one of my heroes: every movie he’s in, no matter how wacky the movie is, he’s so great. And so I was obsessed with getting him in a movie. I met him – and he was so much fun and such a lovely guy, I was like, “Jason, I’m putting you in a movie.” He’s like, “All right.” So I wrote this for him. His manager said, “A lot of people say that, but then they don’t do it. He really respects that you did that.” And so he came on board.

Ahead of filming, I have people show up a couple months before read through this part. With Jason, I said “Treat this like the most serious movie you’ve ever made.” He said, “Oh yeah, OK, great.” And every line he read, I was dying of laughter; Melissa was dying of laughter, and I’m like “Go away. I’m going to see you on the set. Don’t do anything else. What you just did is so perfect.”

And then the only thing we still had to do then was write him some new jokes on the set. We have that scene in the hotel room when he is just sitting in the corner in the darkness, saying all the things about setting himself on fire and tearing his arm off and putting it back on. And I’m just feeding him these jokes – they’re so absurd. I keep going, and I think he’s going to punch me at some point. He’s going to go like, ‘Ah, you’re fucking crazy.’ But he would just burst out laughing when I would read him a joke – and he would try it once, and he would start laughing in the middle of it. And then he would do it the second time and he would nail it. I will always love him because he went with it and just committed so hardcore. There’s a really funny DVD extra on Spy of all the jokes we didn’t use.

But then in Bridesmaids, one of Kristen’s best friends in the world is Maya Rudolph. And John and I were just like, ‘Let’s cast her best friend to play her best friend.’ So then that chemistry’s there and we don’t have to write to it. And we don’t have to have a bunch of expositions saying how long they’ve known each other. It just happened.

EW: I heard you on Brett Goldstein’s podcast the other day. And you said something which I really agree with in terms of when you make films within different genres, you like me bristle at the word ‘parody’ because it’s not a case of spoofing something. It’s about making something that is faithful to that genre. But what you do – in Bridesmaids, Heat, Spy and Ghostbusters – is make character comedies within a bigger genre, whether it’s a cop film or a spy film or supernatural sci-fi movie. You are still staying true to the idea that these are films about human connections.

PF: Yeah, without that you have nothing. I mean, spectacle doesn’t mean anything anymore because people see it all the time. I just don’t like mayhem. Look, I can watch a cool action scene all day. I love that stuff, but I’ve just learned, especially since I really like to make movies for women, even the action scenes have to be more than that. It has to be about character. And that’s how I guess I watch movies too.

EW: With School for Good and Evil, you’re going feet-first into fantasy land, right?

PF: Yeah, I am. Which I never thought I would do – and kind of said, ‘No, I will never do that.’ But you know what? I got sent this script and I loved the central story of these two young women and it’s all about their friendship and about how those friendships are so strong, that one person wants to save the other person when everybody else has given up on that person. And that was really what drew me to it.

I’d also been really wanting to do something where I could create a world. I had that a little bit in Ghostbusters, but that was still our world into which the supernatural came. Whereas this starts in a mythical village, and then they go off to this mythical school and into a whole other reality. This was catnip for me: to have this really grounded, real, emotional female-centric story set in this world where I could create a lot of stuff.

I always want people to know, ‘this is a Paul Feig film’. I think Scorsese said it first, but we’re all just trying to tell the same story over and over again, because there’s something in our life we’re trying to sort out. For me, it’s always underdogs. It’s about people who can’t figure out their place in the world or what they’re good at finding their confidence. I will always be exploring that because that’s how I feel every day of my life.

This film was in development seven years before I even came on board. It’s a series of books, but they’re very dense. And so it was ‘How do we peel it away to get to the core of it and keep it emotional?’ But I’m thrilled with how it came out. I think people are really going to like it.

EW: And what an incredible cast you have in the movie. Including the great Michelle Yeoh, who you’ve worked with twice recently and who is experiencing an incredible career surge in playing against type. What is it like working with her?

PF: She’s the greatest. We had so much fun on Last Christmas, the movie I made before this. My wife and I have been watching her for decades and I’ve always had a big crush on her. When we were filming Simple Favor, Henry Golding called me one night and said, ‘Hey, I’m having dinner with Michelle Yeoh – do you want to come?’ The minute we sat down together, we just became fast friends.

And she’s so funny. That’s the thing. She’s a party girl. And so when Emma Thompson sent me the script for Last Christmas, I was like, it’s got to be Michelle Yeoh. I’m not doing it with anybody else other than Michelle Yeoh because I know she can be funny and I want to be the first person to make her funny in a movie. And she crushed it. And so she, God bless her, flew into Belfast, had to quarantine for ten days – remember those days – to be in this movie. And she’s the greatest – one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met in my life. So laser focused on what she does.

Paul Feig

EW: You’re an executive producer and also write and direct on two TV shows that are on in the States and you’ve got another film coming out and aside from writing a cocktail book, you have your own brand of gin. How do you do it?

PF: I used to be ‘I can’t do these things because I won’t be able to put my energy into all of them.’ But then I realised, if I hire really good people, they can do the nuts and bolts and I can help sprinkle whatever inspiration or guidance I can over it.

I also learned from producers I’ve worked with in the past. For things I produce, I don’t want to be the micromanaging producer. I’ve had that where people come in and upset the apple cart. It’s like, ‘You’re not being helpful to me. You’re just running all over my vision with your thing and your voice and if you hired me then why don’t you just want me to do my voice?’ And so with the TV, that’s what it is.

I mean, all my time in the TV goes into getting it right up front – make sure we get the right people in charge of it, make sure we get a great cast, make sure we get great writers.The cocktail book came out of when we were in lockdown. I just started doing that Instagram cocktail hour every day for a hundred days in a row and experimented with mixology and people are like, ‘well you should write down the recipes’. So I wrote them down and wrote stories with each one.

Also, I also don’t have children. So that’s one of the keys. My wife and I are footloose and fancy free. So I’m allowed to do all this stuff, but I love it.

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EW: So I have no excuse now. I have no excuse for not having my own alcohol brand…

PF: But you made two of the most brilliant movies in recent history in the same year – and I will always go like, ‘Holy shit, how did you do that?’

EW: The other thing you do so well is to support others who are coming through. Obviously we both remember the time when we had to make our voices heard or try and find a foothold in the industry. So how important is that to you to give other people the chance? Maybe talk a bit about what Powderkeg Media is…

PF: Powderkeg is really important to me because I want new voices out there. I’ve seen the same voices and heard the same feel of stories for so long because they tend to be coming from one segment of the population.When something sneaks out of somewhere and with a completely original voice made by people who don’t normally get a chance to do something, it’s so exciting. And you’re like, ‘I’m really mad that I was cut off from that voice and that perspective on the world.’

And so Powderkeg started a number of years ago just out of wanting to try to give opportunity to more female filmmakers. And then it just expanded into filmmakers of colour and LGBTQ+. Basically all the voices that don’t get the opportunities. I try to mentor when I can, but I feel that’s only so useful versus setting something up where now those people can get a chance to make something.

So we have this program, we’re just going into our third series of it called Powderkeg Fuse, where we get pitched submissions from filmmakers all over the place on a certain subject. And then from there we pick five or six and we develop the script with them and then they each get the money to shoot their short film in one day. They have a calling card and then I can advocate for them because they go, I saw this person do it. And I can with great confidence, tell you, hiring director, that this person can do it. So that to me is the most important thing: we get to discover all these great new voices and hear new comedy.

EW: It’s so impressive – it’s something that I’ve tried to do over the years, but not to the extent that you’re doing it. One last thing before we wrap up: how does one start their own brand of alcohol?

PF: I’ve been trying to do it for years because I love gin. I love martinis, but I’ve always gone, ‘If I could make my own gin, I’d make the one that I always wish I could find,’ because I’ve never quite found the one I like.

My agents found a company out of Calgary and they had seen my lifestyle, like what I represent and wanted to do a premium spirit together. Because look, I’m not a distiller; I’m not setting up big copper pots and all that. But you go in for a meeting: ‘Here are the flavour profiles; here are the gins I like; the ones I don’t like. Here’s what I want in this. Here’s what I don’t want in this, blah, blah blah.’

Then their master distillers go off and make eight variations on what you said. And they’re all very different. And so you do a tasting and you’re like, ‘Yeah, no, little bit more of this…’. And you do that over and over again. And they keep doing these eight batches. They get more and more micro differences in them. And by the end you’re like, you’re literally it’s so fractional the difference between the two. I’ve never been drunker in my life than the day I had to finalise the taste of my gin.

Oh, there’s pictures. Literally, it started in my offices at ten in the morning. And there’s a picture of me at four o’clock in the afternoon, passed out on the table, face down. My wife’s like, “You could spit it out.” But I’m taking tiny sips. And then it’s like, ‘OK, let’s try it in a martini. Let’s try it in a dirty martini. Let’s try a negroni. Let’s try it straight up. Let’s try a gin and soda.’ But it worked. We’ve won tonnes of awards for Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin. And I couldn’t be prouder of it.

EW: I’m always impressed by your endeavours in every field. It’s always a pleasure to chat. See you very soon.

PF: Yes, you definitely shall. 

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School for Good and Evil is out 19 Oct on Netflix

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