Cannes: Toby Jones warns of Brexit impact on films

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Toby Jones is a star of Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or contender Happy End

British actor Toby Jones has said he thinks Brexit will affect where UK-made films are shot.

He said of the impact of the UK’s EU withdrawal: “The thing that causes everyone upset and anxiety is that no one knows how much and when and how.”

The Detectorists actor is starring in the Palme d’Or-nominated Happy End.

Jones said he felt “very proud” to be in a French-language film made by Austrian Michael Haneke, describing it as an “eclectic mix”.

Happy End, also starring French star Isabelle Huppert as Jones’ partner, is about a bourgeois family living in Calais, and is set against the backdrop of the migrant crisis.

Jones, who starred as Captain Mainwaring in 2016’s Dad’s Army film, said Brexit “makes it very hard to plan”.

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Michael Haneke (left) and the cast of Happy End enjoy the limelight in Cannes

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “Financing a film depends on the security of your investment.

“For as long as I’ve been acting and we’ve been in Europe, it’s given you freedom to film in Europe, especially eastern Europe. I suspect that’s jeopardised by Brexit.”

But Jones, who studied in France, said: “We’re not leaving Europe culturally. It’s impossible to do that. But we cannot predict what’s going to happen.”

He said he was a huge fan of 75-year-old Haneke, for whom this would be a record third Palme d’Or.

Happy End is a sequel of sorts to his last feature to take the title, Amour, with characters sharing the same last name as the protagonists of that film.

Amour told the story of a close elderly couple whose happy, comfortable life starts to crumble following a stroke suffered by the wife Anne.

Jones is enthusiastic when he speaks of leaping at the opportunity to star as Lawrence in Happy End, which sees cracks appear in the extended family, all living under one roof.

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Happy End has been inspired by the themes explored in Michael Haneke’s award-winning Amour

“If Michael Haneke asks, ‘would you like to be in my film?’, it wouldn’t matter if I had no lines,” Jones said.

“There are a few film directors where you think, ‘this is the type of cinema I dreamed of being in’.

“He is a proper European master of cinema and someone who works in a totally different way than British or American cinema, so it’s amazing to be a part of that.

“I was so surprised when he got in touch. I thought, ‘really?’ I went to meet him and he described all of these performances he’d seen of mine.”

But as for why there is a British character in this French-language film, Jones is not at all sure – and it may just be that Haneke wanted to work with him.

“I don’t think I would have got an answer if I asked why Lawrence is British,” mused Jones. “There’s something there about isolation.”

Jurassic Park

Jones, who’s due to star in a forthcoming Jurassic Park film, finished making another film in France last week.

“I love working in France,” he said. “There’s not that arthouse divide there is in the UK and the US.

“They have protected cinema – they have protected the notion of ideas in cinema. It’s not purely entertainment. I think there’s an ongoing issue and has been for as long as I remember about how to protect British films in British cinema.”

Happy End, which uses social media graphics on screen with a disconcerting effect, has been largely well received, with the Financial Times calling it a “brilliant cinematic puzzle.

But Screen International said it “feels like an assemblage of Haneke’s favourite themes, a spread of nibbles” that doesn’t amount to a full film.

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