Acclaimed UK theatre director Rufus Norris talks about his directorial debut Broken which is the opening film of Critics’ Week.

Cillian Murphy, Tim Roth and newcomer Eloise Lawrence star in the BBC Films-backed feature about a young girl who witnesses a violent assault. Wild Bunch is handling sales.

Is it nerve-wracking to be screening your first feature in Cannes?

We have had a mad dash to finish it on time but it’s a lovely place to kick off, particularly for a first film. On opening night in the theatre, it’s terribly nerve-wracking because there are still a thousand things that can go wrong and the actors have actually got to get up there and do it. At least in film, it’s finished, I can’t recut it in the interval!

The film is based on a novel by Daniel Clay. Did you immediately visualise it on the screen when you read it?

Yes, I did. As a first film it was appealing because it’s a fairly contained domestic environment, a small neighbourhood. I have no experience of doing helicopter
shots and car chases, but I do know how to work with actors. So it was important to choose a film that had a strong emotional heartbeat which would require fantastic performances.

Your lead is 12-year-old Eloise Lawrence. Was casting this role a challenge?

We met 850 girls and Eloise came along at the last minute. She hasn’t done anything before, but there is an openness and naivety in her character’s spirit, so I didn’t want her to have that feeling of someone who has done a lot of work. She is coming to Cannes and is fluent in French, so she will probably get along a lot better than me.

Have you taken inspiration from other film-makers when it comes to your cinematic style?

There is a middle ground between Ken Loach and Danny Boyle which is not an incompatible place to be. I’ve grown up on Ken Loach’s films and I think they are fantastic and beautiful but there is a slightly more expansive theatrical side to Danny Boyle’s work, which I really enjoy. My favourite film is Festen by Thomas Vinterberg. Shot for nothing, but with wonderful actors, a brilliant story and a real energy behind the camera. I kind of hope I bump into him on the beach.

What was the hardest thing about making the film?

Getting the bloody money together. We nearly went down just before we started prep. Once we actually got to the starting line it was hard work, but there were no crises.