After directing horror film My Little Eye, surely Marc Evans would want a lighter subject? Instead his new film shows Colin Firth, of Mr Darcy fame, unravelling as mental illness overtakes him. The Welsh director spoke toClaire Hill about his punk band past, his love of Hitchcock and his plans for a musical
IF MARC EVANS was told that he had to make a film in Wales every year on a small-to-medium budget, he would be perfectly happy.
No dreams of Hollywood or working in America, just an idealised view of an old socialist-style working film system.
"I just want to make films," he says.
"Obviously I would not want to work in the Communist system or have my work politically censored.
"But if there was a new law in Wales which said to someone has to make a film a year and you're that man, that would suit me fine."
Braving the torrential rain of a miserable Cardiff Sunday, the tall, 44-year-old director patiently has his photographs taken before we settle down for a coffee.
He is a bit delicate after drinking lots of grappa with his family the night before.
So with last night's stubble, slight greying at the temples and a thick parka coat bulking him up, Evans looks a little imposing.
His nickname is Dark Marc, due to his propensity to make frightening films, but once he opens his mouth he is friendly and amenable.
Once you start him on topics such as his work, or his other love - music - he is off.
And he can talk and talk.
He is getting ready to take his new film, Trauma to the Sundance Festival, hosted by Robert Redford.
The last time he was there, in 1997, he took his first film, House of America, and, while he might just want to watch instead of promote Trauma, if the trade press falls in love with it, it will surely spell success.
House of America was a unsavoury look at a family trying to escape their lot. Resurrection Man was a portrayal of 1970s Northern Ireland and My Little Eye, a Big Brother meets internet slasher movie, have all lived up to his dark reputation as a film-maker.
Has the 44-year-old chosen to shake this off with his new film? Frankly, no.
Trauma, starring Colin Firth and Mena Suvari, tells the tale of a man waking from a coma to find he has lost his wife in a car crash.
Plunging into grief, he experiences a kind of mental illness and struggles to cope while the rest of the world is coming to terms with its own loss - a young, adulated pop star who people never knew personally.
In the programme for the Sundance Festival, a note has been added about Trauma which lumps the film into a category called "post 9/11 films".
Evans hadn't thought about his film in that way.
"Really, the film is about an ordinary man in extraordinary situations.
"The rest of the world is dealing with the grief of this person they do not know and he is trying to cope with this personal death."
Firth was easy to get on board and a pleasure for Evans to work with.
"Colin was quite anxious to shed the Darcy role, and shirt, so he was up for it.
"What actor does not want to be in every scene of a film?"
But Firth was never meant to be in the film - it was written for a younger man.
However, Evans immediately thought of him when he read the script.
"I worked with Colin on Ruth Rendell's Master of the Moor and I have always known he has a dark side.
"We sort of became friends and he was bemoaning the fact that people do not do the 'man in a suit' film anymore.
"So when I read the script I thought of him, as he was looking for the darker material.
"He said yes straight away."
With Firth on board the film instantly had more selling power but American actress Mena Suvari was brought in initially to get more funding.
Evans is candid about what is needed to get a movie shot and out in the cinemas and does not gloss over the film process.
"We needed Mena for the money and originally I did not know that much about her.
"She looks like an angel. She is the American Beauty.
"But she is dark as hell. She was reading a book on the Yorkshire Ripper and she had been to visit a pathology museum.
"That interested me, she looks like an angel but was darker."
Evans screened My Little Eye for Suvari and her husband, cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, to give them an insight into his work, before the 24-year old actress signed up.
The L'Oreal model is quite picky with her roles, so it was another coup for Evans to have her on board.
"That made me respect her, she did this because she wanted to.
"She was delightful to work with."
Moving from a group of unknown actors in My Little Eye to the famous faces in Trauma was easy for Evans, because the cast were down to earth.
"I was never nervous with the people I worked with.
"Colin was a dream. In his view some of the romantic comedies he felt miserable on, but in this film he was covered in ants and he had a laugh."
The film was also a joy to work on for Evans because he got to work with Oscar-winning Gladiator cameraman, John Mathieson.
Here he goes off into great detail about lenses and the different technical shots, before apologising for being "geeky".
Amicable and eager to tell stories about Firth, Evans recalls what the Bridget Jones actor told him about filming Conspiracy, the drama about how senior Nazis met to decide on the Final Solution, the murder of up to six million Jews.
Firth and the rest of the cast apparently spent their spare time camping it up in Nazi uniforms as the only way they could cope with the heavy subject matter.
Evans is a passionate film director, not in it for the fame or money. Although he can play the game to get a film made.
"Directing is like being given a train set and the chance to play with it.
"As I have got older I have realised that it is quite hard to get films made, so it is a precious opportunity."
Ever since he decided to be a director he has striven to make the kind of films which he would like to see in the cinema.
BWhether this means it is a niche market for those people who enjoy an uneasy cinematic ride, he does not seem to care.
The Cardiff-born director has clear ideas about what cinema is, and what it should do.
"I go to have an outer body experience, for it to take me somewhere I have never been before - I don't want a film to be normal or see something I already know - those are the films I aspire to make."
Wanting a film to make him feel uncomfortable, it is unsurprising that he loves Hitchcock and has a soft spot for David Lynch.
Recently he has been impressed by American Splendor and the docu-film Touching the Void.
"When I was younger, I liked films that made me empathise with something horrible. But as you get older cinema pushes you less and less, but there is a certain point in that film where you go, 'Oh my god'.
When Evans was younger he wanted to be a painter, or an artist. He says he was not a film geek, or even that interested in cinema.
He studied history of art at Cambridge, took a year out before and after his degree, but still hadn't painted a thing.
It was hanging around at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff that he became interested in films and European cinema.
He joined a course at Bristol University, where his contemporaries and friends included the director Michael Winterbottom.
After learning his trade in television, he has moved on to feature films, but that was not before the obligatory stint in a punk band.
In The Gits, he was a drummer, despite the fact that he was "crap".
In fact, the music for Trauma was recorded in Abbey Road, Studio Two, where The Beatles'All You Need is Love was done.
"I had to call the rest of The Gits to get them to come to the studios just to say The Gits were at Abbey Road."
Music is such a passion of his that he will obsess about it more than film.
The only time he has been star-struck was interviewing Nicky Wire, bassist with the Manic Street Preachers, and his actress girlfriend Nia Roberts will attest he is constantly filling their flat with new CDs.
But he knows where his talents lie, as he makes plans for the future.
Evans would love to work with Matthew Rhys again, do something with Nia and also other popular independent cinema names such as James Spader, Stanley Tucci and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
As for the type of films, he would make a comedy - if he could find one that made him laugh.
"It would have to be a dark comedy," he admits, knowing that it is fulfilling the Dark Marc tag, "that is what I find funny."
At the moment he is looking at making a musical set in Swansea - a film about the life of Joe Meek, the legendary record producer who killed himself and his landlady.
That film is set to star Rhys Ifans, while Michael Sheen is signed up to play Dylan Thomas in a film about his wife Caitlin.
Evans would like to undertake a project which could star all of the modern young Welsh actors and, typically, he has a film that he is writing languishing on his laptop.
But, either by default or his own doing, it seems that A Marc Evans Film will always be dark.
"Someone said my films always end with a death or someone walking away - that's true."