Actress Billie Piper makes her directorial debut with Rare Beasts, which has its world premiere at Venice’s Critics’ Week on August 31.
Rare Beasts – described as a pitch black comedy or ‘anti-rom-com’ – follows Mandy (Piper), a modern woman and single mother still dealing with the separation of her parents (David Thewlis and Kerry Fox). She falls in love with a complicated man Pete (Leo Bill). Piper also wrote the original script. Vaughan Sivell produces for Western Edge Pictures, in association with Ffilm Cymru Wales, Moffen Media, Fields Park and 42.
Piper is a former singer who has starred in TV hits including Doctor Who, The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl and Penny Dreadful. In 2017, she won an Olivier Award for best actress for her role in the Young Vic’s stage production of Garcia Lorca’s Yerma.
How long did you know you wanted to direct?
If I’m honest I’ve always loved writing and I really danced with the idea of becoming a writer since I was very young. I got my teeth stuck into writing this story. I needed a bit of pushing with the idea of directing – I’m fascinated by directors’ work. I’m a massive film buff, I’ve studied a lot of films. But I needed somebody to say do it, basically, and someone did – my friend [director] Wayne Yip. It made more sense to do it as a writer/director rather than a director for hire. I don’t know that I could direct someone else’s writing.
Me and Johnny have known each other for a very long time, through mutual friends and living in northwest London. I met him via an acting friend, Harry Treadaway, while we were making [the TV series] Penny Dreadful; that was maybe six years ago.
I suppose it can be difficult sometimes for me to approach men, but because our friend circle is made up of quite a few actors, it wasn’t hard with Johnny. And besides, he has had his own experience of fame with his band Tribes, so us getting together wasn’t a big, threatening exchange for him. It wasn’t one world meeting another.
We’ve been together for two years now. Our daughter, Tallulah, was born just four months ago. Yes, the pregnancy was a surprise, but at no point did I think Johnny wasn’t going to be able to handle it. I’d seen him with my boys [Winston, 10, and Eugene, 7, with her ex-husband, the actor Laurence Fox — Piper and Fox have joint custody], and Johnny was great. I knew that he was a stand-up, good guy. Since Tallulah was born, I’ve felt a real calm about everything. It’s been wonderful.