How Brexit is making Mike Leigh's period film "Peterloo," set in 1819, scarily relevant


Seven-time Academy Award-nominated writer and director Mike Leigh joined “Salon Talks” to discuss his newest film “Peterloo,” in theaters now, which captures an epic event in Britain's history.

Leigh unpacks how he recreated the events of the infamous 1819 Peterloo massacre, a peaceful, pro-democracy rally in Manchester that turned into one of the bloodiest episodes in British history.

“Almost as soon as we began working on it, researching it and planning it, we started to find ourselves saying, almost on a daily basis, you know what? This is increasingly relevant,” Leigh told Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir.

“What we couldn't have anticipated is in the half decade that's happened since then, things have lurched in an astonishingly dangerous direction and questions of democracy everywhere, not least here in the United States and certainly in that afflicted place we call the United Kingdom. The dis-United Kingdom is desperate, actually.”

And while viewers and critics are drawing parallels between Leigh’s “Peterloo,” during which only two percent of the population had the right to vote, and the current political climate in the UK, Leigh insists it was not intentional. “People have said, oh well, presumably, you did something to the film to make it consciously about Brexit. Never touched it. I mean, the history looks after itself, and the resonance, the relevance looks after itself. It's what you see in it,” he said.

Watch the episode above to hear Leigh explain the challenges of taking on a historical film and why at its core “Peterloo” became about the characters’ stories first. He also elaborates on Brexit, which he puts simply “is without question, one of the most unnecessary, stupid, time-wasting, negative, counter-productive, and ridiculous things that has ever happened anywhere.”


About “Salon Talks”

Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on Salon.com.


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