After being, as he perceives it, snubbed by Cannes and saying that he would never return, Mike Leigh was once again happy to take his tuxedod place this year amongst the French glitterati.
Six years after 'Vera Drake' was deemed unworthy of a nomination, before going on to receive three Oscar nominations, a Bafta nomination and a David Lean award for direction, his new film 'Another Year' was shortlisted for the Palm D'Or. Not only that but 'Happy Go Lucky' earned Leigh his sixth Oscar nod and once again, this time with his filmmaking sons Toby and Leo in tow, he headed to LA. The Oscar went to 'Milk' which Leigh said he supported but he told RTÉ Ten's Taragh Loughrey-Grant about his view on the whole ceremony.
The thing is your peers have voted for you so that's not to be sneezed at, it's an honour basically. However we are the outsiders, we've got no right to be there really, it’s a Hollywood event. I think it’s a gas to make a low budget off-beat independent European, English film which has been made with no interference by anybody, cigar chomping or otherwise and to be there at the Oscars is the wooden horse at Troy basically. You've slipped under the wire, so it's not surprising if you don't win.
A whole different question is what are the Oscars like and the answer is tacky, sloppy, badly organised and altogether kind of naf really.
There are certain Vaticans of filmmaking: Cannes, Berlin, Venice, the Oscars, the Globes and of course there's that other one called the Baftas which seem to neglect my films half the time. We got no nominations for 'Happy Go Lucky' and I don't know why.
Really I'm only concerned with getting the bloody things in front of audiences and nothing else.
However the Palm D'Or nod wasn't the only big event involving Leigh at this year's Cannes. It was also the location where his on-going feud with Sunday Times journalist, Richard Brooks, was rekindled. In front of a packed press conference, Leigh refused to interact with him saying: "I don’t want to answer any of your questions and you know why."
He does know why. Generally speaking I wouldn't do that, certainly in a big press conference but that guy did particularly unprofessional and scurrilous things some years ago. In a major article he quoted me on things that, not only did I not say, but by making me say them, it became very compromising indeed.
You had a screening and a Q & A recently of 'Another Year' in Dublin's Cineworld as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival screening series. How do you find Irish audiences?
I was in a Q & A at the Glasgow Film Theatre recently and my experience always in Dublin and in Glasgow is warm, intelligent and sharp. The same is true, and I'm not just saying this, of the journalists. Very, very motivated, innovative, energised, and sympathetic with a sense of humour.
I think it’s the spirit but that isn't to say it's terrible everywhere else. My experience here has always been positive apart from the man who asked a very unusual question at a screening years ago. [Laughing he continues.]
There's a tiny moment in 'Topsy-Turvy' where Brid Brennan plays a sort of mad Irish woman in the street when Gilbert [Jim Broadbent] goes out – he can't stand the 'first nights' for real so he prowls the streets and Brid jumps on him.
We screened the film here and had a Q & A and a guy said: 'Here's a question: Why were we suddenly in Dublin? [Leigh laughing louder added...] Ridiculous question! I said we weren't, the character is Brid Brennan, she's Irish, you know that but who's to say we weren't in The Strand in London. He went out of the theatre and went for a walk...crazy.
There was a guy in New York at the New York Film Festival, which is a very sharp audience always. The Q & As there are to die for but this guy bizarrely said the following: 'I don't know anything about films or how they're made but Éric Rohmer [French film director and critic who died in January] never had live music in his films, he only ever had music coming out of radios or televisions or whatever. Why do you have music in your films? After all', he said 'the characters can't hear it!' And we sat there stunned; I mean what you say to that!
In your new film 'Another Year' there are a number of Irish references, including a nod to Dublin, Kerry and Donegal. Are these places you've visited?
I haven't been to some of them. It's not the first time though, as you know there are two Irish references in 'Naked'. One is the security guard Brian [Peter Wright], who has this fantasy of a cottage in Ireland. The other is this desolate middle-aged woman and she says 'What's that?' It’s a map of Ireland on the wall and she's drunk and she said 'I never noticed that before' and she says 'I thought it was a damp patch!'
Then there's 'Four Days in July' about a Catholic and Protestant family in Northern Ireland.
Yes, I think you can't really talk about Ireland or references to Ireland in my film without looking at 'Four Fays in July' - my Irish contribution. Also there's a play of mine called 'Ecstasy' which I'm going to direct a revival of in the New Year in which the Irish character, created originally by Stephen Rea, is going to be played by Allen Leech [ the 'Love is the Drug' star is currently starring in 'Downton Abbey']. He's the right age, he's the same age that Stephen was when we did the play in 1896, [laughing] 1979.
Mike's producing partner of twenty years, Simon Channing Williams passed away in 2009, shortly after they began pre-production on 'Another Year'. They worked together so closely, and I asked him how it was working without him on the remainder of this film?
He produces from beyond the grave because being Simon Channing Williams, he put in place not one but two people. Gail Egan who is an executive producer and very good at fundraising and Georgina Lowe who has worked with Simon and me on every film since 'Naked'  as a production manager, line producer and associate producer. She is now my producer and she is part of my company and she is fantastic. And so 'Another Year' was brilliantly produced and we have Simon to thank.
Your method of filmmaking is so unique, beginning with a cast but no script, that it's essential you're surrounded by a strong team.
Yes, I have no worries about the future and it's very, very nice in that sense.
When in Cannes your three 'Another Year' leads - Jim Broadbent, Leslie Manville and Ruth Sheen - talked about working in the 'Mike Leigh family', creating unforgettable characters. How do you know an actor will deliver while working in your intense film process?
The short answer is you don't but you go on instinct but very, very occasionally I've got it wrong but so few times that statistically it doesn't even show up on the radar. [The look on Mike's face indicates clearly not to ask when or who or at least not to expect an answer.]
There's a performance in 'Another Year' by an actor who is currently in 'Endgame' in the Gate Theatre, David Bradley, who plays Ronnie. I never worked with him before but after 10 seconds you wouldn't bloody know it. He's amazing and I've always known he'd be fantastic whenever it happened. For years, every time we checked him out, he wasn't available and when he was, we jumped on it. He's the business.
There is a strong focus on escapism and dependency in the film, particularly alcohol.
The truth is drink is available and modern society has all kinds of isolating properties but to be honest I'm not interested in whether it's growing, shrinking or a stable problem, it’s a problem. And it's not just about alcohol, it's about the pain of existing. The only irony being is that it’s a function of something else.
Ordinarily you don't like to talk about future plans but I've heard you have a number of projects on the go.
I'm gonna do a revival of this play 'Ecstasy' in the West End in the New Year as I said, then I'm going to make a new play in the National Theatre [London] but while all that's going on I'm trying to put the funds together for a much bigger film that I've been trying to make for years in the way that I made 'Topsy-Turvy'.
I want to make a film about the great J.M.W. Turner [controversial nineteenth century romantic painter], who was a remarkable character and a genius and I think there is a great Mike Leigh movie.
It has to be very expansive because the thing about 'Topsy-Turvy' is that every time the budget shrank, finally there were no exteriors to speak of. We made them up, tiny exteriors and you can't make a film about Turner, without an exterior of two. That is what I want to do and I don't talk about it normally but I want to talk about this openly because you never know who might be listening.
'Another Year' is in cinemas from Friday 5 November.