Mick Jackson (director)

film director

Mick Jackson (born 4 October 1943) is an English film director and television producer.


Threads DVD commentaryEdit

DVD audio commentary with Mick Jackson: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.

  • We're not in the 1980s anymore to remember how terrified everybody was, how paranoid everybody was about the end of the world being nigh. In the year that I had prepped this movie in 1983, the Korean airliner was shot down by the Russians, Reagan gave his "Evil Empire" speech, Strategic Defense Initiative, "Star Wars" started and people like Herman Kahn in the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica [...] were talking about "winnable" nuclear war and game theory, and I just thought "people who talk like that, and people who behave like that, politically, and make speeches like that, they're doing that because they have no real sense, no physical sense of what a nuclear war would be like."
  • I remember a scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project said to me "you know, when I hear people talking about winnable nuclear wars, I just wish I could take them to the Mojave desert, the Nevada desert, wherever, strip them down to their underwear, and let them watch an actual nuclear explosion from miles away, feel the blistering heat pulse on their skin, and feel the blast wave sweep over them and shake their heart and their lungs around inside their rib cage. Then they would have a sense of what it was they were talking about and they wouldn't talk about a winnable nuclear war."
  • In this movie, from the outset, I wanted to put it in the scale of people that you might know, people like yourself, your immediate family, relations and so on, and no bigger than that, and not really to show anything except how it would happen to them. So, there's no God's eye view in this movie. You don't actually get to look down and get the overall picture and see maps of Europe and maps of the world and so on. You just get what's happening to these people, and it's all really done from ground level. There's no cinematic crane shots or anything like that. It's just very, very documentary.
  • The real effect of a nuclear weapon is not what it does to things, to buildings, to cities: it's what it does to society, what it does to people, what it does psychologically. I was very struck by the work that an American writer called Robert Jay Lifton had done on the psychological effects of the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima on the survivors and I talked to him a lot. It seemed to me that the story that needed to be told was the story of what this does to society as well as what it does to physical things, and you could only really tell that with a drama, with people that you identified with.
  • I can't tell you how much that affected me, in the wrong way. I was, in 1983 when it came out, I was planning Threads, I was in pre-production. And I thought "Oh my God, they will tell it. [...] I hope to God they tell it well. If they tell it well, I'm going to stop what I'm doing". [...] I didn't want it to become something that everybody did. I wanted it to be one thing that was done once and done well, and done with no punches pulled at all. I wanted something you could hardly bear to look at and you can hardly bear to look away from , so something that was totally uncompromising: You didn't look away, you didn't flinch from things. So, I waited for The Day After to come out, [...] I looked at it and I thought "Oh my God, they didn't, they missed it". They missed it! They made a TV movie, they made something like a soap opera because they had to, because they didn't have a genre in their head that they could copy and or invent. And I thought the underlying thought of this is it would all be manageable. At the end of the movie, where everything is ruined, you've got Jason Robards still there and you know that just out of the frame, about to come in, there's all the bulldosers and relief efforts, rescue and help, and it's going to be okay really. And I thought "That's not telling the truth, that's not really the way it would be."
  • There's the hospital sequence in The Day After and there's the hospital sequence in Threads. [...] In The Day After people are being wheeled in on gurneys and everybody's stressed, but they're coping with it as they would do on ER or something like that. In Threads, the floor is covered with muck and shit and blood and people don't have anything they can work with. [...] We see people having their legs amputated without an anesthetic, just something stuck between their teeth for them to bite on. That's what it's going to be like! And I wanted every part of this movie to be "That's what it's going to be like".
  • I wanted him to use all his experience and intuition and empathy with people who'd grown up around him in Sheffield and put that into the movie, and I would be [...] the alien force, who was the voice of what science can do, and I would kind of foist these horrible indignities and horrors on these people, and he would try and get them to behave the way they would. So there was an innate conflict in that. We had many shouting matches, really passionate things, totally necessary for doing this.
  • He hated coming on the set and despised me because I wore white shoes.
  • He did hate doing it. It was alien to his nature. He reluctantly let himself be drawn into this thing, thinking what he would have done would have been a very passionate politicised scream of emotion, and what he was being pushed into was this box he didn't feel at all comfortable in.
  • From the point where the bomb happens, the whole nature of the movie changes. In the first half of the movie, I hope, you have a very full soundtrack. You have all the soundtrack of TV broadcasts and radio broadcasts, the sound of birdsong in the country, the sound of musical things happening, the sound of traffic and city noises. And from the moment that the bomb drops you don't have anything. You don't even have the teletype, all these things, they just type out in silence, and all you hear is wind. [...] You hear voices of people screaming, coughing or whatever. You hear wind, you hear no birds. [...] It's gone. That world is gone.

The Director of the Scariest Movie We've Ever Seen Still Fears Nuclear War the MostEdit

"The Director of the Scariest Movie We've Ever Seen Still Fears Nuclear War the Most", Vice, 27 February 2018

  • This sense of things...getting out of control very quickly is a lesson that we’ve forgotten. [...] I hope we don’t learn it in the wrong way. This is what you’re risking when you talk about fire and fury.
  • That period had seen Reagan starting the Strategic Defense Initiative, the downing of the Korean Airliner by the Soviets, and [Reagan] calling the Soviet Union the Evil Empire. [...] It was perhaps the most dangerous time for the world since the Cuban missile crisis and...there was this feeling that BBC wasn’t dealing with this in any way. Everyone was very paranoid. The world was on the brink of nuclear war and no one knew anything about it.
    • On the 1980s
  • It is unthinkable for most people. Nuclear war is so outside your everyday experience it’s hard to get your mind around it. And if you can’t get your mind around it, you can’t talk about it and have a meaningful debate.
  • The idea was to take a movie which was about death...and use the iconography of life to tell the story.
  • What worries me at the moment is President Trump and many in his administration are using the same kind of language about winnable [nuclear war and] bloody-nose strike against North Korea without realizing the consequences of that. [...] They have a failure of imagination. They can not believe that it could be anything other than surgical. The lesson of everything in nuclear policy through the Cold War is that we’ve come so close to so many times to stumbling into war by miscalculation, by not knowing what the other side is thinking.

How we made the nuclear apocalypse TV drama ThreadsEdit

"How we made the nuclear apocalypse TV drama Threads", The Guardian, 8 January 2019

  • Barry came up with the idea of the two families – one working class, the other lower-middle – and what their lives were like. Sheffield seemed a good place to set it, and Barry knew it well. It was bang in the middle of the country, and a good way from London. Strategically, it also made sense: there were industrial and military targets nearby.
    Both of us were interested in the idea that none of these characters would ever have a god’s-eye-view of events, and never find out what was happening outside their immediate experience, certainly not outside Sheffield. That seemed to be the way most people would have to deal with a nuclear apocalypse, with most forms of communication vaporised.
  • What we’d depicted and its implications stayed in the minds of every actor and crew member for a long time. I’m sure there were some nightmares. There are some things so far outside our experience or comprehension that they are unthinkable. Nuclear war is one.
  • People tell me how relevant they find the movie to what’s happening now. It’s comforting, at a time when so many films are being remade, to find that people still appreciate – and are scared by – the original film.

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