Connect with us


Ant Timpson and Toby Harvard Discuss the Brilliant ‘Come to Daddy’

Signature Entertainment

Come to Daddy arrives on home entertainment platforms this week. The film was a stand-out on last year’s genre festival circuit, opening FrightFest 2019’s August programme to rapturous applause. The film stars Elijah Wood as a peculiar young man called Norval. Having been estranged from his father for a number of years, he’s surprised to receive a call inviting him to visit. Upon arrival, he soon discovers that his father is an equally odd man, then things get really strange.

The film is directed by Ant Timpson, a man very well known to genre audiences as a producer. Films that he has produced include Housebound, Deathgasm, and Turbo Kid. Come to Daddy marks his first whirl at feature film directing, and trust us when we say it’s a pretty special film. A rare blend of comedy, drama, action thriller and mystery, Come to Daddy is best viewed knowing as little as possible. That being said, we jumped at the chance to sit down with Ant, as well as the film’s writer Toby Harvard (of The Greasy Strangler fame), during last year’s FrighFest.

Signature Entertainment

So where did the idea for Come to Daddy come from?

ANT TIMPSON: It actually started in a really dark place. I saw my dad drop dead in front of me….so quite a dark start. Then something really weird, beautiful and cathartic happened where his partner thought it would be a really good thing for us to spend time with his body. So he came back after being embalmed, for a week in the house, in a coffin. So we had time to grieve and had time to do all those things that you’re supposed to do with a dead body in the house. But my siblings got really busy, and I ended up spending a lot of time with him alone during the days and nights.

During the nights it was very surreal and scary. During the day people came and paid respects to the body, and they were relatives and family friends, but there were also people that I had no idea who they were. They had this alternate history of my dad that I found really interesting. It made me think, “did I really know my father?” So I was mulling around that it’d be great to maybe use this as a starting point. So maybe a month later on, I suddenly felt the urge to make something, because life’s short. Then I thought maybe I could use this whole horrible thing to create something out of it.

So I had this idea, and then thought maybe I’d talk to Toby [Harvard] who I’d worked with on The Greasy Strangler and said, “what do you think about these ideas, this skeleton?” I was thinking at the start of it being a really low budget thing that we could film in the house itself…maybe not use the real body (chuckles), but just create something low-fi that we could get done if I pulled in some favours. So I just shot Toby an email an asked him what he thought, was there something there?

TOBY HARVARD: I did. I loved that Ant trusted me with this very intense, personal thing. I think for me I saw so much potential in this one little nugget that he’d given me. To me it felt like I could turn that into the spine of the film. The mid-point section of the film is this guy with his dead dad in a house. Then it was how do you build up to that? Where do you go from there? We kicked around a few ideas, it was really quick, over a few days we exchanged ideas and settled on a story that felt pretty satisfying. It didn’t really have an ending, but we thought by the time we get there and I’ve written the first two acts, the third one will reveal itself.

We had a draft in less than a couple of weeks and I think I have probably dishonoured Ant’s story by turning it into quite a ridiculous, very violent… scrotums being stabbed etc. – and I felt a bit guilty when I sent him that. I thought, “oh fuck, he’s trusted me with this very intense personal story and I’ve turned it into balls being stabbed.” But we worked on it, massaged it into shape, and that was that. Pretty simple.

ANT: Yeah it was really good. We were very hot for a while, and then we went cold…

TOBY: Which I think was really good for the script. For us to take a little bit of a step back. I think for us it was dialing back some of the comedy. I had just come from The Greasy Strangler and I was still in a state of wanting to needle the audience. Wanting to really push the repetition and push the confrontational comedy side of things. The story didn’t really want to be that. We muted down some of the more juvenile comedy, which is too easy for me. Ant was very good at asking what the reality of the scene was. What are these characters trying to get out of each other? Can we make it more mysterious and slow-burn?

Signature Entertainment

So when did you realise that Elijah Wood was Norval?

ANT: Early on. He was pretty much in discussions from the moment we started writing. It was always going to be him.

TOBY: I think as soon as the characters start talking because we worked with Elijah on Greasy, he was very much in my head. Then as soon as you start writing for someone specifically, it’s almost impossible to think of anyone else. Even now I can’t imagine anyone.

ANT: We sent him ideas of the Skrillex connection with the script and he was appalled, in a really good way. He just fell in love with the script straight away. He liked the challenge of it as well. Him being the guy who grounds the entire film. That’s quite a big challenge for an actor. Even though he’s done a lot [of acting], it was like the whole thing was weighing on him. It was just a natural fit. I couldn’t think of anyone else. Plus he was a DJ, that helped.

I felt like it was a role that he was almost born to play because in a way it covers off all the previous work that he’s done. You’ve got the humour from his Wilfred days, the horror factor from Maniac, and who else in the world could play that…

ANT: And he goes through the wringer. Plus the way films are shot… it’s all out of sequence, so for him to be able to go through such a range of emotions in the film, it takes an actor who is really set savvy to understand where they need to be, what emotional level they need to be from scene to scene. It’s pretty seamless throughout and that’s pretty hard when you’re the only guy on screen for the bulk of the film. You can see films when it’s inconsistent and they don’t nail it. I just feel that he’s got the ability to know what he needs to bring to the table immediately. In every scene, I just thought he was a knockout.

TOBY: When we worked on the story and were developing where it was going to go, in the back of my mind I saw it as, “what if you got Jason Schwartzman’s character from Rushmore at the beginning, and over the course of a few traumatic days, turns into Ryan Gosling in Drive.” How do you go from A to B like that? I think a lot of actors could really mess that up.

Signature Entertainment

It’s a very strong look for the character of Norval as well. Was he written to look like that?

ANT: Yeah.

TOBY: Yeah, Skrillex was a big inspiration.

ANT: He had to look like an alien in a foreign land from the word go. From when you first see him come out off the bus. It needed to be this stranger in a strange land. The physicality of the whole thing was a huge part of not just the way that he emotes or anything. His physical look had to be as much part of it as everything. That’s why his look throughout the film is like a slow growth as he’s changed. He gets stripped down and he starts becoming more and more like his father as the film goes on. So we really needed to start him up somewhere else in a crazy area. But also believable for that kind of character.

We also didn’t have the budget to buy Rick Owens type fashion, so we had to work within our means. But it was very much a look based on a lot of LA douchery, It was a fun thing, Elijah was game to be pushed. I was a bit nervous about fucking him up, in terms of how far I could ask him to go, but he was just down for anything really…but he really did want to get rid of that haircut pretty quick after the film was shot.

The big thing about Elijah is he’s just so likeable. He brings all this baggage from all these other projects. The audience’s fondness for the person that he is in real life, it’s so strong that it has to be more than just this cartoonish thing. I was concerned that we needed him to be a bit semi-obnoxious, a bit of a twat, or else you’d be with him right away.

TOBY: You want to warm to him instead. I went to school with quite a lot of people – I went to this small art college in London – and a lot of kids there would wear these outrageous Japanese fashions and be very…they would talk about working on albums when they were like twelve. They were making blazing beats, trance albums. So on paper that’s really unlikeable, but when you get to know someone like that and you realise it’s a mask almost for their angst and pain, you realise it’s actually quite a sweet way of manifesting your vulnerability.

Signature Entertainment

The film opens with two very different quotes, one from William Shakespeare, the other Beyonce….

TOBY: Originally it was a Shakespeare quote about sins of the father on the first page of the script. Then there was another quote by R Kelly, but I guess the tide has turned against R Kelly since then, so Beyonce is probably a better choice.

ANT: It plays to the room a lot better than R Kelly at the moment. I hate quotes at the start of films, I find them really obnoxious. That’s why I thought to do it. But it also sets the tone up really quickly.

TOBY: And it gets a laugh.

ANT: Every time. People know what they’re in for. It saves you an enormous amount of time. The rest of the film is a slow-burn and people don’t really know whether to laugh or not during some of the really weird and unusual interactions between father and son. Just having that at the start is an early little green light that it’s all okay.

Instantly you are like, “what? Okay…Beyonce and Shakespeare…”

ANT: Yeah, you hear the ominous sounds with Shakespeare, the “oh we’ve seen this shit before”, and then it’s a rug pull. The film is full of rug pulls and this is the first.

Signature Entertainment

The location… that house is amazing, where on Earth did you find that?

ANT: Tofino, it’s on Vancouver Island. It’s like a surf town on the other side on the west coast of this island. We had to shoot in Canada somewhere and I really wanted a house on the edge of a cliff. Then we circumnavigated the island and a lot of these houses were on high cliffs looking down at the seas below, but I wanted the house to feel like it was on the edge of the world, so it felt like Norval was going into the complete unknown. To take him as far away from civilisation as possible. So we manufactured a lot of the feeling that he was trapped and isolated. That house and the way it looks… when I got there it had to be the house. We had to secure it and the producers did a great job of holding the house for six months. Then I started sending pictures and schematics to Toby and said, “let’s write scenes that fit this”, and it’s rare to be able to do that. Usually, you’re locked-in pretty early on.

TOBY: I think that’s where the script really came alive. It was the last little push the script needed. Just knowing that it looked like a UFO – we have references to that in the script – I think the layout helped.

ANT: For me, I hate films where the geography doesn’t make sense when you’re inside these small areas. What’s connected to what? I don’t know who’s running out of what room and what they’re going to. So to have that sense of knowing where everything was and playing with the small amount of space – it was crucial. The DP and I spent a lot of time in there. It just helps so much having that luxury. We didn’t have any rehearsal time, but I had a lot of hang-out time with the actual location.

Signature Entertainment

When the film releases on DVD, what can audiences expect?

ANT: Oh boy, a rollicking good time at home. Look out! Put the kids down and snuggle up. Look, I’m a cinephile and I watch a LOT of stuff, and I get bored knowing how things are going to play out ten minutes into films. I just feel that Come to Daddy just is wonderful in that it’s unpredictable and has a really great sense of humour and brings us a really – I sound like a terrible blurb on the back of DVD – a great night of entertainment! I’m super proud of the film. I think I’m the harshest critic for those types of films and I think it does a lot of stuff that’s really interesting, and plays around with violence in really cool ways that haven’t been seen before. It doesn’t feel pedestrian. Which was our biggest fear? Why go to all this effort if it feels like you’re just doing it by the numbers? To me, there’s a deeply personal connection that’s framed in this really wild genre film. But at its heart there’s a lot of meat to the father and son story-line that really rings through for some people.

TOBY: I feel like a lot of film’s minute one, you know what’s going to happen in minute hundred. I think me and Ant really went out of our way to do something that’s constantly shifting and you never feel safe watching it. I feel safe watching so many films and it’s a feeling I hate. I just know James Bond is going to kill the bad guys, he’s going to be fine, the bomb won’t go off. Whereas in this I really wanted to do a film where you really don’t know if he’s going to make it through. It looks like he’s probably not, and if he does, fucking Hell it’s a miracle. I grew up with From Dusk till Dawn. I watched that on a pirate VHS. I hadn’t seen any trailer, I didn’t know it was a vampire film. I think that was the last time I had a truly blissful revelatory experience watching a film, and I was ten or twelve. So yeah, we just wanted to do something unpredictable.

ANT: To me, the word of mouth on this film is quite strong. For the right audience, they really do like it and they really want to recommend, but they can’t say anything about it. It’s a frustrating one where, how do you sell the film to someone when apart from the first one sentence set-up, there’s not much else you can say? That’s going to be the struggle for the film, how to sell it without overselling it.

TOBY: I just hope it honours Ant’s back story.

ANT: Absolutely. Dad would have loved it. Which is the whole point.

Come to Daddy is available on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD now. 

Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


Latest Posts


More in Interviews