Did Mike Leigh know this was going to be a knock-out success umpteen years later?? I didn’t! ‘The famous CHEWING sequence! We tried several lengths. I now think it would be even funnier 4-5 seconds longer. I’ve always been a great believer in the ‘perfect stranger’. You grab someone passing the door, show them a one minute section and say, ‘Does it work?’ Yes, a fresh pair of eyes! The chap who played the quarry man did it for a MONTH, with Mike’s P.A. making notes! Then Alison and Roger turned up, and it lasted say an hour. And finally whittled down to what you now see. The chap loved doing it so much, he gave up acting and became a palaeontologist.
Two or three years later Alison was doing something that required her to walk across a ‘real’ school playground. ‘It won’t work’, she said, ‘They’ll recognise me’. ‘Go on’, said the director, ‘Give it a try.’ Well, all the kids rushed at her calling, ‘Candice-Marie, Candice-Marie!!’ (Mike heard the name on a bus).
I believe ‘Nuts in May’ had a remote genesis in a little two-hander upstairs at the Royal Court, called something like ‘Holy Glory’, about veggies.