There’s a 2012 article from The Guardian that begins with the lede, “Attack the Block director Joe Cornish is going to be a busy filmmaker in the next couple of years.” When I spoke to Cornish this week, I read that line to him and he couldn’t help but laugh.
That Guardian piece was written in the months after his alien invasion movie Attack the Block became a critically acclaimed cult hit and introduced the world to John Boyega. At the time, Cornish was attached to both Rust and Snow Crash. In the years that would follow, Cornish spent a lot of time working on Edgar Wright’s version of Ant-Man that eventually fell apart. And his name would be mentioned alongside other big franchise movies like Star Trek Beyond (which would be directed by Justin Lin). But, as the years passed, we never got another Joe Cornish movie, until now, eight years later.
You may not even realize right now that Joe Cornish is the director of The Kid Who Would Be King, a story of a young boy who finds King Arthur’s Excalibur and, along the way, meets a whole host of supernatural characters, which includes Merlin, who is partially played by Patrick Stewart. Cornish says the team is hesitant to promote a movie aimed at kids as coming from the director who made a gory alien movie. But you should know, with Cornish at the helm, this is not your normal, everyday kids movie. As Cornish explains, he wanted to make a movie more in the vein on something like E.T., where the movie isn’t pandering to kids, but, instead, remembers what it’s like to be a kid.
Ahead, Cornish takes us through the last few years and explains why and how it took so long for him to return to directing.
So take me through this, why have we had to wait so long for your second movie?
Well, I went straight onto writing on Ant-Man with Edgar Wright after Attack the Block and we actually wrote on that together until I think early 2014. And Edgar had brought me on that movie many years ago, so I felt very loyal to him. And while I was doing that I wrote a draft of Snow Crash. I also worked a lot on Rust. But, as with many projects in Hollywood, for one reason or another they didn’t quite have the traction to get going.
And then immediately after Ant-Man ended suddenly, I was then attached to a movie for Universal called Section 6, that was a really good movie with a really good script. And then I started this movie in about 2015. So, time flies, you know. And also it’s not unusual for ambitious projects to keep one busy for a while. But then when they get to the final hurdles with the studios, studios are very conservative at the moment, as you know, and it’s not unusual for stuff not to make that last hurdle.
The other weird thing that happens is you take a meeting for a movie, just to broadly discuss it, then suddenly the trades publish that you’re doing it. And then sometimes you decide not to do it for reasons of your own. You take a meeting and you go, “Oh, okay, well maybe this isn’t for me.” And then the trades go, “Oh, Joe Cornish didn’t get that movie.” And often the case is, well, Joe Cornish didn’t think he was right for that movie. Do you know what I mean? But certainly, I would very much not like to take so long between this movie and the next movie.
Attack the Block is beloved, so I think that’s part of it, too.
Well, I appreciate you saying that. But you know, from my point of view, I could have jumped into a massive franchise or something, but I wanted to be cautious. I wanted to make sure I didn’t run before I could walk. And also I would rather take a bit of time and do something that I can really own than rush into something that maybe ends up being compromised or gets into trouble or that I’m not the author of.
Your name was mentioned as being in the running for Star Trek Beyond.
Yeah, I took a couple of meetings with J.J. Abrams and Bob Orci. And, yeah, in the end, I felt that somebody else would do a better job than me. It’s hard not to take those meetings, because it’s really exciting to be offered it.
And if you don’t take the meeting, people stop calling.
Right. I was talking to Chris Miller and Phil Lord about this. And they call it the thought experiment. That it’s always worth doing the thought experiment. Take the meeting, find out a little about it, have a think about it, and see whether you feel it’s something that needs you or something that you could really commit to and do from your heart for three years or four years or whatever it would take. But then sometimes, as soon as you go in for that first meeting, someone from your agency calls Variety, or something, and says, “Cornish is up for Star Trek.” And then you decide, “Well, this would be better done by someone else.” And then it’s, “Cornish has lost Star Trek.” And you’re like, “No, all I did was leave the house.”
“All I did was leave the house” should be on a t-shirt.
Yeah, in the future I’ll try not to leave the house.