Ken Loach directs McLibel courtroom reconstructions

Date 10th Jan 1997

Obviously we wanted to include McDonald's side of the story in our McLibel film but, funnily enough, every time we wrote to their Executives, they declined to be interviewed. And when we wrote to their "independent" witnesses, we would get replies from McDonald's PR department saying thanks but no thanks. 

So we decided to do some reconstructions of the courtroom, taken from the original court transcripts. That way be could include McDonald's own words and arguments. But this was Franny's first film, she barely knew how to do documentary, let alone drama. So she drew up a list of possible drama directors, with Ken Loach's name at the top and her own at the bottom. One meeting with his production company later and a handwritten fax (it was 1996, remember) came through from Ken: "I would be delighted to help with your film". This was Spanner's first  major coup. 

Unbelievably, Ken didn't pull out when he saw the test we made, starring a very young Mark Lynas. 

Ken then went about casting the actors and we set up our one-day drama shoot in a studio in Paddington, with poor Helen and Dave (the McLibel defendants) very nervous at having to play themselves alongside pro actors.   Interestingly, although Ken himself worked for free, the actors were all paid proper equity wages as Ken felt that, seeing as he'd spent a lifetime making films about workers' rights, he couldn't really ask the actors to work for nothing, like the rest of the crew. Fair point. 


After the shoot, Ken came out to Franny's Dad's house in Oxfordshire (the film had borrowed his editing system for a month*) and cut the drama scenes with original McLibel editor, Gregers Sall. Interesting fact: this was the very first time Ken had ever edited on a non-linear system.

As well as creating the fantastic drama scenes, Ken's involvement in the film immediately gave it a level of kudos that had previously been sorely lacking and enabled us to sell the finished product to television and cinema all across the world, meaning about 22 million people have now seen it. So, Ken, thank you so much for believing in us and helping getting the McLibel story out there.

Check out some of Ken's scenes in the McLibel trailer below, buy the DVD or watch the whole film online.



* = two years