Early in the morning, director Nigel Cole (Saving Grace, Calendar Girls) walks in smiling, sipping coffee and carrying a muffin. He adjusts his glasses and takes a seat across from me, as his gray hair dangles around his lips. He brushes it away and is ready to talk about his latest film, Made in Dagenham (opening this weekend at the Edina Cinema). Made in Dagenham (pronounced Dag-en-um) has been making the fall festival rounds and has been getting great press since its limited release in mid-November in New York and Los Angeles.
Made in Dagenham is based on a true story about 187 women in the late 1960s, when women at the Ford Motor Company, the region’s principal employer (Dagenham is a large suburb in east London), led a strike to try to get equal pay and change their classification of “unskilled.” They worked in a dilapidated building where the ceiling was dripping water, sewing the seat belts and the upholstery in the cars as men worked in far better conditions. Many of the women had families trying to get by on just their spouses’ wages, and had few friends to rely on for support. One of the important people who had their backs was Barbara Castle, the newly-appointed Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity—not only the first woman in that position but the only one to occupy that position to date. Once the Ford factory in Detroit got involved, it became not only a city matter but a country’s concern, and the world looked on.
The cast features all around great performances from Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Never Let Me Go), Rosamund Pike (An Education and the upcoming Barney’s Version), Miranda Richardson (The Crying Game, The Young Victoria), Richard Schiff (TV’s The West Wing), and Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Mona Lisa). Cole said, “I never thought we’d get all these actors, since they were all our first choice. Some of the characters were based on people I knew in my life—for instance, Lisa [played by Pike] was inspired by my mom.”
As we talked about casting the film, how the real women of Dagenham felt about their story on screen, and how the issue of equal pay is still relevant around the world today, the first question I asked Cole was if he was familiar with the Dagenham factory story when he was growing up in the U.K. Click play button below to hear the interview.
Photo: Sally Hawkins and Nigel Cole. Photo courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.