'How To Build a Girl': Caitlin Moran and Coky Giedroyc on depicting working class life (exclusive)

Tom Beasley
·Contributor
·3-min read

Caitlin Moran said she wanted to focus on the reality and the humour of working class life in the movie adaptation of her novel How To Build a Girl.

The film follows teenager Johanna Morrigan, who is part of a poor family in 1990s Wolverhampton and finds her feet when she becomes poison-penned music critic Dolly Wilde.

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Moran said she was keen for the movie not to focus too heavily on the dark side of working class existence, as characterised by “kitchen sink” drama.

“Most people in this country are economically working class,” the 45-year-old journalist told Yahoo Movies UK.

“And I love Ken Loach, but all of our lives aren't being bummed over some bins whilst crying and then taming a kestrel and selling some drugs on the side.“

The Morrigan family in 'How To Build a Girl'. (Credit: Lionsgate)
The Morrigan family in 'How To Build a Girl'. (Credit: Lionsgate)

How To Build a Girl is partially inspired by Moran’s own upbringing, living in a three-bedroom council house in Wolverhampton.

Like Johanna, Moran began her journalism career writing for a music publication as a teenager.

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Moran said that sense of humour is the thing people “forget” about working class life.

She added: “You can't go anywhere or do anything or buy anything. All you've got is words.

“The funniest people, nine times out of 10, are the people who've got nothing else.

“All they've got all day is just presenting each other with ideas and just telling jokes and just getting through the day.”

Alfie Allen, Beanie Feldstein, Caitlin Moran and Coky Giedroyc during Toronto International Film Festival 2019. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for AT&T)
Alfie Allen, Beanie Feldstein, Caitlin Moran and Coky Giedroyc during Toronto International Film Festival 2019. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for AT&T)

Director Coky Giedroyc said she also sought to bring the colour and comedy of these characters to the fore, rather than focusing on darkness.

She said: “I never wanted it to be 'oh, this is a brown, dreary house so they're poor'. It's not my scene at all and not at all what the film was about.

“The film is full of colour, it's full of life. Every crease and crack in the wallpaper means something. It's a lived-in home. It's believable.”

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Giedroyc said she had the opportunity to visit Wolverhampton with Moran, who showed her around important locations, as well as sharing pictures from her childhood in the city.

The 58-year-old director said: “My job is to distil all of the things that matter most to the narrative and to the story and absolutely make sure that they're there.”

Beanie Feldstein goes from Johanna to Dolly Wilde in 'How To Build a Girl'. (Credit: Lionsgate)
Beanie Feldstein goes from Johanna to Dolly Wilde in 'How To Build a Girl'. (Credit: Lionsgate)

Moran said the concept of earning money is something that’s often omitted from stories like Hoe To Build a Girl, despite its importance to people’s lives.

She added: “If it's a middle class plot it never has anything about having to earn your money.

“In most people's lives, the plot in our lives every day is 'bitch gotta make rent'.

“How are we going to get money to be safe, to progress, to move? So I was really focused on that.”

Beanie Feldstein as Johanna Morrigan in 'How To Build a Girl'. (Credit: Lionsgate)
Beanie Feldstein as Johanna Morrigan in 'How To Build a Girl'. (Credit: Lionsgate)

American actress Beanie Feldstein portrays Johanna in the movie, with Giedroyc describing the 27-year-old star as “luminous”.

The director added: “She embraced it, she wrapped her arms around it and she just threw herself into it. She was incredible.”

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The supporting cast features Alfie Allen, Paddy Considine, Sarah Solemani and Emma Thompson.

There are fun cameos from the likes of Lily Allen, Michael Sheen, Sharon Horgan and Mel Giedroyc — the director’s younger sister — as famous figures idolised by Johanna.

How To Build a Girl is available via Amazon Prime Video from 24 July.