Interview: Jessica Hynes (The Fight)

The Fight is Spaced star Jessica Hynes’ debut as writer, director, and actor. She plays Tina, a 40-year-old boxfit enthusiast who convinces a local boxing instructor (Cathy Tyson) to train her as a fighter after her parents’ (Christopher Fairbank and Anita Dobson) marriage starts to collapse and her daughter (Sennia Nanua) has to contend with school bullying that has its roots in Tina’s past. Hynes explained to me how she was inspired to write the screenplay when she happened upon an old building in Folkestone, Kent, the town in which she lives and where the film is set.

“The idea came from a specific place where I live and it was a gym, a beautiful old Victorian gym. I went to a class there and thought ‘I’d love to write a story and somehow find an excuse to come and film here’. Because it was so – just the colour of the walls and the light are so beautiful and cinematic. I thought it’d be great to try and create a story centred on this specific kind of geographical location. I just thought I’d love to. I was at a boxfit class there and saw a woman who was a professional boxer coming into the ring towards the end of the class and I thought ‘that’s a story’.”

“Hypothetically, how would a woman get from doing a boxfit class on a Tuesday night to actually wanting to professionally spar in the ring? So that was the genesis of the idea and that was about four or five years ago. I wrote it up as a treatment and took it to a producer who said ‘it might be easier re-imagining it as a TV thing. You might stand a better chance of getting it made’.”

“I sort of tinkered around with it potentially as a TV thing. Other things came into focus more and I just set it aside … then I got an opportunity to pitch a micro-budget feature to a financier who was specifically targeting micro-budget features at the time and one of the things with micro-budget financiers is they’re drawn to writer-directors because that’s two-for-the-price-of-one and writer-director-performers are three-for-the-price-of-one (laughs) … in March 2017 she said ‘yes’ and then by July 2017, we started filming. In that time, I changed it and rewrote it and redeveloped it, tried to make it more compelling and complex and the story flow more naturally.”

When I suggest to Hynes that ‘the fight’ of the title may in fact be Tina’s battle against the circumstances facing her and her family, she responds by saying that was “absolutely” her intention. “I think she couldn’t become professional at the age she is but she might be able to spar in amateur bouts, and certainly in local amateur bouts … she’s at a point where she’s feeling overwhelmed and both cycles of particular dysfunction are catching up with her in so many ways and she’s faced with herself, really. She feels that probably the best way to overcome it is to physically channel that into the sport of boxing, and it helps her to transcend those emotional challenges.”

“There’s a moment where she’s getting very threadbare and she just needs to find a way to get through to the other side. To a certain extent, I suppose she’s trying to pull everyone with her, she’s trying to pull her family with her. But she sees her daughter sort of going down and being in a situation which she feels she has no control over. Because she doesn’t. It’s terrible when your children are in trouble and struggling and you want to protect them but you can only do so much.”

Hynes concludes our chat about The Fight by saying “it’s really gratifying to see a film that was so tiny get a chance to reach audiences … we’ve had so much positive feedback from people. Because lots of them have connected with it and loved the humour but also been really moved by it sometimes, and I’ve found that really gratifying. I’m really proud of it.”

The Fight is out now on DVD and digital.

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