The short that became Tyrannosaur

4 July, 2012 11:32am

When we last looked at a feature-length piece of cinematic magic inspired by a humble short, we told you all about The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That’s Walt Disney’s eight minute short that became the wonderful Fantasia, NOT the big-budget Jerry Bruckheimer film featuring Nicholas Cage looking like a homeless, out-of-work wizard.

However, our next inductee into this popular feature isn’t quite as enchanting and heart-warming as a mouse making a mess with dancing mops. Instead, it begins with a dog brutally kicked to death by a grumpy Scotsman. Hardly Disney material is it?

The short: Dog Altogether

We’re talking about Paddy Considine’s 16 minute short, Dog Altogether, which last year was transformed into the critically acclaimed Tyrannosaur. Not only did this mark the actor’s first flirtation with a world behind the camera, Considine also wrote the short, almost out of sheer necessity. After years of contributing his own ideas to other people’s films, he thought it was about time he found his own voice. He had also begun to resent acting, as it gave him little control over the film’s final look and presentation - something he wanted more of an input in.


Armed with a budget of £60,000 and Ken Loach and Alan Clarke films ringing in his ears, Considine set to work on his very first film, with Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth acting as his biggest influence. Originally hoping to film in his hometown of Burton-Upon-Trent, shooting moved north of the border to Glasgow because of heavy Scottish funding.

Filmed on a bitterly cold January day in 2007, Dog Altogether tells the story of Joseph, a lonely, unemployed widower who suffers from bouts of unnecessary fits of violence and rage. When an outburst at his local pub leaves a couple of customers bloodied and beaten, Joseph does a runner, taking shelter in the clothes rack of a nearby charity shop run by sweet-natured Christian woman, Anita. With Joseph seeking some redemption and Anita taking pity on him, they spark up an unlikely friendship.

Scottish actor Peter Mullen was cast for the part of the ill-tempered Joseph - a role loosely inspired by Considine’s late father. Most recently seen in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, Mullen has also appeared in the likes of Braveheart, Trainspotting and even Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One. Having already worked with her in Hot Fuzz in the same year, Considine approached darling of the short film scene Olivia Colman to fill the part of the kind-hearted Anita, a role he felt was perfect for her.


The short proved to be a huge critical success, picking up awards at film festivals in Edinburgh, Seattle and Venice, as well as at the British Independent Film Awards and even winning a BAFTA for Best Short Film.

In the couple of years that followed, Considine returned to acting. He appeared in The Bourne Ultimatum alongside Matt Damon, Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine, the Shane Meadows film Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee with Olivia Colman, and the Jason Statham film Blitz

The feature: Tyrannosaur

Deciding to get back behind the camera, Considine opted to revisit his four-year-old short and expand on the story he’d already laid out. He recast both Mullen and Colman in the same roles, (albeit Anita now Hannah) and added Eddie Marsden as Hannah’s husband.


Filmed around Leeds and Wakefield, Tyrannosaur (a metaphor explained in the film) tells the same story as Dog Altogether but with more about Joseph’s life, his ‘friends’ and neighbours. Meanwhile, Hannah’s own dark story creates the film’s backbone. Still a low-budget film - clocking in at around £750,000 - Considine used local residents and members of his crew as extras.

Like its predecessor, Considine’s feature debut gained massive critical plaudits. It scooped awards at festivals in Germany, Russia, France, Chicago, Croatia, Greece, Argentina, Romania and Sundance. King of The Critics Roger Ebert called Peter Mullen’s performance ‘muscular and unrelenting’, going on to say ‘this isn't the kind of movie that even has hope enough to contain a message. There is no message, only the reality of these wounded personalities.’ Closer to home, both Considine and Colman gained huge recognition from BAFTA, Empire, the London Critics Circle and the British Independent Film Awards.

The appeal of Dog Altogether and Tyrannosaur stems from their sense of grim, grubby, unashamed reality. And somehow, Paddy Considine manages to get the audience to take pity on a violent, racist, unpredictable, dog-murdering Scotsman with a filthy mouth. Now that’s quite the accomplishment for a first-time director.

Rob Young

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