He has long wanted to adapt Laurence Sterne’s 18th-century novel Tristram Shandy for film, with Steve Coogan (who starred in 24 Hour Party People) in the title role. It’s a comic masterpiece that plays with narrative forms, and Winterbottom is seeking a filmic equivalent, part scripted, part improvised. But persuading financiers has been hard.
“It’s strange,” he says. “Wonderland, In This World, 24 Hour, Nine Songs, all had a lot of improvisation. Two of them had no scripts at all. We go to financiers who tell us they love all those films. We say we want to improvise the next one and they’re not happy with that. They hate it if we say: ‘Give us the money now and we’ll come back with a film in a year. We’re not sure what it’ll be like, but we think it’ll be interesting.'”