All Quiet on the Western Front screenwriter Lesley Paterson talks to Chris Evans about how the film differs from the novel

Virgin Radio

27 Sep 2023, 13:13

All Quiet on the Western Front screenwriter Lesley Paterson talks to Chris Evans on Virgin Radio.

Triathlete and writer Lesley Paterson joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch to talk about penning the BAFTA and Academy Award-winning film All Quiet on the Western Front.

Set during World War I, the movie follows the life of a young German soldier named Paul Bäumer who enlists in the German Army. Lesley co-wrote the screenplay for the 1928 anti-war novel, having bought an option to the film rights of the book in 2006. Explaining what appealed to her about the story, she said: “It was about the underdog. I think, because I'm from that Scottish background, I can really relate to that, that everyman fighting against the upper brass. 

“And also seeing it from the other side. Seeing it from the side of the enemy. We're never taught that. You know, it's all about how wonderful Great Britain is, and so on and so forth. And really, it's like, the humanity in our enemy. And I think that's what we need to learn from.”

The screenwriter told Chris: “When you're adapting a novel like this you do a lot of research. And in the research, what struck me was the fact that World War One set up World War Two, and people do not know that. And it's a lesson to be learned. 

“And so that was a part of the script that we brought to the table that was not in the novel, actually the last six hours of the war, the armistice being signed and the historical context. And what a dramatic through line. I mean, the last six hours of the war, when the war was already over, the armistice had been signed, tens of thousands of men were killed. That's like this microcosm of the tragedy, of the event in its entirety.”

Directed by Edward Berger, the film was released through Netflix in 2022 and won four Oscars from nine nominations, and seven BAFTAs from 14 nominations. Recalling the first time she got to see it, Lesley said: “I sat there like a ball of nerves. It was amazing. It was scary. I was sweating. I was crying. It was very surreal, and then instantly spoke to Ed on the phone afterwards, and it was just like and bits. Just in bits. I mean, what an honour to have your project made into something like that.”

Lesley and her psychology professor husband Simon Marshall have just launched their own production company, BraveArt Entertainment. Their first project is writing and producing a film called Hidden. She told Chris: “We're actually shooting a film in Scotland and highlands in Glencoe, and that we're working with Karen Gillan on that. So that's going to be really fun.

“It's gonna be great. It's a really gritty, dark film.”

Former rugby player Lesley has over 400 triathlons to her name and has won the 2011, 2012 and 2018 XTERRA Triathlon World Championships as well as the 2012 and 2018 World Triathlon Cross Championships. She told Chris about even winning one while having a broken arm, and how it helped fund All Quiet on the Western Front. Read about that here.

All Quiet on the Western Front is available to watch on Netflix now. Hidden Begins Shooting Early 2024.

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.