Interview: Director John Goldschmidt on “Dough”

Posted on May 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm

John Goldschmidt is the director and co-producer of the film “Dough,” a sweet comedy about an Orthodox Jewish baker (Jonathan Pryce) whose new assistant is a Muslim teenager from Darfur who has a side business dealing weed. The marijuana gets mixed up in the bread, and suddenly the bakery has a lot of new customers just as a predatory developer is trying to take it over and the baker’s son is trying to get him to retire.

In an interview, he told me that he made this film because he was looking for a project that had “something to say about the state of the world that’s particularly relevant but it will also entertain, in other words a film that will treat serious issues with a comedic like touch.” In a film like this one, he said, casting the lead “sets the standard for everything” and attracts the other performers. His casting director, Celestia Fox, called to tell him she had seen Pryce at a party and he had a beard, so he already looked the part. “Jonathan is one of the most celebrated theater actors in London. Once he’s involved, other people seem to say, ‘This is must be a good project.’ So Pauline Collins, who acted with Jonathan Pryce years ago at the National Theater loved the script, knew about me and got involved.

It was more of a challenge to find the young man to play the African immigrant. “I auditioned a lot of people and choose six of them along with Jonathan Pryce to see the chemistry between them.” Jerome Holder won the role. “I chose Darfur as the country for this Muslim boy to come from because I had seen George Clooney’s film about the persecution of the African Muslims in their villages by Arab horsemen. I thought the people looked so beautiful. I wanted to avoid the complexities of the Middle East. I wanted it to be unencumbered by that whole situation. We needed to get all that detail about Darfur and we needed to get Jerome to have an African accent. He’s from a Christian family, a church based family. He had to acquire an African accent for his dialogue. He did very well I thought because I didn’t want it to be too strong for people to be alienated by it and yet he couldn’t really talk like a London guy. I didn’t want him to have a dialogue coach because if you get too self-conscious about these things it can knock around with your head. I just wanted him to retain his naturalness because he’d never been in a movie before.”

Goldschmidt, whose favorite Jewish bakery treat is challah, said Pryce spent a week in a kosher bakery to play a man who has been baking for decades. They shot in Budapest, where they completely replicated the Jewish bakery in North London. “My producers say that a lot of the best films about America are being made by European directors who see America through fresh eyes,” he told me. His own background contributes to his tendency to appreciate cultural differences. “My family are classified as victims of Nazi persecution. I was born in London, I grew up in Vienna. Came to England to go to art school when I was 17. And so in a sense although everyone thinks of me as totally British, I do have a slightly different angle on things. I just liked this particular idea because it’s like the odd couple. It’s about two characters who are as different as possible could be. One is old the other is young. One is black, the other is white. One is Jewish the other is a Muslim. I wanted to make an entertaining, uplifting movie in the end. This is the story of a very unlikely friendship and I wanted to make a film in these dark times where people would leave the cinema with a smile on their face and yet at the same time I wanted to address the issues that I thought one has to deal with in this period that we are living in.”

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