An interview with screenwriter Michelle Ashford – The Upcoming

Operation Mincemeat: interview with screenwriter Michelle Ashford

April 14, 2022


In this stranger-than-fiction layered spy thriller, storytelling itself is as much its central subject as the elaborate ruse a group of bureaucrats concocted to help the Allies defeat the Germans in World War II. .

Ground Meat Operation takes as its premise the events described in a book by Ben Macintyre, which that author in turn based on Ewen Montagu’s 1956 memoir and film The man who never was. To make things even more meta, the idea for the ruse also came from a novel, read by Ian Fleming of all, who before his James Bond writing days was an MI5 agent himself. In a nutshell, they sought to scare the Nazis off the scent of an invasion of Sicily by planting false documents alluding to an invasion of Greece on a dead body, making it look like it was a soldier who crashed and drowned.

Bringing it to life is an all-star cast led by ultimate stiff upper lip Colin Firth as intelligence officer Montagu opposite the ever-brilliant Matthew Macfayden as Charles Cholmondeley – the pair moving between comedic duo and the moment-to-moment adversarial contestants – then Kelly Macdonald as the shrewd Jean Leslie, who finds herself the object of both of their affections. Johnny Flynn plays another awesome trick, here as Fleming, Jason Isaacs is a fantastic Admiral John Henry Godfrey, who is said to have inspired Bond M’s spy chief, and they’re all led by John Madden from Shakespeare in love Fame.

It’s a period piece perfectly done in the vein of darkest hour or Munich: the brink of war where heroism is not a soldier’s battle on the front line nor embodied by a lone Maverick outmaneuvering his opponents, but rather displayed by those in the shadows in a dusty basement, working together as a team through thick and thin to change the course of history. It also cleverly highlights the role of women in those times, who may have been shut out of boardrooms but nevertheless played a central role behind the scenes. And it wonderfully celebrates both the joy of storytelling and our shared love of spy thrillers, as well as how being creative can be just as powerful as wielding a gun, with a tone that oscillates between humor and seriousness. Moreover, the underlying resonance of a film about competing narratives, smoke and mirrors and misinformation, with peace in Europe at stake, is hard to ignore.

The Upcoming had a fascinating chat with screenwriter Michelle Ashford about adapting Macintyre’s book and collaborating with director Madden, seeing an all-star cast bring their screenplay from Firth to life in Macdonald, how the film is so much a an ode to storytelling itself and to the unexpected relevance of history in light of recent events in Europe.

Sarah Bradbury

Ground Meat Operation airs nationwide on the 15thand April 2022.

Watch the trailer for Ground Meat Operation here: