“He lived his life through cinema”: Co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney on The Real Charlie Chaplin
Is there anyone on this planet who wouldn’t recognise the silhouette of Charlie Chaplin? Arguably to this day the most famous entertainer who ever lived, there still remains a shroud of mystery about who the man really was.
This intriguing and expertly crafted documentary from co-directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney delves into that mystery headfirst, unearthing facts about the person behind “The Tramp” character, from his childhood in abject poverty in a Lambeth workhouse through to his rise to phenomenal worldwide success in comedy and silent film, then onto his later life rejected from Hollywood and America for his so-called Communist political views, plus all the self-doubt and less savoury moments in between.
Using a tapestry of archival footage, film clips, reconstructed scenes with original audio and narration in Pearl Mackie’s dulcet tones, the documentary is an immensely pleasurable watch to celebrate the ingenious artistry and varied achievements of Chaplin’s career. It is educational about elements of his life that young(ish) viewers might not have known about him, such as his parallels with Hitler, while also not shying away from darker aspects of his character, such as his relationships with his four very young wives and ruthlessly perfectionist nature.
Perhaps most fascinating is that, despite all that has been pieced together about Chaplin in this documentary and beyond, he remains as elusive as ever. In attempting to pin him down, The Real Charlie Chaplin reveals just how much of a chameleon he really was, with his life feeding seamlessly into his art and vice versa. The inability to delineate where the performer ended and the man began is also a reflection pertinent to today’s era of social media versus reality.
The Upcoming had the pleasure of speaking with co-directors Middleton and Spinney about telling the life story of the comic genius through a fresh lens and paying tribute while exposing darker sides of the man behind the famed character.
The Real Charlie Chaplin is released in select UK cinemas and digitally on demand on 18th February 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Real Charlie Chaplin here: