Films that changed my life: Samuel Barnett

Farhana Gani 

The History Boys' Samuel Barnett is starring as Dirk Gently in the new TV adaptation of Douglas Adams’ comic novels. He tells us about three films that are important to him.

Samuel Barnett plays the hyper, absurd, eponymous British detective in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency in the brand new adaptation of Douglas Adams' (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who) wildly successful comic, supernatural novels.

Samuel shares with us three films that have not necessarily changed him but have certainly stayed with him and probably always will.


Stand By Me

Director: Rob Reiner

I was quite young, about nine, when I first saw this film, and I watched it again and again and again !

There’s something perfect about it. It was originally adapted from the Steven King novella, The Body, so there’s obviously the horror of discovering the body that is quite central to the film. But I also loved the acting and the sound track.

I didn’t know anything about film technique at the time but I remember loving the way it was shot.

Two particular scenes will always stay with me. The boys walking along the railway tracks and putting their ears to the tracks to listen out for any trains in the distance. And in the second shot the boys are walking down a really dusty road and the camera is on their backs.

I loved the humour and the danger, but above all it was a film about friendship. For me, at the time, it was a sophisticated thing to watch people interact in the way that they did. I’m sure it helped me understand friendship more because I was watching four boys who clearly got on well and fought with each and were still best friends.

I think I first caught it on TV but then I got the video and bought the soundtrack. It was also my first introduction to River Phoenix, who will always be one of the very best.



Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

I realise I have two Stephen King adaptations in my mix, and this isn’t a film but a TV mini-series! Incidently, I also love Misery, based on yet another King novel, but we’ll save that for another time! I love IT for all the wrong reasons because I hate IT, actually!

I was nine or ten-years-old and everyone at school was talking about it, and I had never seen a horror film. It was my first horror film! And I cannot bear watching horror films! I don’t like horrors because I don’t like anticipation. I hate that feeling of somebody about to jump out at you. Remember The Nightmare on Elm Street films? All the kids at school were excited about them, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch them.

I did make myself watch IT, though. I was horribly fascinated but I could only watch it during daylight hours in 20-minute instalments. I remember that if was raining outside I wouldn’t watch it. There had to be sunshine!

IT, adapted from the Stephen King novel, starring Tim Curry

I found Tim Curry absolutely terrifying. IT contained so many things I was frightened of— ghosts, spiders and that dreadful build-up of tension. Years later I did see another horror, The Blairwitch Project, but these are the only two horrors tI've seen and that's more than enough!


The Hours

Director: Stephen Daldry

This is very different film. It’s rare that I watch something and feel devastated by it and this film left me drained and in tears. I do cry easily, I’m easily emotionally manipulated. The Hours is one of the best depictions of depression that I have ever seen on screen.

When I was younger I certainly struggled a little with it and so when I watched the film it touched me very deeply and it stayed with me. I think depression is hard to talk about and it’s also difficult to show someone, who might not fully understand, the impact of what depression is like. But The Hours does this brilliantly.

Julianne Moore is phenomenal. Nicole Kidman is outstanding. And Toni Collette gives an extraordinary performance of someone who can’t bring herself to breakdown but it seeps out anyway.

I know we’re all very subjective and we all see what we want to see but I’ve watched The Hours twice and it had the same effect on me. I came away feeling that this is truly a phenomenal study of depression. It’s about the stuff that can’t be spoken.


Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is an eight-part TV series now available on Netflix.

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