28/11/2011 16:40 GMT

Rachel Weisz's Director Terence Davies On 'The Deep Blue Sea' And How Real Life Terrifies Him

"I live alone and I've been celibate for over 30 years. I've largely sacrificed my personal life, but if I hadn't protected my voice, it would have eroded my soul. I'm very timid, very scared of the world."

Director Terence Davies manages to be both understated and unpredictable in explaining how he's given himself over to his craft, most recently for The Deep Blue Sea, starring Rachel Weisz, Simon Russell Beale and Tom Hiddleston.

Perhaps it also explains why, when he's not documenting the woes of his childhood at the hands of his temperamental father (Of Time and the City, Madonna and Child) Davies delights in documenting the social fall-out when people, particularly women, do shake themselves of free from such constraint, either self-imposed or at the hands of others, often for love:

"I see that, if you really love someone, you are completely open to them. For me, love only becomes undignified when it is possessive. I saw this with a particular sister-in-law, who was very possessive of my brother, and my mother used to tell her how silly she was, and she said, 'I know but I can't help it.'

"I wanted to document this pain and struggle. If someone betrays you by going off with someone else, they are undignified but you are not. You have to be able to let someone go. Saying that… I don't know if I could do it."

Davies' open fear of all things that involve social interaction does not extend to his work on screen, where he maintains instead an almost messianic defiance of the commercial side of film-making in favour of the personal.

"I have turned work down, not a lot, but I can't do it unless I can see it. Unless I'm telling my story, I can't see where to put the camera, I don't know what to put on the soundtrack, I just wouldn't be able to frame the shot."

Davies' single-mindedness has meant that, despite critical acclaim for his work, the Liverpool-born director has spent much of the last two decades out of work, with inevitable financial cost.

"Because of those eight years I did not work, I'm in huge amounts of debt which I will be paying off until I'm 92," he announces without rancour. "I'm not a successful director, if what is meant by that is financial gain, but I hate that measure. Some of the most wonderful films ever - Citizen Kane, Letter From an Unknown Woman - made money only over a long period of time, and no one's prepared to wait that long."

Despite this singular forbearance, or perhaps because of it, Davies has garnered performances from some of the most respected actresses around. The House of Mirth put television star Gillian Anderson on the big screen in 2000, this time it's Rachel Weisz, an achievement about which the director remains sanguine.

"I simply told Rachel, 'If you don't take it, I don’t know what I'll do, as I haven't even considered anyone else.'

"You hope for chemistry, but you never know whether it's going to work or not. I'd never seen Simon Russell Beale act, I'd only seen him present a television programme on music, but I just thought it would work."

If only Davies could enjoy as much sangfroid when it comes to his own affairs, but seems, sadly, a reach too far.

"My films are fearless, but in real life I'm very frightened," he reflects. "If I go abroad, I worry all the time that I'm going to lose my way, or my money, it's a constant worry, and that's no way to live. I hear of other people going across India, sleeping on trains with £5 in their pockets… I was asked to go to Jerusalem but there was no point. I knew I'd just spend the whole time worrying whether the lavatory was in full working order."

Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea is now showing in cinemas. Watch the trailer below: