The director Rocky Morton, whose work for Fox Sports won a Lion at Cannes, has a signature style: his comic dramas, shot in a deliberately flat visual style, focus on the frustrations of ordinary folk and the cruel fates they encounter.

Thematically, he couldn't have travelled further from Max Headroom, the talky, computer-animated TV host he created in the 80s with Annabel Jankel, his wife and business partner. Now, he commutes between the London and Los Angeles offices of his production company, MJZ, and his homes in Venice Beach and Hampstead.

In pursuit of realness, Morton eschews famous actors for unknown faces.

"I have seen literally thousands of people for some roles," he says: "I'm looking for an actor who has the ability to portray themselves as a real person."

Once that "real" actor is found, his acting skills might not be needed.

In one Fox spot, the lid of a dumpster falls on to the head of an ice-hockey fan while he's putting out the trash. On the set, Morton had rigged the dumpster so the actor received a real blow to the skull. "It's better that you do three takes and you hurt yourself than we fake it," Morton says.

Morton's cruelty extends to the emotional. In a spot for the VW Passat, a father drives away from his wife and daughter rather than allow the little girl to stain his new car with ice-cream. "You can't always be funny and nice. To be cruel and funny - those things go together well," he says.

Mostly, it is the attention to detail that puts a Morton spot over the edge. For Ikea, Morton created a Scandinavian warehouse labourer who inspires his co-workers with homespun wisdoms and guru-like feats of endurance.

Before the shoot, Morton wrote an elaborate back-story for the character: he's a former merchant seaman who went to prison, where he received a set of grim tattoos. The actor who played the role, however, understood virtually no English, and the story was therefore useless. "He just said the lines with no emotion or intonation whatsoever," Morton says, laughing.

The result is the oddly pleasing idiot-savant who intones: "This is the way of Ikea - the way it's always been."

- Rocky Morton was talking to Jim Edwards.

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