Two of our favourite British movies ever are Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People and Paddy Considine’s 2011 masterpiece Tyrannosaur; so what better way to celebrate that fact than to have a little chat with actor Paul Popplewell, who starred in both?! Answer: There isn’t a better way chump.
Hey Paul. Let’s start things off with the obvious – What was it like to work for Paddy?
A pleasure! I can honestly say that working on Tyrannosaur was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my career. Paddys script was incredible, we shot it with a small crew on a small budget and there was a real feeling by everybody on the set that we were making something very special.
Had you been a fan of his for awhile?
I think Paddy is an incredibly talented actor, writer and director. From his debut in A Room for Romeo Brass right through to Tyrannosaur. Our friendship and working relationship began on the set of 24 Hour Party people back in 2001 which we both acted in.
What kind of director is he? Is it different working for a friend?
His set was very relaxed. He knew what he wanted… It’s the second time I’ve worked on one of paddy’s projects; the first being Dog Altogether, and I’d do it again and again given the chance. He’s a great director as far as im concerned. As an actor you feel very relaxed, safe and valued on his set which gives you the freedom to be creative.
He always seems lovely in interviews so I can imagine he’s a great boss! Where did you find the inspiration for Bod? Was it your creation or Paddy’s?
Well what was in the script was pretty brilliant, when I read it, I knew the sort of bloke he was and how I’d play him. You see people like that all the time in life, but the look of the character and the name Bod came about in the make up chair the day before filming. We’d decided on a shaved head and I wanted some shit home made tattoos, I was telling Paddy and the makeup designer Nadia about the ones pals did at school in art when we were about 14. I only did a dot on my hand with a badge point and Indian ink, but some mates did dots on their knuckles. One of my mates tattooed (really badly) his nickname Bod and a cross into his arm! Paddy said that’s great do that, so that’s what Nadia did to me and that’s what we ended up calling my character.
Was it a similar thing with Bod’s walk? It’s pretty distinctive!
The way I walk my dog came about on set one day whilst filming a different scene. We were outside talking about the dog walking scene and Paddy said ‘I really want people to remember you when you walk your dog, I want it to be different and not obvious’; and with that, this guy walked past us and in to his front garden. Paddy said to him ‘mate is that how you walk your dog’; Paddy turns to me and says ‘That’s how you’ve got to walk your dog’ – I did and it looks brilliant.
Well you were bloody intimidating as Bod, so thank God for that passing dog walker! You’ve done some bits and pieces with Steven Coogan over the years – Are you friends or does he come to you as a trusted hand?
I’ve worked with Steve four times now I think. Like Paddy and I; Steve and I also met on 24 Hour Party people and from their we became friends. I’ve mostly just done little bits in stuff as a mate. Saxondale came about because I text him saying I was watching it on Dave, telling him how good I thought it was, having missed it when it was on first time around. He text back saying he was making series 2 and then I got asked to come in to do a bit and it was good fun to do. The Trip was the last thing we did together, and again it was only a little bit. But that came via Michael Winterbottom who directed it; I got a call asking if I wanted to come and have some fun with him and Steve, a lot of the people who worked on The Trip are mates of mine so it was a no brainer.
The Trip was great, but 24 Hour Party people is an amazing movie – What was like to work on? Any fond memories?
It was a very, very unique experience….a one off! It’s a very good film and we had the most fun making it. I met friends for life on that film, lots of the cast and crew are still good friends with each other. I was a big fan of the Happy Mondays growing up, so to end up playing Paul Ryder was surreal but brilliant. Lots and lots of fond memories – many parties, a couple of trips to Cannes, we did gigs as the ‘Happy Mondays’ at the wrap, the premier party at the Astoria! Lots of fun.
What is Michael Winterbottom like as a director? How does he compare to Paddy?
I don’t really know how to answer that, they’re both different. But I think all directors are different in the way they work and interact with actors. I love working with them both. I’ve worked with Michael four or five times now and Paddy twice. They’re both friends and I’d always say yes to working with them again, it’s always a good experience.
Tyrannosaur is one of those movies that only Britain could produce – How do you feel the British movie industry is getting on currently? Have the cuts affected it in your eyes?
There is definitly less money around and less being made than there used to be but people have been saying that every year for what feels like the last 10 years. Government cuts will obviously effect this even more, with less money there will obviously be less and less films being made which is bad for the industry. It’s a shame. It’s very difficult to get films financed at the moment, especially for a first time film maker.
Take Tyrannosaur for example, it had secured finance of £1.5 million and half was pulled, so instead of holding out to try get more money, it was shot on a budget of only £750,000. This said, the British film industry is still making brilliant films and it needs the British public to support by going to the cinema to see the films.
What’s your favorite British movie?
I don’t think I have a favorite film/best film, I go by the principle that if you can nail down the best/favorite film, book, song or album you need to experience more; but that’s just my opinion. The film that I’ve watched more than any other film as an adult is Withnail and I, I love it, utterly fantastic, a classic. Though I do say this an adult. As a kid I used to watch another British film over and over again – Bugsy Malone.
Who are your film idols? Are they British too?
I grew up watching and admiring Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Deniro, Al Pacino; but there are so many actors I admire, too many to mention really. The likes of Sean Penn, Ed Norton, Brad Pitt, William H Macy, Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington…I could go on. I’d love to work with Tom Courtenay too. It’s the same with directors as well. There are so many great ones that you’d like to work with! I’ve met both Mike Leigh and Ken Loach within the last couple of years, unfortunately I didn’t get the gigs but I’d love to work with them one day.
After the success of Tyrannosaur they’ll no doubt come knocking! Let’s end on a random one shall we – If you could hold a Come Dine With Me evening, who would be your 4 film character guests?
This is a bit like picking your best film, as soon as I get down to four I want to push someone out and put someone else in! So I’ll theme the subject around boxing and they’ll all be real people. Mike Tyson played himself in The Hangover and he’s also himself in ‘Tyson’, so I’ll have Mike. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter from The Hurricane played by Denzel Washington without doubt. Muhammad Ali in Ali by Will Smith and Jim Braddock played by Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man. I guess I’ll have to have a 5th name as a reserve in case one of the others is ill and can’t make dinner…hmmmm…Rocky Balboa!
Haha brilliant, something tells us boxing may be a rather large part of the conversation during that evening! Thanks for chat Paul, congratulations on Tyrannosaur and keep up the good work.
Tyrannosaur is now in cinemas so go and bloody well see it!
“Unforgettable cinema at its thought-provoking best. Dear Mr Considine…take a bow son” ★★★★★
If you’d like to chat to Paul, you can find him below on both Twitter or/and Facebook…isn’t Social Networking marvellous:
Paul Popplewell Twitter @paulpopplewell
Paul Popplewell Facebook www.facebook.com/paulpopplewellactor