Monday, 25 October 2010

An Interview with Alain Whyte

I first met Alain Whyte when I was labouring under the, mistaken, belief that I was the second coming of Morrissey. It didn’t matter to me that Morrissey wasn’t dead (creatively or physically) I just knew that I was to be His Masters Voice for my generation.

That involved cultivating a quiff, dressing like, moving like and attempting to sing like Morrissey. I gathered a hardy band of similarly delusional people around me and formed a group called “This Years Model”; we thought that was very clever because it meant we would always be in fashion. Seriously. I’m not making this up. I was utterly without talent, had no style, was obnoxious and doomed, thankfully, to failure.

However, before one memorable gig we discovered that we were to play second on the bill to a band called Johnny Panic. Lead singer Ben (Gunstone) introduced himself to us and chatted for a while. When he found out we were all massive Morrissey fans he sighed, paused and then explained that his lead guitarist was a chap called Alain Whyte.

When I regained consciousness and was assured that his wasn’t a lie and that Alain Whyte actually was in the building and would be playing in front of my little eyes I nearly wept.

Alain Whyte.

Guitarist and songwriter with Morrissey since 1991...he was responsible for more of my favourite songs than any other person (yes, even Johnny apologies to those who will view this as nothing short of blasphemy) and was a performer I had followed around the country to more gigs than I can even count. After the show, which took place in front of less than a dozen people, Alain chatted with us and, due to the limited budget of the Johnny Panic tour ended up sleeping in my little brothers bedroom alongside Ben Gunstone. Getting up in the morning to find one of your heroes eating cornflakes with your dad at the kitchen table is a good memory to have.

Alain is now a songwriter for a wide range of diverse acts including, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Kid Cudi and his own project “Setting Fires” as well as continuing to provide killer tracks for Morrissey. Living in L.A and happily married now it was great to be able to sit down and ask him some questions about his career, movies and Morrissey.

Given that he has toured the world, played on the same bill as David Bowie, sold out the biggest arenas and worked with some of the biggest names in the business I wondered what moment from his time working with Morrissey really stood out from the rest.

“My time working with Morrissey was very memorable in a lot of ways.  I was able to play some amazing venues like Wembley Arena at the end of the “Kill Uncle” tour and the Hollywood Bowl in 1992.  I’ve also been to places in the world I would never have been to; Argentina and Chile are particular highlights for me.  Recording each of the albums and working with great musicians and producers has been a delight too, when I think back on those times and those people it’s impossible to pick just one highlight.”

For a man who is living in L.A and successfully mixing it with the A list in the music business Alain is remarkably unaffected. He is warm, outgoing, friendly and very funny. He litters his conversation with silly stories, noises and jokes. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that he really has been a part of the rock and roll world for so long, a place that normally leaves people battle scarred both physically and mentally.
Let’s fantasise for a while now and set about making “Alain Whyte: The Movie”. Who would you like to see cast in the lead role and who could ever take on board the part of Morrissey?

“It’s got to be a young Johnny Depp, no?  Maybe I’m just biased!  He’s an amazing actor though and he can play guitar too so he would be perfect...and he does a mean English accent too.  As for someone to play, thats a tough one.  The person who played him would have to be able to capture his voice and his phrasing, since the way he speaks is so much of his character.  Also, not many people look like him so finding someone to play him wouldn’t be easy.”

Music would obviously play a big part in that movie so what would you have playing over the opening and closing credits? Let’s have two of your own songs and then two by other artists.

“I think I would have either “First of the Gang to Die” or “This Means War” from the Setting Fires EP for the opening credits and then “The Edges Are No Longer Parallel” over the closing credits.  “The Edges...” is one of my favourite Morrissey tracks and I think it would be a great ending of “Alain Whyte: The Movie”! If I were to choose music by other people then I love “Hollow Man” by The Cult, it’s a proper rocker and it would be a great track to open a movie then I would want either “Mystery Train” by Elvis or “Don’t Come Back Knocking” by Buddy Holly to close it.”

For someone who loves film as much as I do I’m afraid to say that I can’t remember what the first film I ever saw was but I can tell you the first time I saw Alain play live (1991, Caird Hall, Dundee...Kill Uncle tour fact fans) but what about you Al, can you remember the first film you saw at the cinema?

“I was about 14 and I went to see “Bugsy Malone” at a theatre in the West End of London with my dad.  It made a huge impression on me.  Even now it’s one of my favourite movies.  The seventies were such a great time for movies and I can remember going to see classics like “Jaws”, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” at the cinema.”

If you were only ever going to be able to see one movie for the rest of your life what would you choose?

“The one film that made the biggest impression on me was “Loving You” from 1957 which was Elvis second movie and was about his rise to the top.  It’s easy for people to be critical of the movies Elvis made but in all honesty if it wasn’t for that movie I don’t think I would be in the position I am in now, that’s how much of an inspiration it was to me.”

A quick fire round now Alain...

Which movie would you select for a first date to ensure that the evening ended well?

“Oh man!  I’m a married man can’t ask me that!  Well, if I wasn’t married...women like a guy who can make them laugh, right?  So maybe something like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” which really made me laugh or a light hearted Elvis movie.  If those failed then maybe the classic “From Here To Eternity”.

A movie to let the world know you were happy?

“I have to admit that I am a sucker for a really silly comedy and movies like “Caddyshack” or “Dumb and Dumber” .  They always make me laugh and put me in a good mood so I would go for one of those.”

A movie to let the world know you are sad?

“I’m a pretty positive character so I would probably try to choose something that was feel good to set me right again.  If I had to choose something more downbeat to reflect that sort of mood then maybe something like “Million Dollar Baby” which has such a sad ending.”

What about now Alain? Can you say anything about what’s going on with you?

“At the present I have been working with a team of writers called Free School and we have been doing songs for various pop artists.  I’ve also just released the first Setting Fires EP with Mat Devine from Kill Hannah.  I’m really pleased with it.  It’s available now on iTunes so you should go out and buy it! “

There you have it, a shameless plug for his new project and he’s gone, back to the sunshine or, more likely, back to the studio.

Alain Whyte, there spoke a true friend.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

An Interview With Johnny Harris

Johnny Harris.

J-o-h-n-n-y H-a-r-r-i-s

Write it down.

Mean anything to you?

Recognise it?


For some of you the name of Johnny Harris will sit alongside words and phrases like “quality”, “actor”, “genuinely gifted” and “talent”. For those of you unfamiliar with the name let me give you a list of films/television shows to go and order right now from some online store; “Gangster No.1”, “London To Brighton”, “Black Death”, “This is England ’86” and if you want a night out then the soon to be released “Huge”. Make no mistakes Johnny Harris is a man who does quality and gives it too.

Most recently he has graced (and that is the right word) our screens in the brilliant “This Is England ’86” alongside Thomas Turgoose, Jo Hartley, Vicky McClure, Stephen Graham and director Shane Meadows. He was responsible for giving us a true screen monster in the shape of the violent, sadistic, twisted and perverted “Mick” a man who had absolutely no redeeming qualities.

A part of your performance in “This Is England ’86” involved a genuinely shocking, brutal sexual attack on the character “Lol” who was “Micks” daughter. That scene reduced me to tears and also made me feel physically ill, which sounds a bit over the top but it’s the truth. Vicky McClure shared with us the fact that her preparation with you for that scene was intensely private and was something that she would never share. Can you tell me how you prepare a character like “Mick”?

“Shane Meadows preperation is flawless and he gave me plenty of time and created exercises to help me keep on digging for the answers to Mick. We found the character together really. Because of the nature of the beast that we were dealing with, elements of that preperation will always remain private and that's streered me away from mentioning Vicky McClure in interviews on the subject up until now. I will say now though that that scene was shot over three days and she went to places physically, mentally and spiritually that I've not witnessed another actor go to! She allowed me to go there with her and I'll be forever greatful to her for that experience. She is a phenomenal talent and it's been lovely to watch the publics reaction to the character she's created. I hope the industry recognises it too as it really is an astonishingly beautiful performance. Danielle Watson also deserves a mention if we're talking about preperation as I couldn't have wished for a more talented and dedicated young actress to work on that scene with either.”

Were you already a fan of Shane Meadows before taking on the role and, if so, how important was the fact that he was going to be so heavily involved in the writing and directing of the show to you?

“It was a massive deal for me! The film 'This is England' had a huge impact on me and came out around the same time as 'London to Brighton' and I remember thinking something really exciting was happening in British cinema. Shane along with Mark Herbert (his producer) wrote an article in The Independent I think?...about actors to keep an eye on in the future and they named me as one of them! I cut that article out and and still have it to this day. That was back in 2006 and so when I finally got the call to go and meet him in Nottingham to audition for the part of 'Mick' there was a lot riding on it for me. I'll be forever greatful to him for entrusting me with Mick as there was a lot riding on it for him too. I feel genuinely blessed to have worked with him and it was a pleasure from start to finish! “

If we go back to the time when I first noticed you it was in the fun for all the family, rags to riches tale of “Gangster No.1” which, at the time, caused a huge amount of interest because it was so violent. It was brutal and yet beautiful at the same time, almost surreal in places. It was a far cry from the “Lock Stock” vision of gangsterdom. It also features a terrific performance from Malcolm McDowell. What was it like to work alongside an actor like that and on a project like that?

“Up until then I'd been working in the fringe theatre scene in London for a few years and had only done a few student films and so the oppurtunity really felt like it came out of nowhere. Before I knew it I was on a big film set in Berlin surrounded by amazing actors. I ran away to live in France in my late teens and 'A Clockwork Orange' wasn't banned there. I saw it for the first time in a little arthouse cinema in Paris and it had a powerful effect on me. It was one of the factors in me wanting to become an actor and so to then be cast in a movie with Malcom McDowell was a big deal. I didn't actually have a scene with him in Gangster No1 but got to spend time with him and watch him work which was a fantastic experience for a young actor.”

That’s a wonderful image, the rebellious teenager heading off to Europe in search of...well, he doesn’t know what but then finding it in an arthouse cinema in Paris with the raw stench of the old Ultraviolence filling his nostrils!

Following “Gangster No.1” you appeared in “London to Brighton” which, to my mind, is one of the great “lost” films of modern times. It’s a perfect film. Strong performances, honest performances and moving performances...sometimes all within a single scene and a terrific script from writer/director Paul Andrew Williams. It garnered a lot of praise but deserves to be seen by many more people. It dealt with some very difficult and unpleasant issues, the sorts of issues that people don’t normally talk about or see handled honestly in cinema, when you read that script what was it that attracted you to it?

“Initially If I'm honest, as a young actor I was just very excited to be told I was being offered a prominent role in a feature length movie! Then when I read the script my gut instinct told me it was something special and I also had a strong respect for, and trusted in Paul Andrew Williams as we'd worked together on his short film 'Royalty'. Although the themes in the film are unpleasant and challenging they're no different to what you'd find in a Shakespeare piece and so it was less about being scared of those issues and more about being authentic to them and paying them the respect they deserved and earning the right to play those characters. I've been sent many scripts dealing with the same themes that in my opinion weren't as respectful to their subjects despite having ten times the budget of 'London to Brighton' and have been offended by them to be honest, so I think the initial attraction is in the quality of the script and the relationship you feel with the director involved.”

“Black Death” (which is now out on DVD and is something you, dear reader, should make a point of buying) was a very different type of film in many ways; it was a “blockbuster” film, lots of action scenes, swords and fighting as well as elements of horror and the supernatural. It is also a “bigger” film than the others we have talked about here and I wonder if, as an actor, you are aware of the scale of a project (budget and star names) or do you simply lose yourself in the work?

“Again from the very first phone call with the director Chris Smith I was left in no doubt that he trusted me with that character and it really grew from there. There's a fantastic 'making of' featurette on the DVD extras that really captures the spirit of what it was like on that set. Working with that group of actors was one of the most enjoyable and educational experiences I've ever had. Sean Bean is not only a powerhouse of an actor but also a very generous and humble one. I learnt a huge amount from working with him and that ensemble and we've all remained in touch since filming ended. I think it's a terrific film.”

Johnny isn’t wrong here, “Black Death” is a terrific film and is a film that, again, deserves a much wider audience.

When you look at the films you have appeared in from "Gangster No. 1", "London to Brighton", "Dorian Gray", "Black Death" and even "Atonement" they are all very serious films; films that deal with important themes. Even something, apparently, light such as "Huge" also has a dark edge to it. Is it important to you that the projects you are involved with deal in those issues and what is it that draws you to such work?

“I guess the films and actors that inspired me, and made me start questioning things as a young man and want to learn how to act were the ones dealing with those same themes, and taking them seriously? I'm very interested in fear and how much it rules an individuals life and the effect that then has on the people around them...whether it manifests itself as anger, envy or whatever and so maybe that's another reason I'm drawn to these kinds of stories and characters? It might be as simple as I can't sing or dance!? “

On that light note in the midst of all this darkness I wonder if I can throw a pitch at you? I’m working on the film of your life which, tentatively, I am going to call “Johnny Be Bad”. I don’t have the experience, looks or talent to do the part justice so who would you cast in the lead role?

"Well, Eddie Marsan is a very close friend and a great actor and I'm always being mistaken for him so he'd be a front runner, although I'm told on good authority that Stephen Graham does a wickedly mean impression of me? Hmm.. so as not to hurt either of their feelings I'll have Daniel Day-Lewis thank you!"


Imagine that at your local multiplex...Daniel Day Lewis IS Johnny Harris in “Johnny Be Bad” the true story of one young actors struggles! I reckon I could be onto something here. If anyone has DLDs contact details could they forward them to me (but DO NOT forward him my review of “There Will Be Blood”...he wouldn’t like it!).

What about the soundtrack?

What would you choose to have for the opening and closing credits?

“Well it all felt very operatic and dramatic at the time so we'll have 'Nessun Dorma' to open and give them a taste of what's to come...and then Chas and Daves 'There aint no pleasing you!' to cheer them up on the way out and have a giggle with the critics.”

Now, there are not many actors with whom you could make that journey; from evil incarnate as “Mick” in “This Is England ’86” to a bit of Chas and Dave and a right good knees up in the space of just a few questions. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise though from an actor who has featured in films and television of impeccable class. Harris is the sort of actor who, if I were in charge, would never be out of work. He is never anything less than watchable and convincing on screen, not something you can say about every actor you see.

Johnny Harris.

Johnny Harris.

Johnny Harris.

Like I said at the start, write it’s a name you are going to hear a lot more often.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Crying With Laughter - DVD - 10/10/10

Funny old world isn't it?

Not if you are stand up comedian Joey Frisk it isn't.

Frisk is making a living and a name for himself trading in the type of comedy that has allowed Frankie Boyle to become notorious...deliberately, wilfully offensive remarks that stop short of being genuinely shocking and stay on the other side of the line, the side of the line occupied in years gone by by the likes of Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson except here the racism is replaced with misogyny and school boy crudity.

On the eve of his becoming a household name thanks to the impending visit of a major American agent Frisk stumbles across an old school "friend", the Northern Soul loving, ex-marine, Frank Archer. From their first encounter it is clear that Frank is bad news but Joey is too wrapped up in himself and his cocaine habit to notice...which is going to cause problems for him later on.

Soon enough Joey finds himself in all sorts of trouble with his wife, his agent, his landlord and the police as Frank begins to manipulate him in order to confront him with a shared secret from their past that Joey has been unaware of thanks, again, to Frank.

This is adult film making from director/writer Justin Molotnikov and he has crafted a believable set of characters in a world that we can all recognise. Dark, twisted and genuinely shocking "Crying With Laughter" also manages that rare trick of having us care about characters who are utterly repellent. Frisk (Stephen McCole) is arrogant, coke snorting, womanising bastard who is all easily identifiable in the world he inhabits (for proof just spend a few minutes in Edinburghs Pleasance courtyard during the Festival and evesdrop on certain comedians talking) and his redemption in a shocking denouement is all too welcome.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Rapt - Filmhouse - 8/10/10


"Rapt" is based, loosely, around the real life kidnapping of a French industrialist.

Here the industrialist is Stanislas Graff and his kidnapping leads to all manner of nastiness...not all of it perpetrated by his tormentors.

Graff is revealed to be a serial adulterer, a boor, a bore and not much of a husband or father. His time as a captive does not, thankfully, "change" him or lead to his "finding" himself. Instead he returns home angry and convinced that his real enemies are not those who hid behind balaclavas and lopped off his finger but are inside his boardroom and his bedroom.

"Rapt" starts off with a bang as Graff is abducted and then de-fingered but after that it progresses at a more thoughtful and though provoking pace. The boardroom wrangles over whether or not the company should act as guarantor for his ransom are as important and impressive as Graffs attempts to keep his "hosts" happy with him. Yvan Attal is superb as Graff and perfectly captures the arrogance and confidence of the free man and the cowering timidity of the captured one.

This is cool, sophisticated and stylish film making...which, as it is French, may be a little predictable!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Unloved - Filmhouse - 10/10/10

Screening as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival this is the directorial debut of Samantha Morton and is, at least in part, based on her own experiences of care homes and family breakdown.

With a style that, clearly, owes more than a little to Shane Meadows, Morton delivers an honest and moving film that highlights the horrors of growing up in care and of having parents who are barely worth the name.

A childs eye view film requires a child who can provide just that and in Molly Windsor "The Unloved" has unearthed a young actress with the ability to not just look the part but who can also act...not something that every child performer manages. As the abused, ignored, confused and unloved lead she carries the entire film on her narrow shoulders and does so magnificently.

A beautiful film about a very ugly subject.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Forgetting Sarah Marshall - DVD - 6/10/10


Where to start.


"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" made me laugh on more than one occasion and it also reminded me of the horrors of breaking up with someone you thought was "the one" (they never are of course...otherwise you wouldn't have broken up with them).

Jason Segel who also starred in two of the films that will forever feature in my top ten most loathed; "Knocked Up" and "I Love You Man" was really good as the broken "Peter Bretter" who runs away to Hawaii to find himself after breaking up with his glamorous actress girlfriend only to find her in the same hotel with her new lover.

That sounds like faint praise doesn't it?

He is good.

Someone else is good in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and this is where it gets tricky.

Russell Brand.

I don't think anyone has ever made me lurch so violently from love and adoration to hatred and rage as Russell Brand.

Here he plays Brit-rocker Aldous Snow...all faux spirituality, rampant sexuality and barely disguised sex addiction. Swap "Brit-rocker" for "Brit-comic" and we can see that this role was hardly a stretch form Mr Brand but credit where it is due; he was funny, he had presence and he was watchable.

More faint praise?

What do you want from me?

Just be thankful I was in a "loving" frame of mind when I wrote this!

Buried - Cineworld - 27/9/10

From "Tales of the Unexpected" (ask your granny) to "Kill Bill" the concept of someone being buried alive has been a staple of television and cinema.

I say "staple"...truth be told I'm hard pressed to think of another film/TV show that features someone being buried alive!

In "Buried" we are treated to an entire feature length film set totally within the confines of a coffin buried underground in the deserts of Iraq. The only light comes from a Zippo and the screen of a mobile telephone screen. The only person we see is "Paul", a US contractor working in Iraq, and we never see the outside world.

It is a daring film to make and director Rodrigo Cortes takes the script from Chris Sparling and produces a taut, claustrophobic (no surprise there) and convincing thriller that acts as a simple thriller and as a metaphor for the actions of the US (and, sadly, the UK) in Iraq.

Ryan Reynolds is a revelation as "Paul" and this may well be the role that elevates him from "heart-throb" and supporting actor to leading man. He is a mess of emotions here and all of them are convincing. It's a terrific performance and one that showed a real talent.

Devil - Cineworld - 27/9/10

M. Night Shyamalan INTRODUCES..."Devil"

I just wish Shyamalan would bugger off to his mansion and leave us all alone.

With every new film that has his name attached to it in any capacity it becomes easier and easier to forget just how good "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" were...and they really were. Honestly. I'm not joking. Go and take another'll be so surprised.

Please "Night"...just stop.



It's time.

The Hole in 3-D - Cineworld - 26/9/10

Ah, Joe Dante!

When the likes of "The Guardian" and "Sight and Sound" draw up their list of greatest directors of all time you can be sure that Dante will not feature...hell, he probably wouldn't make it onto the same list in "Empire" despite its more populist aproach.

But, dear, dear, loyal reader let me just remind you that Dante is the man who brought us;

"The Howling" which, despite the hideous clutch of sequels, was a cracking werewolf movie and came ahead of the more lauded "American Werewolf in London".

"Gremlins" which is one of the best ever Christmas films.

"Explorers" which is a brilliant kids movie.

"Innerspace" which is just a brilliant movie.

"The 'Burbs" which is a dark, twisted and hilarious film.

The criminally under-rated "Matinee" which told a fabulous story of film in a time when special effects took place in the cinema and not on the screen.

That's not a bad roll call of movies and the one thing they all have in common is that they are entertaining...never dull, never pretentious, never anything other than tight, clear, precise movies that tell their stories, feature great perfomances and show that Dante is one of the best.

"The Hole" is the best 3-D film I've seen (yes, it's better than you know what) and as someone who is unconvinced by the 3-D argument that is high praise on its own. For once 3-D adds rather than distracts.

When two teenage boys stumble across a hole in their basement it isn't long before all Hell, literally, breaks loose! A creepy clown (easily as sinsiter as Pennywise!), a dead little girl and all sorts of other gruesomeness start tormenting the boys and forcing them to face up to their own fears.

This is an old-fashioned, retro slice of film making that left me feeling really glad that Dante was BACK.

Go and look in the won't be disappointed.

Cropsey - Dead By Dawn - Filmhouse - 10/10/10

Screen one in the Filmhouse is, under normal circumstances, home to the most celebrated mainstream and art house films, quiet, sedate and possessed of a near reverential appreciation for the joy of cinema as a means of mirroring our lives or presenting us with a window into the lives of others.

Today though it is home to a different kind of film fan.

Lots of died black hair, tattoos, rawk/metal band t-shirts and gnarled faces.

It's "Dead By Dawn" the, almost, annual horror film festival run by Adele Hartley.

Normally running over a weekend and so deserving of it's title this year it is taking place over a single day and is made up, in large part, of shorts...either the horror genre has given up in the face of the, seemingly, never-ending onslaught of "torture porn" or Adele has gone for quality over quantity.

Earlier in the year FAB Press hosted their own cult/horror festival over three days (FAB Fest) and with a plethora of guest directors and stars DBD will have to go some to match it. I've decided to see just the one feature, "Cropsey", and then hope that I'll receive feedback from others who attended the whole event.

Lots of small towns have their own bogey man legend...the sort of tale that created Freddy Kruegger in the "Elm Street" franchise and that has kept naughty children tucked up in bed too terrified to invoke a grizzly end should they leave the safety of the duvet. "Crospey" takes one such urban legend and decides to investigate it's origins. The resut is a sort of "Capturing the Friedmans" meets "The Blair Witch Project". It's a fascinating story and a well put together documentary but it wouldn't look out of place on a true crime channel in the middle of the day. Sitting in the middle of a horror film festival it seems a bit, well, wrong.

The story is a, sadly, all too familiar one as a "creepy" loner is convicted of kidnapping and murdering a local child. What follows is the unravelling of a story of psychosis, community activism, guilt, myth and shame as the perpetrator of the crime, Andre Rand is convicted and then brought back to trial for the murder of another child. Directors Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman tackle the story with sensitivity and manage to avoid going for hysteria and headlines by sticking to their original brief of investigating their own suburban legend.

"Cropsey" doesn't offer anything new and it's difficult to see quite how it earned a place on a horror festival line-up but it does have an interesting story...which is more than can be said for many of the films that normally parade under the horror banner.

Monday, 4 October 2010

An Interview with Vicky McClure

“I enter the impressive foyer of the Grande Hotel in La-di-dah London to be greeted by Vicky McClure in a one off Stella McCartney dress.  Her P.A takes me aside and tells me what Vicky will and will not answer questions on.  It’s very intimidating but she is the hottest property in British acting right now so I should feel lucky to be granted an audience with her.”

That is the sort of introduction that one normally associates with a “celebrity” interview but Vicky McClure isn’t a celebrity and, thankfully, she has no interest in ever being one.  She is, however, an actress who has just performed in the most intense, dramatic, powerful, draining and terrifying scene ever broadcast on British television.  Her performance in “This Is England ’86” on Channel 4 has propelled her to an interesting place; she will soon be recognised by school kids and serious critics alike and will, in all likelihood, be writing an acceptance speech for the next BAFTAs.

McClure, it is safe to say, is on the verge of big things.

I don’t speak with her in the foyer of a big hotel, there is no P.A and there is no list of acceptable subjects to discuss...instead, when I speak with her she is sitting in her bedroom at her parents house.  She is relaxed, charming, funny and very open and honest.  

At just 15 McClure landed the part of “Ladene” in Shane Meadows “A Room For Romeo Brass”.  “Ladene” was the big sister to “Romeo” played by Andrew Shim with whom she has also starred in “This is England” and, more intimately, “This is England ’86” as well as Paddy Considine.  

Before “Romeo Brass” I had been at Central TV Workshop in Nottingham, which is where the likes of Samantha Morton and some of the other guys in “This is England” also came from.  I started there when I was eleven and had landed bit parts in things like “Peak Practice”.  Ian Smith, who runs the workshop, came in one day and told us that there was going to be a massive audition the next day, we all had to impress, that it was for a film with this great new director called Shane Meadows and I was thinking “I’ve never heard of him in my life” but I did the audition and then they said that they were going to do a shortlist and I made it onto that, which was a surprise because I thought I’d really messed it up.  I was just pleased to have made it that far because I was the only girl from my age group (11-16) to make it, all the other girls were from the 16 and overs.  The other reason I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere was because Shimmys (Andrew Shim) sister was auditioning and it just seemed like she was the obvious choice to play his sister!  But I got it and I was absolutely gobsmacked.”

Being cast in the role of sister over the “real” sister says something about how convincing Vicky must have been at that audition stage.  Her performance in the film is equally convincing.  Her relationship with Andrew Shim seems totally natural and never anything less than real.  At sixteen though it must have seemed like her life was about to change forever as she took a major part in a film that was guaranteed to have an audience thanks to the directors success with “24-7”.

I remember thinking to myself, I’m fifteen, I’m at school, I’m going to be in a film, I won’t have to go to school anymore...I’m Julia Roberts.  Of course, the reality is that it isn’t like that but what it did do for me was give me a great platform.  I didn’t get overnight fame and I don’t want it now...I want overnight work.  It’s the work that’s important.  I know I’ll get offered things now but I only want to do things that are interesting and gritty.  I don’t want to do crap.”

Fame?  Picture in the papers?  Falling out of a cab, drunk, outside of China Whites?  Nope.  Vicky McClure wants to work, do interesting and gritty things.  It’s unnerving to hear isn’t it?  That’s because we are so used to hearing people say they want to be a “celebrity” or to be “famous” simply so they can be...a celebrity or famous.  They don’t want to be famous for anything; fame in and of itself is the goal.  My heart skips a beat when I hear Vicky say things like...

I won’t ever class myself as a celebrity or a “star”.  I’m dead normal, I’m living at my mum and dads, I’m sat in my bedroom...the bedroom I grew up in.  People probably think I live in a mansion in London...but I don’t!  I’m just very grateful for what I’ve got.  I like looking through “Heat” magazine but it’s not for me. Although I don't aspire to be a star or a celebrity, I am very aware of today's media and the advantages & disadvantages it holds. I think it’s about being aware enough to know how to control it and not letting it control you. Even after the series I've had a taste of what being in the public eye is like, everyone’s being lovely however I don't plan on bringing out my own reality TV show & perfume!! It's scary knowing the pressure I'm under for future projects and you become very aware of the media pressures around you!

This awareness of the dangers of “celebrity” and a desire to avoid it places McClure in the company of others who prize work and quality over “fame” and “celebrity”; Johnny Depp, Ricky Gervais, Chloe Sevigny and Larry David are all examples of people who have managed to maintain a level of public recognition without ever selling themselves to the tabloids.

“Ladene” in “Romeo Brass” attracts the attention of an, ultimately, deranged and dangerous Paddy Considine.  In one memorable and disturbing scene she finds herself in his home and confronted by him in, nearly, all of his glory.  It’s a scene that is packed with real tension as the very real possibility of a sexual assault looms large in the background but that also contains real humour in “Ladenes” response to Considine.  How does a 16 year old girl prepare for a scene like that?

I didn’t!  Because I didn’t know it was going to happen.  That’s a Shane Meadows special for you that!  Because so much of what you do with Shane is improvised all I knew was that Paddy and I were meant to be on our first date and when the take started he just appeared and there it was!  So my reaction in that scene is totally natural.

Anyone who has seen “This is England” will have a favourite scene and for me it is the moment when “Combo” (Stephen Graham) decides to confront Vickys character, “Lol”, with his true feelings.  By the time the scene comes around the audience are fairly sure that they don’t like “Combo”; he’s violent, he’s aggressive, he is racist and he has broken up a happy band of warriors with his far right rhetoric.  When he tells “Lol” that he loves her and that he wants to be with her though we see that there is more to him than what we have seen and Vickys performance in that scene is beyond fabulous.  It’s a scene that never fails to move me.  It also gives us a hint of a depth to “Lol”s character that we wouldn’t have without it.

In the original script the idea was that Lol would take Combo down and alleyway to talk and then she would say “Shall we just have it then”, meaning shall we have sex and he would take down his pants and Lol would just walk away, leaving him there utterly humiliated with everything hanging out, which would have been funny but it just didn’t fit with the dynamic of the film.  When we came to actually film it Stephen and I played it in a much softer way, to show that “Combo” does have vulnerability.  I don’t think we did too many takes, we wanted it to be quite raw and if we had gone over it and over it then it would have lost some of that.”

What is as important about this scene is that it paves the way for what happens in the finale of “This is England ’86” when “Combo” finds redemption with “Lol”.  Without that earlier scene where we see his humanity and his love for “Lol” then none of what happens at the end of “...’86” would have made sense or even have been possible.

Now we’ve touched on the very thing that has prompted this issue; “This is England ’86” the first post-Big Brother Channel 4 drama.  A drama co-written and directed by Shane Meadows and a series that is unlike anything seen on British television for a long time, possibly ever.  It is achingly funny at times, deceptively so, and ultimately it is darker, grittier, edgier and bleaker than anything I can remember seeing on television.  At the heart of the show is the story of “Lol” and Vicky McClure is central to everything that happens.  She is on screen for huge chunks of the show and in the finale delivers a performance that is simply magnificent.  

“Lol” is the victim of a savage sexual assault in the final episode of the series at the hands of her father “Mick” (Johnny Harris) and it is a scene that will leave many viewers shaken, stirred and upset.  It is, however, a scene that, thanks to its unflinching realism, will provide a means for real life victims to be able to say “That happened to me” and to seek the help, support and justice they need.  

Shane had me watch some films that he felt might help me to prepare, at least from a professional point of view with regards camera work and what have you.  But for me this was all about character development.  Vicky had to be put to one side and I had to become “Lol”.  It had to to be totally believable and I had to live that character.  It wasn’t a closed set but I trusted everyone around me.  Johnny Harris and I worked very closely to make that scene work.  Johnny is the best actor I have ever worked with and he and I prepared in ways that neither of us will ever disclose.  We helped each other get to where we needed to be and, I think, it worked.  It was emotionally draining and I remember getting into my caravan after filming and falling on the floor, crying, crying and crying.”

My own reaction after watching Vickys performance in this scene was exactly the same.  I cried.  In a world where, increasingly, we are presented with the glossiest, slickest and shiniest “entertainment” wrapped up in perfect hair and teeth being confronted with something as brilliantly real as this is a welcome matter how difficult it might be.

You should treat yourself today...go and order “A Room For Romeo Brass”, “This Is England” and “This Is England ’86” and settle down over the next few nights to watch the development of an actress who will soon be a household name...and for all the right reasons.  

Vicky actress and not a celebrity.  Give thanks.

This is England ’86 is available on DVD from the 11th October from 4DVD