Posted September 7, 2010 by Marcia Degia - Publisher in Features
 
 

Nick Moran


Nick Moran has proved his mettle, as an actor, since his overnight stardom in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Now, he shows his worth as a film director, with his excellent second feature, The Kid. Nick takes time out of his busy schedule to talk to Beth Webb.

Nick Moran has proved his mettle, as an actor, since his overnight stardom in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Now, he shows his worth as a film director, with his excellent second feature, The Kid. Nick takes time out of his busy schedule to talk to Beth Webb.

When did Kevin Lewis and The Kid first come to your attention?
He didn’t come to my attention; I was out of the country when the book came out and the producer of the film phoned me up and asked if I would be interested in directing the movie. I was doing the finishing touches to Telstar when I met Kevin, who is a fascinating man and now a good friend, and I read adaptation of the novel and it was in good shape. Admittedly, when I first met him, he wasn’t at all what I was expecting, you know quite camp in some respects. When reading the book you expect the guy to be like Lenny McClean, like some big bruiser, and that’s what made it so interesting.

Kevin and some of the producers came along to a screening of Telstar and he loved it and liked that it was a biography and that it was funny as well as dark, and was keen after that that I made the movie. I was hesitant about it to begin with because Telstar took ten to fifteen years to put together and there was an awful amount of research to carry out, right down to what the guys were wearing, what cars they were driving and what guitars they had, and I didn’t think I would be able to put this film together without that same level of research.

The KidBut I was bought up in a tin house council estate when I was 17, I know this background inside out. I’m the same age as Kevin, so really, I’ve got just as much on this script as I did on my last. And that’s what swung it for me. The place where we filmed it was an estate where I went to school and the house we used was on my paper round and it’s all the same sort of families still. Once you’re on one of those estates it’s really hard to get off, and they try and keep you away from the main suburbs of London. They’re just isolated little pockets where people live and go to school and fester, and spending time with Kevin while was spooky because of how similar our estates were.

Before filming I went off to Kevin’s house and I stayed there for about a week or so, really homed in on the script and then went ahead and made it. So, I knew very little about it until they found me and crooked me and helped me make the right decision. And I’m really really glad I did.

How was it for Kevin translating his life onto the big screen?
The simple way around it was that we would do is ask “What would Kevin say” and he would reply “Kevin would do this and Kevin’s mum would do that” so he never got sentimental and it was never him reminiscing, it was always about this guy Kevin. It wasn’t a conscious decision but he just started doing it and it worked for all of us. Every now and again he’d get a bit funny and that’s when I’d step in and suggest how we could do things.

The KidThere were some bits where he was like “You can write that bit” and he’d be a bit protective every now and then, especially about the stuff with his mum. So some of the more spiteful lines are mine, but then I also wrote the chocolate speech which I was really pleased with. It wasn’t exactly the truth but you needed that sort of ‘you had me at hello’ moment for that story to work.

Kevin was just really effortless to work with. I mean I didn’t come in with this great overhaul, my concern was to keep it as close to the book as we could and to move some things around, like having the suicide attempt at the beginning and go from there because that’s the part of the book where it would seem his past is inescapable. Ultimately, it’s Kevin’s story and Kevin’s film and if I have a few ideas that everybody likes then so be it, that’s the great thing about collaboration; if you’ve got something that looks and smells and tastes like a good idea you don’t have to fight for it.

And because Kevin let me chip in with the script, when I was on set, it didn’t feel like I was making someone else’s story, I felt like I had a bit of ownership and that made things really smooth.

The KidHow did Rupert Friend get involved?
He was suggested because his star was rising, he’d done Cheri and Young Victoria was due to come out and his agent looks after Con O’Neill, who of course was in Telstar, and she was such a big fan of the film she told him he was doing Nick’s movie. So that was great because when we were doing Telstar we couldn’t get any agents on the phone and got all this (adopts Queen’s English) “You can’t do this, you’re stupid,” and nobody thought I could do it.

Then the play of Telstar came about and everybody loved the play and irrespective of their agents asked to be in the film, which is how I got James Corden and Ralf Little on board. And when I made The Kid, agents were throwing people at me, and I met Rupert in a hotel just the once and had a cup of tea and we got on really well.

We decided very early on that Rupert would have to box, and I think if I was Rupert that’s what I would be most proud of. I really threw him in the deep end; I set him up with Steve Collins who was the mid weight champion of the world, and he’s the ginger guy who he fights at the end of the film. I knew him because he had a very small part in Lock Stock, and he put in some calls and put Rupert on the bill at a boxing match before we started filming. Rupert didn’t do it, but he could have done; he struggled a bit to start with but at the end he looked like he could throw a punch. The real Kevin didn’t do as much boxing as was shown in the film but I think he quite liked that I made him look like a better fighter.

I decided to put the real Kevin at the end of the movie so people would say ‘oh that’s why he’s speaking in that voice’. When Kevin saw Rupert’s part he said “I don’t talk like that” and then when he saw his appearance he said “Oh shit, I do!”

It was a bold decision but I do this with all the cast because they know at the end of the day I’m not going to make them look stupid. I’m an actor as well and they can trust me.

The role of teenage Kevin by Augustus [Prew] was a difficult part because he had to pick up the story from where young Kevin left off. I remember being 20 years old and thinking I was the best method actor since Robert DeNiro and doing all this strange tense things for my guest spot in The Bill and not eating for a week for a part in Casualty, and Augie is at that stage, and I think he should keep it up. He lost about a stone for the part, just ate fruit and he got a pair of shoes that were two sizes too small, which is very Alec Guiness, and gave this pained walk.

The great thing about the story is, when it comes to adult Kevin, the audience has been forced to get to know him for 45 minutes so we know things about him that no one else does. So when he says “I want to be a success” you think well of course you do, you didn’t have socks until you were 15.

There was a lot of pressure for us to get to Rupert’s part but then it would just be about a guy that runs a bar, which is just like a grim version of Cheers. In this part of the film all he does is marry his dream girl and has children, but in the right circumstances, that is a great achievement. And it also takes the film away from a grimy London gangster film and makes it a film about overcoming adversity.

The KidAnd do you think we’re going to have to resort to this sort of bare knuckle Brit flick to stay afloat as a film industry?
Film’s been my life for 20 years now, there’s nothing I don’t know about making them, there’s nothing I don’t know about putting them together. I’ve written four produced two, directed two and starred in eighteen and I’ve learned that it’s a spectator sport. But we can change their perceptions with something new. Like I don’t think we could have had The Kid if it hadn’t been for Slumdog Millionaire. The movie I set out to make was Slumdog Millionaire set in Croydon, and that’s what I pitched it as when I was getting the money together. The Americans saw it as Precious with skinny white people which is fine. And if it hadn’t been because of Danny Boyle, British people would not have seen it and so you can educate people to a certain extent.

It’s a moveable feast, you can make a really good musical and people will want to see musicals. What I loved about Lock Stock was that no one had ever done that before because before, British films had been about posh girls with silly names on horseback, where do I fit into that? But Guy Ritchie came along and we were sort of in the slipstream of Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction. What will happen is there will be another trailblazing movie and lot of similar movies will shoot off of that and hopefully The Kid will be one of them.

I don’t think people necessarily want to see geezer gangster films but there’s a safe demographic. Telstar was a very hard film to sell because there wasn’t a safe audience. So with this film, I tailed my girlfriend as she’s the perfect demographic, because girls ultimately decide what blokes will see at the cinema. They read Vogue, they read Glamour, and if they say it’s cool they’ll go and see it. So I spent a year while I was making the film watching P.S. I Love You, He’s Just Not That Into You and watching in women in Uggs weeping into their Ben and Jerry’s and thinking what I need to do is make a film that applies to this demographic and then as a treat to myself throw in some cool stuff. Like the last fight is me all guns blazing.

In this country you have to be ever so slightly commercially-minded and then be a bit snazzy with it, basically mixing cool with cheese. I think sometimes British films are made for the wrong reasons, like they’ve got a point to make. What people have forgotten is that the films this country are built on like Saturday Night Sunday Morning and Billy Liar were an enormous commercial success and audiences like that.

I think as well, especially with my films I want audiences to feel like they own a little part of that film. That’s what it felt like when I walked out of Pulp Fiction, like someone had made that film for me. And that’s what some British filmmakers are getting wrong; they’re making films for themselves and not for the people.

The KidWhat else have you got coming up?
Well I’ve got Potter coming out, which is great, I’m really looking forward to it. I’m a proper, proper bad guy and it’s brilliant. When my part turns up it’s like you’re watching the wrong film, like it suddenly goes from Harry Potter to Deliverance but with kids in. They had to edit out some of the stuff I did because it was just too much of a stretch, the world of Hogwarts hasn’t seen anyone as bad as me. I loved every second of it.

I’ve got Telstar coming out in America, it’s a tiny release but I’m hoping it will find its audience because it’s a rock-and-roll story and that’s where it all started. Maybe we’ll get a little release for Harry Potter too, unless it goes straight to video. And then absolutely fuck-all for the foreseeable future, in a really good way.

I’ve made two films back to back in 15 months which is unprecedented of, really, and it’s nice to reap the benefits. I think because I oversee every aspect of the films, as well, it’ll be nice. You tend to disappear off the face of the planet, people think you’ve died and you forget to ring mum on her birthday. It will be nice to come up for air, and I’m hoping the last two years of work will put me back where I was. I also want to raise the stakes a bit and be able to star in the films that are as good as the ones I make. Just without being too much of a tit.


Marcia Degia - Publisher

 
Marcia Degia has worked in the media industry for more than 10 years. She was previously Acting Managing Editor of Homes and Gardens magazine, Publishing Editor at Macmillan Publishers and Editor of Pride Magazine. Marcia, who has a Masters degree in Screenwriting, has also been involved in many broadcast projects. Among other things, she was the devisor of the documentary series Secret Suburbia for Living TV.