With the Olympics just round the corner in the fair old capital of London it seems only right that a film like Fast Girls should make its way into cinemas to whet the appetite. Features & Interviews Editor Paula Hammond caught up with star and writer of Fast Girls Noel Clarke to discuss his gold winning career so far.
Olympics just round the corner in the fair old capital of London it seems only
right that a film like Fast Girls should make its way into cinemas to whet the
appetite. Features &
Interviews Editor Paula Hammond caught up with star and writer of Fast Girls
Noel Clarke to discuss his gold winning career so far.
Barking: 2006 and Noel Clarke is one of a handful of actors
who have made the journey to a small, UK Dr Who event attracting around 300
Fast forward to 2012: London’s hanger-like Excel Centre
where, over three packed days, 63,000 fans will be coming to MCM Expo London to meet and greet
some of the biggest names in show biz. And none are more eagerly anticipated
than Noel Clarke who’s here to promote his latest feature film, Storage 24, in which he not only stars
but also wrote and produced. He’s also just nabbed a spot in JJ Abram’s hotly anticipated Star Trek 2.
In just six years, Noel Clark has turned himself into one of
business’s hottest properties. No wonder he’s smiling.
Such stratospheric success isn’t lost on an actor who, a
decade ago, couldn’t even get an agent.
Speaking in 2006 he said: “I’d always wanted to act. Ever since I was
about five years old … but for a
long time it just didn’t happen … I grew up with my Mum and to tell a West
Indian parent, who came to this country and had to struggle and work hard that
you want to act … well!”
Feeling the pressure to “get a real job” Noel headed off to
uni., working at a local gym to help pay the bills. It was there that he met
Director Rikki Beadle-Blair and that
meeting changed his life forever.
Rikki asked Noel to audition for the lead in his upcoming
project, Metrosexuality – a ground
breaking six-part drama about the life and loves of a group of London
20-somethings. A part in the hugely popular Brit comedy Aufwiedersehn Pet followed, putting Noel firmly on the radar. But
the real turning point came two years later when he won the Olivier Theatre Award For Most Promising Performer in
Christopher Shinn’s Where Do We
Live? Noel Clarke wasn’t just ‘that bloke from the telly’ anymore. He was a
bone fide actor.
“I love TV and I love theatre but they’re a different kind
of thing. With theatre, you’re on every night, but with TV, I can do ten bad
takes and one good one and a director can edit it and make me look like I’m
actually doing a decent job! But what you do in the theatre is really testing
the craft and for someone who wasn’t classically trained – theatre school
trained – it was tough. People wouldn’t see me. Casting directors wouldn’t see
me. They wouldn’t take me seriously. But after doing a few plays and then
getting the Oliver all of a sudden people were like: Oh all right. Maybe he can
do it after all.”
Not only can he ‘do it’ but he quickly proved that acting
wasn’t his only talent.
Back in Barking, Noel had just finished a stint in Dr Who as Mickey Smith, Rose Tyler’s
on-off boyfriend, and was looking forward to the release of his first film, Kidulthood. The movie – a thoughtful
trawl through urban culture – surprised many with its uncompromisingly dark
storyline and hard-hitting themes. The critics loved it. But the tabloids
damned it for glamorising violence and drug taking. Suddenly Noel, who wrote
and starred in the film, found himself a front line spokesman for Britain’s disaffected
But how ‘real’ were the events portrayed in Kidulthood? Noel
was keen to point out that everything in the movie was based on things that had
actually happened in his own area of West London – a year’s worth of newspaper
clippings formed the backbone of the story.
“Sex, drugs, violence. It’s all out there. You can’t pretend
it isn’t. My mother’s a nurse and she says three girls a week come into her
ward – all for the same reason. Because their mothers have found out that they
are having sex with their boyfriends and told them to stop. And they try to top
themselves. In my film, in the first ten minutes a girl hangs herself. So, it
may seem bleak but it’s really relevant to what’s happening to kids today.”
Does he understand that sort of desperation? “Not really. I
came from a one-parent family. It was a tough life, but I never thought about
killing myself. Even at 13, sex wasn’t on my mind. Killing myself definitely
wasn’t! It just shows how society’s
changed. Kids are thinking about this nonsense. Hopefully, this will strike a
cord with some people.”
It certainly did. A sequel, Adulthood, followed in 2008 with Noel again doing the writing
honours. The film was Noel’s directing debut and became one of the highest
grossing British films of 2008, making a reported £1.2 million in its opening
Six years on and Noel’s done it all – acting, writing,
directing, producing, and Hollywood is now beckoning big-time. So what have
been the highlights, lowlights and surprises?
Noel is still disarmingly modest about his achievements. “It
all sort of happened by accident … and I’ve just kind of gone with it really …
I probably wouldn’t have wanted to have got into producing this early but
things sort of happen. Highlights – have been just being able to put work out.
For me, there haven’t really been any lowlights. But people looking in from the
outside would probably say that “4,3,2,1” was the lowlight because it wasn’t
received as well as Kidulthood and Adulthood.
Pseudo crime caper, 4,
3, 2, 1 is a film which, Noel readily admits, “really divides an audience”
but for him it was the breakout movie. He was not longer “that hoodie guy or
the guy that does those films”.
It’s also the film which has had the best sales so far, winning big
audiences internationally. The studio are naturally keen to do another one.
Before that, he’s busy promoting his alien-horror flick,
Storage 24 which has been work in progress since before Adulthood. The idea for
the screenplay grew out of visiting storage facilities with his wife, who had
to go there for work. Noel realised that not only were they intrinsically
“really creepy” places but that, once inside, it was very hard to get out. So,
he asked himself, what would happen if you were suck in one with a serial killer?
Then, as he was writing, the penny dropped “… I thought why am I doing a serial killer when an alien would
be much better? I like that stuff and it would open it up internationally
because people would ‘buy’ the monster.”
Storage 24 is already making waves and with Dr Who and Star
Trek credits under his belt, the decision to return to sci-fi looks like being
a very profitable one. But then, when Noel talks about ‘sales’ and ‘opening’ up
the market up you realise that behind that casual exterior is a one-man dynamo
with a very shrewd business mind.
In 2006, when asked what he would he do if Hollywood called,
Noel’s answer was cautious. “It’s very difficult to go there cold. You have to
build up some sort of reputation and that’s what I’m trying to do at the
moment. People are starting to know who I am over there and I think that’s the
time when you can go across and say ‘I’ve done this and this and I’ve done that
and now I’m ready.”
Six years on – and a world away – Noel looks like being more
than ready as he steps forward to join fellow Brits Simon Pegg, Alice Eve
and Benedict Cumberbatch on set of Star Trek 2. A better question might be is
Hollywood ready for Noel Clarke.
So how does Noel’s mum feel about her son’s choice of career
now? “She’s all right with it but”, he adds with a wry smile, “I’m sure that
she somewhere still thinks I should ‘get a real job!”
Clarke will be staring in the Olympic drama Fast Girls, which hits UK cinemas
on 15th June. Watch this space for more on Storage 24, including an
exclusive FilmJuice interview in the coming weeks.