Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Junction

Freddie, Bruce, Snork and Julie are childhood friends whose dreams and ambitions for the future are threatened by the limitations of the present.

Although very different in nature, the trio of lads make a tightly-knit group who despite the ribbing and banter hold each other in great affection.

It was finding three actors who could embody that camaraderie that proved the main challenge when it came to casting the main parts.

After a casting process in which they saw most of the UK’s twenty-something actors, Gervais and Merchant found their perfect trio in Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan. That they were newcomers only increased their appeal to the film-makers, here was the chance to show off how deep Britain’s acting talent pool is.

Playing the handsome, thoughtful Freddie is Christian Cooke, whose sweetness, vulnerability and youthful innocence appealed to Gervais and Merchant. "Freddie is quite serious," says Gervais. "He wants to work hard, climb the tree and improve his lot. But he’s also different to the other men because he gives the women he meets a second glance in a world of misogyny."

It was the twin appeals of working with Gervais and Merchant and tackling a young lad with a richly complex character that inspired Cooke during the making of the film. "Freddie’s trying to find out who he is," says Cooke. "He wants to get a job selling life insurance, because he gets to wear a suit and he has the prospect of working in an office rather than in a factory like his father and his best friend Bruce.

"He sees that as being a better way of life, a way out of the working class life that he comes from. But he's on this journey of discovery. Freddie has a bit of a dual personality.

"He’s one person when he's with his friends and another when he's with people like Mr Kendrick and Mike Ramsay, because those are the sort of people that he thinks he aspires to be.  He wants to impress them."

Cooke could also relate to the film on a personal level. "Both my parents grew up in a working class families in the 1970s and it was tough, it was the start of a massive world wide recession and because the manufacturing industries were declining, it was really difficult for working class families.

"This film shows that and it shows that within all that, there’s hope and that there were people like Freddie who sought out something better. He doesn’t know what it is and he doesn’t always make the right choices, at first he wants to be like Mr Kendrick or Mike Ramsay but then, thanks in part to Julie, he realises there’s more to life than material wealth - but he's inspiring because he doesn’t settle for what he's got. He’s ambitious for something better."

Cooke, whose previous experience includes television work and short films, was bowled over by the thought of working with Gervais and Merchant. "It was such a great script and I didn’t think for a moment that I’d get the part," he recalls.

"It’s been a privilege working with Ricky and Stephen - they’ve been heroes of mine in a way - and so to work with them on such a great script was truly exciting."

Working with Gervais and Merchant proved an inspiration to their young cast. "They definitely had a vision about how they want the film to be," says Cooke, "so they were really good at guiding us make the right choice for a scene. They were very plain about telling us if they liked something or didn’t and that made working with them much easier."

The cool, dangerous, frustrated Bruce is played by Tom Hughes, fresh out of drama school, whose working-class swagger impressed Gervais and Merchant. "Tom’s a rock star and a film star, he embodies the spirit of Liam Gallagher, Richard Ashcroft and James Dean," says Gervais.

"The role was a tall order for Tom - he had to learn to dance, fight, smoke, smirk and do some serious moving drama in the scenes with his dad, but he’s one of the best young actors we’ve got and he pulled it off."

Tom Hughes describes Bruce as the "cock of the walk. He’s one of those guys that is kind of fearless but it’s disguising a painful scar that hurts. His mum left him when he was quite young and he’s always blamed his dad for it. And since then, he doesn’t care any more.

"He’s on a weird kamikaze mission and completely fearless; he goes out every night, gets into fights, sleeps with as many women as he can, drinks as much as he can.

"He was such fun to play, where else do you get to fight three times a day, smoke 55 fags a day and do Northern Soul dancing?! - but the hardest thing was going home every evening and feeling a bit depressed because I’m not quite as cool as him!"

"But if that was all he was then," continues Hughes, "you’d fall out of love with him very quickly. The thing that saves him is the fact that it’s all a facade. It’s one that he’s put up and he’s lived with it for 20 years, but it’s still a facade.

"The film shows him growing up, having to face the fact that his best friend, Freddie, who is like his only real family, is choosing a different path, and that’s painful to him because Bruce thinks he was never given the chance to do something with his life.

"That’s the great thing about the script - all the characters look like one thing on the surface but when you peel back the layers, there’s a lot more going on underneath. That’s what makes it such a good film because it’s constantly surprising you."

For Hughes, the role afforded him the chance to play comedy for the first time. And it helped that Gervais and Merchant were so meticulous in their approach to directing. "I haven’t done a lot of comedy before and I’m not a particularly funny guy," he says.

"Ricky and Stephen know what they’re doing to such an unbelievable extent that you can’t help but learn from that. Some of the notes Ricky gave me to do with the comedy just blew my mind, it’s not just a gag, it’s not just three beats and then you hit it; it’s about every word, every nuance, every syllable, and the way the words go together and the way you deliver it and the way you lift your head. I’m not remotely surprised they’ve been so successful because when you’re that specific and that talented and that dedicated and passionate, you’re gonna make it."

Jack Doolan plays Snork, the joker of the pack who is endlessly ribbed by his two mates and who seems to be unable to shake off the label of loveable loser. Doolan describes Snork as "quite sweet and childish and innocent. He’s a little like Freddie and Bruce’s younger brother they tend to him and look after him and fight his battles for him .

But ultimately all he wants is a girlfriend. And he's had no luck; he’s rubbish with the girls. And his journey through the film is trying to find himself someone as weird as him to be with. Which is quite hard considering how weird he is."

Doolan was the first of the main characters to be cast and as such went through a lengthy audition process that saw him team up with a number of actors auditioning for the roles of Freddie and Bruce. It was only when he was introduced to Christian Cooke and Tom Hughes that he knew the chemistry was right.

"I knew within five minutes that it felt right," says Doolan. "Tom and Christian had just done the ITV series Trinity together so they were quite friendly and the dynamics between the three of us worked.

"After we met each other at that first audition, we started hanging around together and spending quite a bit of time together so we got to know each other quite well. It paid off when we met Ricky and Stephen again, they could tell we’d gelled."

"With this part, Jack has proved what a great comic actor he is," says Gervais, "because he plays it for the tragedy and the truth of the character and he doesn’t play it for the comedy."

"Ricky and Stephen approached the casting a little like putting a rock band together," says Hanson."It was the combination that was important. That long audition process, it lasted almost two months - helped the three actors form a bond of mutual suffering so they shared a mutual celebration when they got the part. Their camaraderie really shows on screen."

The final member of the young gang is Julie, played by Felicity Jones. "Julie has to have intelligence and ambition but also a naiveté that means she can be blind to what’s going on around her within her own family, and Felicity managed to convey all those qualities" says Gervais.

"Julie will be a ghost if she stays in the family and marries Mike Ramsay she’ll turn into her mother because in that world the men are in charge."

Engaged to Mike Ramsay, her father’s right hand man, Julie yearns to live a more independent life pursuing her dream of being a photographer. Says Jones: "Julie bumps into her old school friend Freddie one day and even though their conversation seems very insignificant, it’s clear that there’s a spark between them.

"That’s what’s so lovely about their story line - they start off as friends, it’s a romance that you believe will develop."

Hanging out with Freddie and his mates gives Julie a chance to act her age, says Jones. "Julie doesn’t have much fun with Mike and she’s living quite a middle-aged existence so when they take her to the dance it’s something she’s never experienced before.

"They’re a breath of fresh air in her mundane life. One of the themes of the film is being trapped, being stifled, not being allowed to fulfil your ambitions, and Julie comes to realise she’s in danger of losing her identity if she marries Mike."

In addition to playing such an interesting character, Jones responded to Gervais and Merchant’s vision for the film. "Ricky’s and Stephen’s approach was very much to get the reality of the situation and the time without it feeling too much like it’s a period drama," she says.

"So although there’s an obvious period look to the film, it doesn’t feel very removed from the present day. It felt very real during the shoot, it didn’t feel caricatured in any way in terms of the design or the costumes."

Keen to ensure the younger members of their cast were put at their ease, Gervais and Merchant created an environment in which they became completely relaxed and confident. WInsecurity is problematic for an actor particularly more inexperienced actors who haven’t learnt the tricks of the trade yet, so we encouraged them to play around and try different things,W explains Merchant.

Emily Watson, Matthew Goode, Ralph Fiennes and Ricky Gervais play the main adult roles.

It was Fiennes’s performance in In Bruges that inspired Gervais to cast him as Mr Kendrick. "In In Bruges, Ralph showed that he could take menace and dignity that can sometimes be quite chilling and put it into a comic environment.

"We’ve found that with other actors like Kate Winslet in Extras, that the more they played it straight, the funnier they were. Emily also has that skill that Ralph has of showing everything in the eyes. On the day you think, ‘yeah, that’s fine,’ but then you go into the cutting room and it’s twice as good.

"Emily has a natural strength and poise that she had to work against when she was in character. But that worked because we suspect that Mrs Kendrick had a strength once and you feel she could have it again. They worked great as a frosty married couple."

Fiennes describes Mr Kendrick as a "self-made man, who comes from a working class background and has worked his was up - and he’s proud of what he’s achieved. He sees something of himself in young Freddie and takes a shine to him and wants him to do well.

"What the script does so well is convey that sort of English small-mindedness that comes from a rat race mentality which means that an interest in a wider perspective, in other cultures, in other ways of living, is deadened. Julie wants to be a photographer and has her room full of photographs of the world.

"I think she represents the spirit of youth that is thinking beyond its own environment. It’s Julie whose thinking is more open, more mature and more adventurous and who makes Freddie realise there is another way to live a life. Not that Kendrick would understand given his narrow-minded, misogynistic outlook.

"I was thrilled to be asked by Ricky to join the cast," Fiennes continues. "I really admire his work and I was particularly drawn to the script because it is so beautifully judged in its tone.

"There’s not a piece of dialogue that hasn’t been thought about for both its dramatic and comedic value. Like all the great comedies this film has a very real undertone anchored in human emotions."

The Kendrick’s marriage is one area where those real human emotions come especially to the fore. "Their marriage is typical of a lot of relationships particularly then," says Fiennes.

"The film is set in 1972 and Kendrick doesn’t think it would look good if a woman goes out to work, as it suggests that a man can’t provide for his wife and family. This was in the very early days of feminism and Kendrick has a very narrow view of how a marriage should be organised."

The film represents Fiennes’s second experience of working with Emily Watson after Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon. "I’m a huge fan of Emily’s," he says. "She’s a real partner in a scene. She’s considerate and open and inventive. Like all good actors, she likes to challenge her choices and she keeps thinking and questioning."

For Emily Watson, the offer of the role of Kendrick’s long-suffering wife Patricia came out of the blue and made her laugh out loud! "I thought, are you sure you want me?," she recalls with a chuckle. "I have no sense of humour; I’m a very serious actress." But when she found out more about the role, Watson was hooked.

"Patricia doesn’t say or do very much, she’s just under his thumb for almost the whole film," says Watson. "But Ricky and Stephen were very precise about the kind of woman she was, she’s somebody whose life has gone off the boil and she is just simmering.

"She’s just very sad and lonely and screwed up. She runs the house and does everything for her husband and he never even says thank you. She has her moment of speaking out right at the end when she rails against her daughter Julie suffering the same fate as her."
 
The man who will be the undoing of Julie, if she stays with him, is Mike Ramsay, played by Matthew Goode. Mr Kendrick’s second in command, Mike is, according to Goode, "quite a man of the ‘70s. He’s sexist, slightly racist and unscrupulous as far as making money for the company is concerned.

"We see early on that he will go to great lengths to con people out of their money so he can progress further up the ladder at work. He’s learnt a lot from Kendrick he’s his protégé of sorts but Kendrick knows he’s a bit of a rat. He’s a nasty piece of work, but he’s quite fun to play!"

"The first time I read the script I thought, ‘I wish I were 20!’. The main parts are so fantastic. The story is funny and poignant and moving. And the three male leads; Christian, Tom and Jack are just terrific. They’re never going to stop working!

"And Felicity Jones, who I worked with on Brideshead Revisited, has an Audrey Hepburn quality about her she’s effortlessly charming."

"Matthew Goode is a tour de force," says Gervais. "The remit was Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, impressive and charismatic but not likeable.

"He played it with such 70s poise. He has to give a lengthy monologue and he holds the camera completely. He didn’t have to use words if they weren’t needed. And he uses gestures to project a quiet menace."

A roster of some of the UK’s most acclaimed character actors round out the cast including Anne Reid, Steve Speirs, Julia Davis, Matthew Holness and David Earl. Their presence brings an integrity to the minor roles and help create the universe of the film. 

Cemetery Junction is out now.

Freddie, Bruce, Snork and Julie are childhood friends whose dreams and ambitions for the future are threatened by the limitations of the present.

Although very different in nature, the trio of lads make a tightly-knit group who despite the ribbing and banter hold each other in great affection.

It was finding three actors who could embody that camaraderie that proved the main challenge when it came to casting the main parts.

After a casting process in which they saw most of the UK’s twenty-something actors, Gervais and Merchant found their perfect trio in Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan. That they were newcomers only increased their appeal to the film-makers, here was the chance to show off how deep Britain’s acting talent pool is.

Playing the handsome, thoughtful Freddie is Christian Cooke, whose sweetness, vulnerability and youthful innocence appealed to Gervais and Merchant. "Freddie is quite serious," says Gervais. "He wants to work hard, climb the tree and improve his lot. But he’s also different to the other men because he gives the women he meets a second glance in a world of misogyny."

It was the twin appeals of working with Gervais and Merchant and tackling a young lad with a richly complex character that inspired Cooke during the making of the film. "Freddie’s trying to find out who he is," says Cooke. "He wants to get a job selling life insurance, because he gets to wear a suit and he has the prospect of working in an office rather than in a factory like his father and his best friend Bruce.

"He sees that as being a better way of life, a way out of the working class life that he comes from. But he's on this journey of discovery. Freddie has a bit of a dual personality.

"He’s one person when he's with his friends and another when he's with people like Mr Kendrick and Mike Ramsay, because those are the sort of people that he thinks he aspires to be.  He wants to impress them."

Cooke could also relate to the film on a personal level. "Both my parents grew up in a working class families in the 1970s and it was tough, it was the start of a massive world wide recession and because the manufacturing industries were declining, it was really difficult for working class families.

"This film shows that and it shows that within all that, there’s hope and that there were people like Freddie who sought out something better. He doesn’t know what it is and he doesn’t always make the right choices, at first he wants to be like Mr Kendrick or Mike Ramsay but then, thanks in part to Julie, he realises there’s more to life than material wealth - but he's inspiring because he doesn’t settle for what he's got. He’s ambitious for something better."

Cooke, whose previous experience includes television work and short films, was bowled over by the thought of working with Gervais and Merchant. "It was such a great script and I didn’t think for a moment that I’d get the part," he recalls.

"It’s been a privilege working with Ricky and Stephen - they’ve been heroes of mine in a way - and so to work with them on such a great script was truly exciting."

Working with Gervais and Merchant proved an inspiration to their young cast. "They definitely had a vision about how they want the film to be," says Cooke, "so they were really good at guiding us make the right choice for a scene. They were very plain about telling us if they liked something or didn’t and that made working with them much easier."

The cool, dangerous, frustrated Bruce is played by Tom Hughes, fresh out of drama school, whose working-class swagger impressed Gervais and Merchant. "Tom’s a rock star and a film star, he embodies the spirit of Liam Gallagher, Richard Ashcroft and James Dean," says Gervais.

"The role was a tall order for Tom - he had to learn to dance, fight, smoke, smirk and do some serious moving drama in the scenes with his dad, but he’s one of the best young actors we’ve got and he pulled it off."

Tom Hughes describes Bruce as the "cock of the walk. He’s one of those guys that is kind of fearless but it’s disguising a painful scar that hurts. His mum left him when he was quite young and he’s always blamed his dad for it. And since then, he doesn’t care any more.

"He’s on a weird kamikaze mission and completely fearless; he goes out every night, gets into fights, sleeps with as many women as he can, drinks as much as he can.


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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