Brad Moore is returning to the big screen with new film North vs South, which sees him take on a major lead role for the first time.
North vs South sees the actor team up with writer and director Steven Nesbit and the film will be screening as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where it is nominated for the Michael Powell Awards.
We caught up with the actor to chat about the film, working with Nesbit, as well as other projects that he has in the pipeline this year.
- You are about to return to the big screen in new film North vs South, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
North vs South was written and directed by a gentleman called Steve Nesbit; I have a strong feeling that he is going to be quite a talent in the future. It is his second feature film and the movie has been nominated for the Michael Powell Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. He only made a tiny feature before this and I think he is a really strong talent.
The film follows two rival crime families/gangs and one runs the north while the other runs the south of England and are respectful of each other's territory. When the film opens, the two sides have struck a truce. Within that, the lead man from the North is secretly dating the man crime boss of the South's daughter; you have this Romeo and Juliet thing going on where they are meeting each other in motels and things and they are not allowed to tell anyone that they are in love.
I play the co-lead alongside Elliott Tittensor from Shameless, and my character is the enforcer of the South and is a real psycho. He is unhinged, selfish, racist, misogynistic, alcoholic, coke-head - I tend to get a lot of those parts to be honest - and he has decided... about a year before we join the story by character has seen a lot of weakness in his boss and decides that he doesn't want to be in truce with the North.
He decides that he not only wants to take over his own family/gang, but also the northern gang as well. He starts really stirring things up by killing people from both sides; he starts killing his own to blame the northerners and he is killing northerners to put blame on the South.
You have got some wonderful characters... this is not gritty realism, this movie is not The Long Good Friday and is more like Sexy Beast as there are these really colourful and big characters that require you to suspend disbelief. When I read the script, it almost felt graphic novelish in its tone and its boldness, in terms of the characters. For example, there is a hitman in the story called Gustave and both sides keep trying to take contracts out with against the other side; there is a contract out on my character and on my boss. But Gustave is a French transvestite who flies a gyrocopter up and down the country.
You can't really have a typical British Essex boy gangster flick with a French transvestite hitman in a gyrocopter flying about and I hope that really... that is certainly one of the things that attracted me to the part. I'm hoping that audiences really feel that that is what sets it apart from your typical gangster flick.
- You have slightly touched on my next question really. You take on the role of Gary Little in the film, so what was it about this character and Steven Nesbit's script that was the major draw when you read it for the first time?
This is an interesting story because I actually met Steve Nesbit at the Teenage Cancer Trust charity event where we were watching The Who play. We got talking - I knew he was a director and he knew that I was an actor. I think clever people threw us into this pit together on purpose.
Anyway, I started to show off and do lots of different improvisations and impressions of British gangsters; I was making fun of the more well-known actors who have probably done too many gangster flicks as well as doing impressions of the likes of Gary Oldman, who I think have really nailed and brought something different or some gravitas to these gangster parts. We had a few drinks and got a bit squiffy and I thought nothing of it.
Six weeks later, a script arrived to me with a message from Steve saying 'read this and read yourself as Gary Little.' So I read it was like 'wow, mate this is fantastic let's meet.' About six months later, he said 'you have no idea why I wrote this script do you?' And I was like 'No. It's a great script Steve, but no'. And he was like 'it was off the back of your improvisation at the Teenage Cancer Trust gig.' I was humbled, flattered, and excited because it is quite an honour to trigger a script that then gets made at this level. I am very very proud of the project.
- You have mentioned Steven already, and he is in the director's chair as well as having penned the screenplay. How did you find working with him? This is only his second feature film as a director?
I think that the first feature film was a bit of an experiment for him. It was very very low budget and was more like a short film. Steve is a force of nature and he knows what he wants. He is Captain Kirk of the Enterprise to me because he steers the ship with such a steady hand and puts himself on the line for everyone. Make no mistake, he asks you to put yourself on the line as well.
He is one of these directors who have done a million commercials and music videos before he got the chance to direct a feature film, but before that, he use to fly harrier jump jets in the RAF: he was a fighter pilot. That really does tell you everything that you need to know about the resourcefulness and the ability of the man. A little bit like me, I started acting when I was forty; he was flying jets before he decided that he wanted to be a film director (laughs). That is a bit crazy. In terms of his ability, he is very much like a big brother to me and there is nothing that I wouldn't do for him.
- Was it very much a collaborative relationship between Steve and the actors?
Yeah, very much so. Well, he had to because some of the older and more experienced actors were not sticking to the script and pulling up the lines that they wanted to say and he had to go with that. He steered it well and pulled them back in when he thought that they were too far off piste. Then there was little old me who was giving it to him word for word. You have to remember, this is my first lead role, and I really have only had a couple of cameos in feature films before this. He was very collaborative.
There is a flamethrower scene at the end of the film where I completely get set on fire and burnt to a frazzle - that doesn't necessarily mean that I am dead. We were working the shot with a professional who had this enormous flamethrower, I had my back to the flame, and I had to turn into it. Then they cheat the perspective so the flame actually misses me by a metre. However, they did rub all this glycerine down that side of my face just in case he slipped and I get caught with the flame (laughs). I was bricking it.
We did three of four takes and later on the stuntman was going to be filmed covered in flames. Steve came over, put his arm round me, and said 'it's not quite working in the wide shot because we can see this professional with the flame thrower. How would you feel about shooting a few takes with Dominic?' Dominic is the actor who is playing the guy who is supposed to shooting this flamethrower. Without going into too much detail because I don't want to incriminate Dominic, but he had had a very bad day and, to calm his nerves, he had had a few drinks. I said to Steve, 'you want me to do some takes with Dominic holding the flame thrower who is really upset and had a few drinks?' And he said 'yes.'
So I was like 'ok then.' I had my back to the flame, I had to do exactly the same thing of turning into him blasting me, and the stuntmen were pissing themselves laughing because they could see how scared I was (laughs). That really does show you what I would do for Mr Nesbit.
- Steve has assembled a great cast for the film, so how was it working alongside the likes of Bernard Hill, Steven Berkoff, and Keith Allen?
I have just done another film with Bernard, where he plays the lead and I play the lead bad guy, called Golden Years. I am kind of getting use to working with Bernard at the moment. Bernard is incredibly professional and has been doing this for a long time - I have been doing this for five years. I respect everything that he does and watching him and Steven Berkoff intensely; I have never been to drama school and so everything that I have learnt has been from the actors that I have worked with, such as Stephen Graham, Timothy Spall, Burn Gorman, and Michelle Fairley from Game of Thrones.
Every time I am on set, you can study another actor's approach and see what they do to get themselves there to get the correct energy and the correct performance. I spent a lot of time studying the likes of Bernard and Steven and they bring an incredible professionalism; one minute they can be laughing away with you and talking about the boxing or the football, and then when someone shouts 'we are good to go in five minutes,' they just turn it on.
Also, I like being around the acting heritage - Steven Berkoff is a hero in my eye with his one-man show and the fact that he has done 125 films. I remember Bernard from Boys from the Blackstuff thirty years ago. It was a pleasure to work with those people.
- North vs South is going to be playing in competition at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. How important do you think that a festival platform is for British movies? How excited are you about getting up there?
Really excited. I have had smaller parts in films that were at festivals such as Toronto and London Film Festival, but this one is majorly different for me because I am a lead in it. The Michael Powell Award is a very respected award and I was very pleased and surprised that the film was nominated as it wasn't expected.
The film has already secured distribution, but the role that festivals play in helping lower budget films get a platform, get a profile and hopefully find an audience either with a festival run or via distribution is crucial. It is crucial in terms of creating awareness about different movies. I think that Edinburgh is the most artistically respected film festival in the country; closely followed by London Film Festival.
I am looking forward to it and I love audience screenings and Q&A's because I like to feel - whether they like, hate, or are indifferent to the film - that they are engaged. I embrace it and I am not a shy artist that hates that public interaction, I am cool with it. At a festival, it is a very informed audience - that is why they are at the festival - and they love their films.
- We are also going to be seeing you in Golden Years - as you have already mentioned - can you tell me a bit about that project?
Golden Years is a comedy caper with an out of this world cast, including Bernard Hill, Mark Williams, Simon Callow, Una Stubbs, Virginia McKenna, Alun Armstrong, and Philip Davis. I play the lead bad guy in the film and I have just had to pinch myself because that is the cream of the country's actors. It is a very cleverly written piece. I had an input in the script with director/writer John Miller and Nick Knowles; they are both really good pals of mine. I wouldn't say I wrote the script but I definitely had input in the development stage of the script.
Lead character Arthur has had enough because the banks have messed his pension, the world is not what it use to be as his bowls club is going bust, and the bingo has been put on fortnightly. He thinks about robbing a bank and then he accidentally robs a bank. He realises that he is invisible because he is nearly seventy years old and is very easy for pensioners to rob banks. They go off on this Bonnie and Clyde romp around the country robbing banks.
Alun Armstrong is one of the policemen that is on their heels. My character is a metrosexual, self-absorbed, very ambitious, and scheming policeman who wants to catch them to secure a promotion. He spends half the film getting spray tans and looking at himself in the mirror. You end up wanting Alun Armstrong to catch them before my character because you know that Alun's character is probably going to do the right thing and not arrest them, while my character will arrest them and bang them up for thirty years.
- We are use to seeing you in drama and action movies, so how did you find the leap into comedy?
I did stand-up comedy for two years. I quit a career in finance when I was forty but I didn't have the time to go to drama school so I thought doing stand-up would give me the steep learning curve that I needed. I have always admired those who have the nerve to stand up and make us laugh. It was a loss making exercise, but it did teach me a lot about performance. I then went and did twenty-five short films before I got any feature film work; I went out and did anything and everything I could short film wise.
By the time I got to start acting in features, the groundwork had been done and I had learnt the game. This was situation comedy and if you try to be funny, you screw it up; the comedy comes out of playing it straight. The first day or two I wasn't doing that on set and the director had to have a quiet work in my ear and tell me to tone it down and play it straight. It was a new experience for me but I just tapped into some of the comedic skills that I had learnt from stand-up.
- Finally, what's next for you going through the second half of this year?
I am writing a film with the director of North vs South, which is another comedy project but with a boxing and gypsy prize-fighting backdrop. We are writing that at the moment and, if we are lucky, we may shoot that this year if the finance comes together.
I have also played the lead roles in a low budget horror film called Writers Retreat, which is in post-production and will be out at the end of this year. The movie follows a group of writers that go on to an island to learn how to write and one of them is a killer. You can only get on and off the island two hours of every day and the killer starts bumping people off. Apart from that, I am very much available (laughs).
North v South will be featured in competition at the prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2015.