joe Cole blasts onto the big screen for the first time this week as he leads the cast in the new movie Offender.
I caught up with the actor to talk about the movie, working with director Ron Scalpello and what he has lying ahead.
- Offender has hit the big screen this week so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
It’s about a young man from London who commits crimes to get himself incarcerated in a young offender’s institute in order to exact revenge on career criminals who have ruined his entire life by attacking his pregnant girlfriend. So he gets into the prison in a bid to seek revenge on all of them.
- You take on the role of Tommy in the movie so how did you first get involved in the project? And what did you like about Paul Van Carter’s script when you read it for the first time?
I was on the radar because the casting director had seen me in a play at the Bridge Theatre so she knew me for that. I was tweeting a producer for another film and we met for a coffee and we were talking about this other film when he got a phone call offering him the job of Offender.
And we got talking about it and he said ‘you should come in for this’ and so I read the script and it really resonated with me.
It’s a film that is about London and youth in the UK and it was really incredibly exciting and action packed.
It was also a really well rounded character for me as well as being a challenge because what he does in the film is so extreme and making that feel real for an audience was a huge challenge and something I really wanted to undertake.
- This movie is also the first movie to touch on the London riots just a year after they happened so how much was that element something that interested you?
The film stems partly from the riots but it is not like we are taking an in depth look at the riots it does just start the ball rolling for some of the characters in the film.
I think it was a crazy time and quite memorable so it’s interesting to have that as an element - but it only one element to a much bigger film.
- As I said you take on the role of Tommy so can you tell me a bit about the character and how we are going to see him develop throughout the movie?
Tommy is a working class young man from London - he is a builder and he is deeply in love with his girlfriend and his unborn son that is on the way.
He is incredibly settled in this quite ordinary life until English Frank and some of the others attack his girlfriend. He ultimately loses a lot and he just has to go after them.
He is a person who takes action and a person who doesn’t wallow in self pity but gets up and goes. I wouldn’t recommend what he does in the film, you will see when you watch it that it does have repercussions, but he is someone that does take action.
He finds himself in a hell hole really and he realises pretty quickly that the people he is dealing with here are much worse than him and are in a more horrible place.
- Tommy goes to some quite dark places throughout the movie so how did you find that aspect of the character?
It was good. It was interesting to play it because I always like a challenge and it was extremely challenging. Emotionally there is a lot to it and physically there is a lot to it, I had to get into a certain shape for the role; I had to make sure that I was fairly lean.
So yeah I was drawing on some past experiences as well as thinking about what it would be like if I lost someone close to me.
We have all got those relationships and connections with people in life that if broken, either metaphorically or otherwise, would break us and ruin us and that is what happens in the film.
So I just thought about what it would be like if I lost someone close to me and I tried to visualise that as much as I could and bring that truth across on camera.
- I chatted to Daniel Kendrick about the movie earlier this week and he said Ron Scalpello is a very collaborative filmmaker so how did you find working with him?
Ron was great. From a very stage, from day one, we established a great rapport and a real understanding of what both of us wanted to achieve with the film - we wanted to make something that was bigger and have more of a Hollywood feel to it than some of these other London films.
Also you have to remember that it is driven by love and it is driven by relationships. So we had a very good understanding and it was very easy to work with him and I think that he got the best out of me.
- This movie is clearly a very collaborative process between actor and director sp how much is that something that you enjoy?
Yeah it was good. Of course there was a script that we had to follow so it was more making sure that I knew where I was at each stage of Tommy’s journey emotionally - I had to know the script inside out and back to front.
There was some improvisation but generally it was just reacting and reacting to different characters in the film and make it feel as real as possible.
- Kimberley Nixon and Shaun Dooley are just two of the actors on the cast list so how did you find working with them? Was it a fun set to be on?
They are both brilliant as they are experienced actors and they brought a very high level of talent so it was a pleasure working with both of them.
They were very different as Kimberley plays my girlfriend and so that was a lot more of the emotive stuff while Shaun plays a nasty screw in the film. He delivers one hell of a performance. So it was great just to be able to react and work with those two.
To be honest I wasn’t cracking too many jokes during filming because it was such an intense role and so emotionally and physically demanding. I wasn’t there making too many friends I was just there to do the work.
But everyone was great and everyone pulled together; there are rappers in the film, ex-offenders, people who have been to drama school and then actors like me who are just working it out, and everyone came together to make something special.
- Daniel revealed that the pair of you almost had to put your friendship aside for this movie so how did you find that?
I guess so. When we were on set it was about getting the scenes one and working to time constraints so it was just about getting that truth.
We weren’t how we are normally but that is just part and parcel of it but when we wrapped at the end of the day we could discuss it and break out of character.
- This is your big screen debut but the second movie that you have worked on so how have you found the transition away from television?
I have found it fairly similar to be honest. The role was a lot more demanding and so it required a bit more focus and that bit more preparation.
But also I think with films there is more love in making film and it is a lot of people’s baby they want to be there and they want to make it good - TV is similar to some extent but film you see that even more.
By day one or two the entire cast and crew knew what Ron was trying to achieve and people realised that it was bigger than things that had come before it perhaps. Everyone was very excited and everyone wanted to do the best job that they could.
- Now that you have made the move into movies so is this the area where you want to stay?
I will just go where the jobs come to be honest with you. I have got another film that I am shooting soon and I have a TV job coming up so I just want to keep working and go where the good work is.
- So finally what is coming next for you?
I am in a new series of The Hour on BBC 2 with Ben Whishaw and Dominic West. I have got a few bits and pieces that I am working on and we are shooting over the next couple of months so I can’t say too much about that.
I am currently in development with a TV show with Matt Lucas so we are just figuring all that out at the moment. So yeah it’s good times.
Offender is out now
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw