Mem Ferda has a very busy year ahead of him both in front of the camera and behind as a producer. He is currently on set filming A Life Of Violence, which is directed by Mark McQueen and written and starring Craig Fairbrass.
We are also going to be seeing the actor tackling comedy projects Miss You Already and Gridiron UK and we caught up with him to chat about the films that he has on the horizon.
- You are about to start work on new action/thriller A Life Of Violence, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Sure, A Life Of Violence is a slick, action packed, heist thriller, with a hard edge and emotional heart. With an all-star cast, starring Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, myself, Nick Moran, Steven Berkoff and Nathalie Cox. It tells the story of Jack Cregan a career criminal who seeks to discover the truth behind his father's murder and his lost heist money.
The story is set in and around Spain's glamorous Marbella municipality and London's dark underworld. It is produced by Luke Fairbrass (Breakdown) and directed by Mark McQueen (Devil's Playground).
- You are going to take on the role of Lenny Moore in the film -what was it about this character and the script that was the major draw when you read it for the first time?
First and foremost, the script was a riveting read. Penned by Craig Fairbrass, it had a confident exuberance not typical of a British crime film script; it rose way above other film scripts I have read within that genre. Secondly, the role of Lenny Moore cried out to me 'Mem you have to bring me to life'. The authenticity and complexity of the character bowled me over no end.
I just had to play Lenny, and thankfully, I absolutely did. Working on my East End cockney accent, getting into the mind-set of a dangerous, psychotic, 'killer/entrepreneur'. It was a remarkably challenging role and I loved immersing myself in the character and the many layers that made up Lenny's personality. I also felt very free creatively, to be playing a role that was very close to my own dialect and London accent.
- The movie will see Mark McQueen back in the director's chair for what will only be the second feature film of his career. He was worked on TV series such as Troy and Gadget Man, so how familiar are you with this work? And how excited are you with working with someone new?
I had worked with Craig Fairbrass on a previous film 'Breakdown' and whilst on this project he had mentioned to me about a film he starred in entitled 'Devil's Playground' directed by Mark McQueen. So I watched it and was stunned by how engaging, stylish, and entertaining it was. Mark has an assured excellence as a director and remarkable vision for every scene.
He took some getting use to initially as he's not one for giving too much adulation (laughs) it kind of threw me at first and had me thinking 'is he liking what I'm doing or not?' As we progressed, I very quickly adjusted to his directing technique and qualities; frankly, he is formidable, very talented, and sharp as a razor. It was so awesome working with him. Filmgoers are in for a real treat!
- Miss You Already is set to hit the big screen this September, so can you tell me a bit about that project?
Sure, essentially it is a comedy/romance/drama, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette. It is an astoundingly heartfelt story about the friendship between two life-long girlfriends - when their friendship is called into question as one starts a family and the other falls very ill. It is a delightful script written by Morwenna Banks, with affecting characters, and it will most certainly be a beautiful film.
- You take on the role of Ahmed in the film, so where does your character fit into the story?
Yes, I play the role of Ahmed, a London Taxi driver, who picks the ladies up one night after a diner date and takes them on a fun trip from London to Yorkshire. Drew's character Jess and Ahmed have a heart to heart conversation.
It was so surreal, to be acting alongside Drew, she has such an incredible presence, and to later be dancing on the Yorkshire Moors with Drew on one arm and Toni on the other. What more could an actor ask for in their career (laughs). Both are amazing actresses, a real joy to of worked with them both.
- Miss You Already sees Catherine Hardwicke back in the director's chair. She is best known for Twilight and this is her first film since Plush - how did you find her as a director? And what kind of director was she?
Catherine Hardwicke was wonderful to work with. She has a real comforting nature, constantly smiling and incredibly meticulous with each scene. She has a sensitivity and sincerity with actors and an assured confidence, which makes you feel very 'safe' creatively in her presence. One just needs to watch 'Twilight' to see how affecting and faultless her work as a director is. She is so perfect for directing Miss You Already.
- The movie sees you reunite with Dominic Cooper - who you worked with on The Devil's Double - so how was that? And working with the rest of the cast?
Being on set with Dominic again, was thrilling, I have a lot of respect for him, he is a real gentlemen and an extremely talented actor. We reminisced about 'The Devil's Double' and how much fun we had filming it.
I also met with Paddy Considine, whose work I have admired for a long time, we had a chat, and he is a very warm and friendly soul. It was also great to work with Christopher Simon and Felix Vossen from Embargo films, having worked with them previously on Pusher.
- Miss You Already is a rom/com, which is not a genre that we are used to seeing you tackle, so how did you find that challenge?
It was like a breath of fresh air. I loved every second of not killing someone or have someone kill me (laughs). The role of Ahmed was very close to my actual self; in as far as he is a gentle, sincere, and sensitive person. I felt very free in being able to bring the character of Ahmed to screen. I'd love to do more rom-com roles in the near future. Hint, hint!
- How conscious a decision has it been to move away from the action/thriller roles we know you for? Gridiron UK sees you do the same thing, as it is a sports comedy.
I am not going to cut my nose off to spite my face. I've built my career on playing tough guys. I love playing them and will not turn a role down because of the nature of the characters personality. Hence, I just did one of my toughest characters to date! That of Lenny Moore in 'A Life Of Violence '.
However, I am consciously considering each role I am offered, more so now, than I had done before. I am making a move towards doing more comedy, and good guys, and have a string of them coming up in my new films. In 'Breakdown', which comes out in 2015, I play a victim, whom I'm sure audiences will sympathies with and root for.
In Gridiron, I play a hard-man role, but he is an extremely funny character. Ultimately, a cracking role is a cracking role. I would undertake hero or villain, comedy or dramatic roles.
- We last spoke in the middle of last year for the release of Plastic and it looks like you have been working non-stop since then.
Yes, I've been very fortunate (fingers crossed). One recent project I'm very excited about is a strong scripted independent film, entitled 'A Punter's Prayer'. Set in North London, it's a remarkable examination of the realities in living in a multicultural society and the wonderful interactions one is exposed to. Written and directed by Savvas D Michael, the film is bursting with very interesting and engaging characters, mirroring real life.
It is very authentic, and shines with great potential. Look out for its release later this year. It stars Dexter Fletcher, Daniel Caltagirone, Andreas Karras, young gun Tommy O'Neill and of course, myself (smiles). Also, look out for Gridiron UK, Dirtymoney, and a nice little film entitled My Hero.
- As well as being busy in front of the camera, you are also busy as a producer, so how is that going? K-Shop, The Last Scout, and Mania are some of the producing projects you have worked on recently.
I'm learning a lot from producing and it enables me to use my business mind and calls upon a different set of skills. It is going well and I have a number of interesting films coming up.
I've been working with a lovely actress/ executive producer, Jessica Cameron. She is based in Los Angeles and she has been instrumental in helping me produce three horror films stateside, which are due for release in 2015/16. They are 'Mania', 'Kill the PA' and 'Desolation'. I have also been working on a Sweeny Todd inspired horror film 'K-Shop', with my business associate and friend Adam J Merrifield. This will be released later this year.
- Finally, what else is on the horizon going through 2015/16?
My main focus for 2015/16 will be to put into production a couple of action/thrillers of which include 'Coiled Spring' - a powerful revenge thriller written by Chris Green. I will be starring and other cast of whom I am in talks with include; Kierston Wareing (Fish Tank), Tanya Franks (Family Affairs) and Scot Williams (Redirected). I also hope to kick into production the features 'Gunfather' and 'Rat Catcher'.
Keep updated with Mem's upcoming films - by visiting Twitter: @memferda1Facebook: www.facebook.com/MemFerdaOfficial Web: www.memferda.com