From the BAFTA award-winning director of This Is England and Dead Man’s Shoes, Somers Town will be released to own on DVD on 12th January 2009.
Tomo (Thomas Turgoose) has run away to London from a lonely, difficult life in the Midlands. Through a chance encounter he meets Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a Polish immigrant living with his father in Somers Town, central London. Unknown to his father, Marek begins hiding Tomo in his flat and the two boys go on little adventures, stealing clothes from a launderette and earning money from an eccentric neighbour, Graham (Perry Benson) while sharing a growing obsession for Maria, the French waitress at their local café.
Thomas Turgoose (represented by Troika) was the young skin-head star of This Is England. It's director, Shane Meadows has described watching the first casting tape he saw of Tomo for ‘This Is England’ as like looking in a mirror 20 years ago. Does Turgoose see the similarity? ‘I suppose I’m a bit like Shane. He was always the small one who wanted to be involved in a lot of stuff.’ Meadows has said he was terrified of Turgoose, a lippy kid plucked from a Grimsby youth club, who charged the casting director for ‘This Is England’ a fiver to audition (it was a tenner for the second reading). ‘I thought I’d be lucky to get five days out of this kid, never mind a whole shoot,’ Meadows said afterwards.
For his part, Turgoose found the first few weeks of ‘This is England’ hard going. He nearly pulled out. Meadows bluffed him, telling him he had another boy in Manchester waiting to fill his shoes. ‘Shane said to me, this other lad is going to get all the money. And I said no, I’m going to.’ After seven weeks, he says he realised that this was what he wanted to do with his life.
Today, now aged 16, Turgoose is still cheeky – in an eager-to-please, youngest-child sort of way – and who wouldn’t be with such a brilliantly urchin-like, Dickensian name? More than that, he’s now a professional actor. Whereas before he was making it to school about once a week, this morning, a Saturday, he got up at the crack of dawn to come down on the train from Grimsby – where he lives with his dad and stepmum – for a casting session. If there was ever an example of what a bit of opportunity and self-esteem can do for a talented kid from an estate, it’s sitting right here in a Bloomsbury café.
He’s still friends with Meadows, who sounds proud talking about his young pal. ‘I decided to look out for him after “This Is England”.’ He says that Turgoose had to audition like anyone else for ‘Somers Town’ but turned out to be the best for the job. ‘He’s still cheeky, but he’s grown up a lot.’
As well as his films with Meadows, Turgoose had a part in a BBC drama, ‘The Innocence Project’, and is also in the upcoming Brit horror ‘Eden Lake’. There are other perks – parties and free Champagne are top of the list. Boris Johnson was at the launch for ‘Somers Town’. ‘I met him, he was cool. He was just stood there, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.’ Turgoose turns to the woman from the film company. ‘He did watch the film?’ She nods. ‘I think so.’
It goes without saying that his life has changed? ‘Yeah, completely. I never had my own money. My mum always gave me money for anything I wanted and I was quite spoilt. Having that money came as a bit of a shock and I wasted a lot of it.’ He adds quickly, ‘But I saved a lot too.’
Nearly – but not quite – all grown up, then.
When did you first hear about ‘Somers Town’?
Thomas Turgoose: Well, I was on a set of a feature film that was filming at Pinewood Studios, ‘Eden Lake’ that was called. I was filming for six weeks and I think about four or five weeks in, Shane had rang me himself and said he was doing this film and he said it’d be interesting if I could do a bit of a workshopping with him, see how I work with the character and I did this and Shane says can I do a final interview with you. That was on the night I took my last day of shooting with this ‘Eden Lake’ and I did this audition with Shane, I think Shane was really impressed with how I connected with my character Tomo. So, that’s basically how we were going into it by like, keeping in touch with Shane and just like, keeping close with Shane, being in contact with him, so...
Piotr Jagiello: I was in school and one woman called me and told me that there is a casting for ‘Somers Town’ directed by Shane Meadows. I wasn’t so, you know, I didn’t know who is it, honestly, but, Ok I can go, but she told me you need to talk English by the perfect way and I said no I’m going because my English isn’t perfect. She called me three times and I said Ok I go but I know I’m gonna lose. So I went there and I won. I was completely surprised and scared because it’s English film and I didn’t know if I can speak English as well as they want to - as they want me to speak.
Can you describe Tomo’s character traits and motivation?
TT: Basically like me, I mean, in so many ways he’s a good lad, he’s a good kid but I think he always try to be hard and he’s trying to impress people who is around which is basically what I do, really. I mean I’m always the louder of the group and I’m always like, I always try to be clever. I mean, Tomo, he always wants to impress people but deep down he is a good kid and he’s always trying to find ways of making money. He’s a typical teenager, into his women and his magazines, if you know what I mean, all that kind of thing. I mean, he’s into all that, he’s like basic, any other teenager really. He’s a good kid but he wants people to think he’s bad, but he doesn’t want to be bad, if you know what I mean.
Can you describe Marek’s character traits and motivation?
PJ: He’s from Poland. He’s a Polish boy who is really really quiet. He loves taking pictures and he feels lonely because his father works a lot and he hasn’t got time for, you know, playing with son. So they move to England because his father found work. Marek takes pictures and met Tomo who is, in Marek’s opinion, rude and in one scene pervert but their friendship is really special because they’re completely different but they can speak...
TT: ..they sort of bond don’t they - it’s like come together and become really good friends.
Did you do any preparation for the scenes?
TT: Shane always works. He’ll give a scene and say: “this is what’s happening.” Marek’s gonna go into the shop for some booze. Do it how you’d do it. And we’d do it one or two times and Shane would say: “No that’s not right, do it like this.” And if we feel uncomfortable with what Shane told us to do, he says: “Tell me”. And we’ll try an work round it. Cuz’ I think what Shane wants is natural as possible, which is... He wants, he likes natural, natural actors and actresses in his films, so...
The scene where you get drunk seemed like it would be fun to film, was it?
TT: That was really funny, I mean, wrecking the flat and throwing crisps everywhere. There was a scene where I actually cut my face down here and it cut down there. We was like...
PJ: Yeah, I hit him.
TT: Come on. You tell him.
PJ: Yeah, we had an accident because we had a bottle. Tomo was drinking and we were pulling and pushing and I hit it here...
TT: He let go and I was pulling it towards me and I went whack and smack meself straight in the face and the make-up was well worried about because I had a massive cut going down my nose, down here. I mean. But it was fun, it was fun. Best time I ever had to do, act drunk and it was funny. And Shane said it was funny. When I’ve watched bits of the film, Shane said it looks amazing. It does look funny, so...
What do you think of the boys love affair?
TT: Well the boys like, both really really like Maria. They’re both in love with her and I think Maria is stuck in this sort of triangle because I know, she knows it’s never gonna happen between these two kids. Because they are kids.
PJ: She’s older than... Marek and Tomo.
TT: She’s older. She’s what, twenty, twenty-fivish and these two boys are fifteen, sixteen and...I think she just like thinks it’s funny these two boys are arguing over and they’re trying all they can and they’re doing the best to try to impress her. So yeah.
Somers Town will be released to own on DVD on 12th January 2009.