Sunday, 19 November 2006

Interview with the young star of British comedy drama Sixty Six

There's currently a British film out called Sixty Six. I did an interview with its young star, Gregg Sulkin. Please take a read!

By Sarah Ebner

Child stars do not often have a happy tale to tell. Some descend into a drink and drugs hell, while others “divorce” their parents or spend years trying to live up to their early celebrity.
The latest in a long list of youngsters to make it onto the big screen is 14-year-old Gregg Sulkin, who takes the lead role in the new British comedy-drama Sixty Six. But Sulkin is an unusual child star. For one thing, he’s not even sure that acting is his dream.
“I’ve been brought up playing football and always wanted to be a footballer,” says Sulkin, who’s on the books at Spurs. “I love playing football and I love how 30,000 people sing your name.
“Actually my mum wants me to play tennis, because she likes how it’s an individual game, and my dad wants me to play football. I definitely love acting, and if you told me I had to give one of them up, I don’t think I could. But maybe people give you more credit when you’re an actor, rather than a footballer. I wouldn’t mind being an actor…I think.”
With all his sporting talents – Sulkin has also been a junior British champion in Eton Fives - it’s ironic that in Sixty Six, Sulkin plays a geeky non-sportsman by the name of Bernie Rubens. Bernie’s Bar Mitzvah is approaching fast, but it just so happens to be scheduled for the day of the World Cup Final in 1966. As England progress through round after round, it looks as if football is set to ruin the best day of Bernie’s life.
“I couldn’t identify Bernie with me,” admits Sulkin. “I just trusted Paul (Weiland), the director. Maybe that made it easier. If Bernie had been the same as me, perhaps I might have over-acted”
It should be easy to hate Sulkin. After all, he has been blessed not only with a great deal of talent, but he’s good looking too. However, he seems genuine (he admits he’s not the fastest footballer in the world, but says he “knows when to pass”), is charming (it’s difficult to resist those dimples) and shows no obvious sign that he’s becoming obnoxious. He even sends his mum flowers and claims he’s not completely perfect.
“I’m not good at everything,” he explains. “I’m not good at maths.” He’s also not even the most famous actor in his class at Highgate School. That honour goes to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Freddie Highmore.
Sulkin was cast in Sixty Six as an acting novice. In fact, he had only acted once before and was seen so much as a footballer rather than actor, that when casting directors visited his school, he wasn’t even put forward for the role.
Instead his father, Graham, took him to the audition as an “experience”. He wasn’t expecting to actually get the part and had to audition four times before having a screen test.
“I was surprised every time they asked me back” he says disarmingly. “But I really did enjoy the auditions. I liked how there was pressure on you. I liked how if you didn’t do well, then that was it.”
He obviously adored the entire experience and still talks enthusiastically about his screen parents Helena (Bonham Carter) and Eddie (Marsan, who played Reg in Vera Drake), whom he describes as being “like my hero”.
“The people were just so amazing,” he says. “I was scared of meeting Helena because she was so famous and I thought she might not talk to me. But when I met her, she gave me a kiss and a cuddle and she was so down to earth. She’s just like a beautiful mum.”
When I first met Sulkin, his enthusiasm was palpable. He had just finished making the film, described it as the best time of his life and was desperate to do more acting.
“The night it all finished, I was just so sad, because I wanted to do it for ever,” he said emotionally. “I just loved every minute of it
Eight months later, he’s still keen on the acting, but, because he’s back playing football (he had to stop when he was filming), he’s enthused about that too. And that’s despite being an Arsenal fan who’s now playing for the “wrong” North London club.
The intervening months were not always easy, as Sulkin failed to get other acting roles. More recently, however, he has done some filming for Channel 4 and got his confidence back.
“I was worried,” he says. “I wondered if I was doing something wrong in the auditions and whether Paul had seen something other people couldn’t see.”
Right now, he’s looking forward to the film’s premiere, although, having been to a screening already, he’s still in shock about seeing himself on the big screen.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “All that work and it ends up as an hour and a half.”

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