Best known as an actor, Dexter Fletcher unleashed his directorial debut Wild Bill at this month’s Glasgow Film Festival – and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire programme, an initial Lock Stock feel giving way to a heartfelt drama about family that contains a strong mixture of humour and pathos.
In the movie Bill Hayward returns to his East London home on parole after an eight-year prison stretch to find his now 11 and 15-year-old sons have been fending for themselves after their mother abandoned them – with older son Dean (Will Poulter) resentful of his father’s reappearance.
Speaking to STV at the Glasgow Film Theatre, Dexter explained to us how he secured the services of some of his star friends, and why he cast in the lead role of Wild Bill a former colleague in well loved 80s/90s children’s TV show Press Gang.
Dexter told us: “Charlie Creed-Miles is an old friend of mine who I worked with when he was 16, and I was in my early 20s.
“I’d known Charlie for a long time, and we’d always been good friends, I’d always found him very funny and knew he was a talented guy.
“I hadn’t seen him for a long time before the film, but I’d always been aware of him and his work – and when I was writing Wild Bill he was always in the forefront of my mind, because I knew I wanted an actor who had a lot of warmth, charm and humour.”
He added: “When you watch the film Charlie definitely has all of those things. He does humour beautifully, doesn’t overplay it, and he’s an inherently funny man. I always knew that Charlie was the person that I wanted to play Wild Bill.”
In the other main role is 19-year-old Will Poulter, who starred in critically acclaimed 2007 movie Son of Rambow, and also appeared in 2010’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
In this movie Will plays 15-year-old Dean, Bill’s son who has had to take on responsibility for his brother in the absence of his parents.
Dexter explained: “I was aware of him; I’d seen Son of Rambow and knew he was a very talented young actor, certainly at 12 or 13. And [Channel 4’s] Schoolof Comedy as well.
“So I knew he could be funny, but also knew that he was a young star on the rise. I hoped – and I was right – that the chance to play his first serious adult character would appeal to him.
“Once he read the script he campaigned for the part like you wouldn’t believe. The fact was I’d wanted him to play it once I’d met him – he looked right, and he’d just turned 17 and has this baby-faced look, but he handles his adult responsibilities very well.
“I knew he was perfect, but I didn’t let on to that too quickly – I let him really want the part.”
Dexter added: “He and Charlie spar off each other really well, and that is the core of the film – that’s the heart of the film.”
The director also explained how he got so many star actors – such as Andy Serkis, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Jaime Winstone, Marc Warren and Sean Pertwee – involved in the film.
Dexter said: “What I tried to do with all of those parts is offer my well known friends, or people that I know, a chance to do something different.
“Hopefully that’s what it achieves successfully; when you see Jaime Winstone she’s not playing a single mum or a tart with a hear, she’s playing the social worker. It was an opportunity for her as an actress to do something that people wouldn’t expect, or maybe ordinarily wouldn’t give her a chance to do, and in the film it works really well.”
He added: “I’m in no delusions how lucky I am to get these people. That’s just one of the fortunate things about being around for so long. I’ve done it for them, and would do it for them, as well. It cuts both ways, and that’s the great thing about this business, that people will get involved and ‘share the love’, as they say.”
Wild Bill is out in UK cinemas on March 23rd.
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