Saturday, June 13, 2009

Looking for Eric

"How many actors does it take to change a light bulb?" runs the old gag.
"A hundred."
"Why a hundred?"
"One actor to change it, and the other ninety-nine to go THAT SHOULD BE ME UP THERE!"

When the casting breakdown for Ken Loach's new film Looking for Eric came into the office of the small, Northern actors' agency where I work, I knew instantly that our actor Steve Evets could be perfect for the lead role of the postman Eric Bishop.

(Evets, by the way, is his stage name and nobody ever notices that it's just Steve backwards!)

Here's the trailer. The film's about Eric Bishop's troubled life and his obsession with the characterful French footballer Eric Cantona. It's had excellent reviews and was nominated for the Palme D'Or at Cannes. (Steve's the one on the bike!)

Direct Personal Management had represented him since the mid-nineteen-nineties. He'd always worked pretty constantly, playing roles of all sizes from small to episode leads in many of the drama series filmed in the North. He's very castable: native Manchester and very "real". His previous two films had been my friend John Coombes's excellent independent short, Babbling Fools and then Kenneth Glenaan's superb film Summer, with Robert Carlyle, in which Steve had a large and crucial role.

I watched Steve work on Babbling Fools: always word-perfect and totally focused when the camera was on him, yet modest and totally professional when it wasn't. And one thing about Steve that's not always obvious from his cv of gritty Northern television roles - - he's hilarious, a real natural comedian.

So I submitted Steve for the role of Eric and did my very best to make sure he got an audition - - and he did! Several rounds of auditions later, he got the role, and had a wonderful time filming it last summer, being surprised again and again by Ken Loach's directing style where the actors don't know in advance what's going to happen.

As soon as he'd filmed it, of course, all the big London agents - who wouldn't have looked twice at him a year earlier - were after him. "Your agent is who? And in Leeds?" For "the business" is still very London-based.

Finally - as, sadly, I'd guessed would happen all along - Steve left us and went to a London agent. I can't blame him - actors' careers are so precarious that they have to take every chance they can, and he still keeps in touch. No, I don't blame Steve - but I SO wish things would change in this business, and that Us Up North would be taken a bit more seriously.

At the moment in Britain you can't pick up a newspaper without a picture of Steve Evets and Eric Cantona in it somewhere.

Do go and see the film - it went on general release yesterday and I'm sure it's excellent and will be going to see it soon. (And for every million it makes, our agency gets some money so I'd like it to break all box-office records, please, so do take all your friends). I hope it will lead to more great roles for Steve, because he's superb.

There was only one occasion when I completely lost my sense of proportion and sense of humour about it, and that was when I tried to ring Steve's new agent

"Sorry, who are you again?" asked the assistant.

His new agent wasn't there. Where was she? Promoting Steve at the Cannes Film Festival down in the South of France.

And, like the ninety-nine actors, I thought, "That should be me down there!"


Anonymous Milo said...

On the one hand, major congratulations for having helped him land that role!! The film looks very interesting.

On the other hand - commiserations for having had to see him go. That must have been incredibly disappointing. I'd like to think in this day and age, it shouldn't matter where an agency is based but I guess the reality is different.

I spose I can understand his reasons for doing it. But even so.

4:19 pm  

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