Noel Clarke interview: Fast Girls, Star Trek, MMA and more

Interview Simon Brew 15 Jun 2012 - 07:25

We chat to writer, director and actor Noel Clarke about his latest film, about JJ Abrams, and about his many other projects...

It's a busy time for Noel Clarke. He's just got back from shooting JJ Abrams' Star Trek sequel. He's got Storage 24 and The Knot approaching soon. But first, there's his latest movie, Fast Girls, which he co-stars in and has co-penned the screenplay for. Fortunately, he squeezed in a few minutes for a natter... 

It's been nearly 700 days since you first tweeted you were starting a challenge entitled The Triangle, where you bet people you could write three screenplays in the time it took them to do one [with the offer that Clarke's company would read any scripts completed before he finished his]....

Yeah. One of them's Storage 24.

That's what I thought. Because Fast Girls doesn't seem to be one of those three films?

No.

So where does this fit in? Did this come afterwards?

This was Damian Jones' idea. He was one of the producers of Kidulthood and Adulthood. This was his idea and always his idea. And so, I don't remember if I wrote this before or after. I don't tend to talk about stuff that I'm doing until it's done. 

Yet you've been teasing 5.4.3.2.1 this week?

Yeah, I have! But it still might not get made. It's financed, but they might not make it. If I deliver a piece of crap then they won't make it.

And so I don't remember where Fast Girls fell. I just know that Damian wanted to do it, and so I got together with Jay Basu who I know well, and we knocked it out and did it. 

You had a very tight window of opportunity with Fast Girls.

For making it, yeah, but we wrote it a long time ago.

See, that's interesting. I've read one or two people call the placement of the film a bit opportunistic... 

Here's the thing. It might be opportunistic that it comes out at this time, but it has to come out at this time. Why would you not put it out at this time, as a studio? But in terms of us as the creators, definitely not. Damian's been talking to me about doing this film since we did Kidulthood. So, what, 2005? Damian Jones has been saying we should do a film called Fast Girls. I've always been a bit too busy, or not too sure. And only after 4.3.2.1 when the Olympics was announced, he said we should do it. I said yeah, and we wrote it, but it's been sitting around for a while. 

Of all the stuff you've done, presumably this is the one you had to be tightest on legally, given the IOC and its band of lawyers?

No, I didn't worry about that! When I wrote it, it was Olympics, I didn't give a flying fuck about this stuff! It was Olympics, five rings, this that there. It's only when it started getting made that they checked all that stuff and were told you can't use this, you can't use that. I think Roy Williams, who was on a draft, he pulled all that stuff out at the time. But we just wrote the film we wanted to see.

I love the irony. The massive conglomerates landing on London, and a small British film...

 You can't even use the word, can you? It's ridiculous!

Presumably then if you go back to the schedule, this must have been shot in the winter. Because it looks bloody cold.

Yeah, it was shot in November and December. I finished on the 18th of December, I think.

So when it comes to your role, I presume you wrote it with you in mind?

No, I wasn't necessarily going to play that role. I didn't have any set role.

You were never going to play one of the Fast Girls, though...

Well, I was talking about it! [laughs] I'd look good in those little pants! I wasn't going to play any set role. I just wrote it, and then went off and did Storage 24 and The Knot, and Damian was running with it. I told him I didn't want to direct it, and he brought Regan [Hall] on, and then when I came back to do the last pass when it was building up to filming, they said there's the boyfriend of the older sister, Carl, or Tommy. They decided they wanted Bradley [James] for Carl, and I said I'll play Tommy.

The chronology of it, then, was that this was the last of the three films you've got coming out in the next four months that you shot?

Yes. 

It's complete reverse order, isn't it?

Yeah. This was the last one made, but the first one out. The Knot was the first made, the last out, and Storage was done in the middle. It's crazy, it's just the way it goes man.

So where's your MMA film?

What happened with that was that we were setting that up, and we had a decent cast setting up. Then Warrior came out, and didn't do as well as everyone thought. People went if Tom Hardy can't do it, what can you do? So our sales estimates went down. Then I was rewriting it for a lower budget, and just as we were setting it up to shoot in March, in the November - while shooting Fast Girls - I got Star Trek.

So that went out the window. I e-mailed the cast, and said here's the deal, got to do this, that film's on the back burner.

But it's still on the burner? 

Oh yeah.

Is it one you want to direct still?

I'm not sure now. I might not do it. My mind flits around a little, and I might not direct it now. But it's still bubbling.

What do you get when you go onto a big Hollywood blockbuster like Star Trek and see JJ Abrams directing?

You watch in awe. At the genius of the man. He really is a genius guy. I've never worked on a film that size before, and I've never worked with a director like that. He's on a different level, and you look at him and say that's what I have to aspire to be. If not that size, then at least take on the way he does it. He's a very clever guy, and it was an amazing experience. Hopefully they don't cut me out the film!

That's where your aspirations seem to have been going? The films that you do have been getting more and more ambitious?

Yes. 

And you've been lobbying for Black Panther, too?

Well, a lot of the fans seem to be lobbying for me! There was a vote yesterday with loads of names on it, and I was winning that!

I went on and voted for Shia LaBeouf, just to screw the poll up for you!

[Laughs] I looked at it, and I was leading the vote. I thought wow! I think that's a knock on effect from Star Trek, though. I feel like with Fast Girls, and Storage 24 and that, some people are thinking that maybe he can do that stuff. 

Have you a call about it yet?

 No!

Are you the kind of person who'll put the call in yourself?

You can't, no. It's one of those things where you get the jobs you get. And some you don't get. When people said you got Star Trek, it's so amazing... if I told you the amount of jobs I went for and haven't got over the years. The list would be too long. Some you get, some you don't.

I read you were linked with Mad Max: Fury Road at one point. Was there anything in that?

That was Internet rumour. I actually booked a film in Australia, which was a wedding romcom, and then I couldn't get on the film, as the Australian immigration committee only wanted three British actors. So when they had to lose one, I was the one that got lost. So I mentioned Australia - and I was booked, and ready to go - as I was going to spend a bunch of time there. And then I didn't get through on the immigration commission! But that's life. So we made our own wedding romcom [The Knot].

Was that the catalyst for the project?

Well, I had that script around for a while, but when that happened I thought fuck 'em, we're going to make our own one, and kill 'em.

You said you had a romcom written around the time of Kidulthood, if memory serves...

Yeah. That's The Knot. Obviously we've updated it - there were no iPads in those days!

Would you look at doing something along the lines of a Fast Girls 2?

It's not up to me. It's Damian Jones' baby. Whatever he decides. If he says to me it's done well, let's do another one... But it's relevant now, you know? And I don't know when 2 would be relevant. This being a success shouldn't necessarily mean we do another one. If we did it in a random year, it wouldn't be relevant. People are caught up in the Olympic fever.

You put a Tweet out about 5.4.3.2.1 the other day. There are people who create series of characters now, who don't necessarily fold them into sequels, they just move them into other stories, Marvel being the obvious example. Is there a temptation for you there, as a writer?

Using the same characters in different films? I would have loved to have done stuff like that. It's just never been one of things that have caught on. A lot of films are with different studios, and so it's a rights thing. I'd love to do, I love that kind of stuff: to hear something mentioned in one film that links to another. It hasn't happened yet, but it's something I definitely think about. Maybe if we find one home for our films, then we can something like that.

Noel Clarke, thank you very much!

Fast Girls is out today in UK cinemas.

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