The performers

Jamie Patterson on working with Derren Nesbitt, Steve Oram and Jordan Stephens on Tucked

by Jennie Kermode

Jordan Stephens and Derren Nesbitt in Tucked
Jordan Stephens and Derren Nesbitt in Tucked

In the first part of my recent interview with Jamie Patterson we talked about how he developed the ideas behind Tucked and set out to turn the story of an ageing drag queen with cancer into an uplifting tale of friendship and self-discovery. In part two we discuss his amazing cast, starting with Derren Nesbitt, who has never had a role like Jackie before.

“I used to date his step-daughter, who’s a wonderful make-up artist,” Jamie says, explaining how they know each other. “He was retired and he came out of retirement a few years ago to do a film I was working on called Home For Christmas. A lovely performance, but he was doing it was a favour for me. While he was on set I said ‘Actually, I’ve got this idea for this movie about this ageing drag queen who gets this bad news, and it’s kind of like a road movie without the road.’ And he was just, like, ‘I’ll do it. Whatever you want, I’ll do it.’ And then a few years later – he was 82, I think, when we shot the movie – he was retired and I sent him the script and said ‘Hey, do you want to do this movie? We’re going to shoot it in ten days. We’ve got no money to do it but I’ve written it for you. I don’t know anyone else who could do it.’ And essentially he read it within a day and said ‘Yes!’

Putting on a brave face
Putting on a brave face

“He’s one of those actors who’s been in the industry for 50 years and got to work with Burton and Eastwood and Frank Sinatra and all these incredible movie stars and has had a career for so long but has never necessarily been the lead in a movie. He’s always been the third or fourth lead. Normally he’s the bad guy with a gun who kills someone. He’s always cast as the bad guy, normally with an accent or whatever. So all of a sudden, at the age of 82, to play this sort of character, to be a lead character where he was in dresses and make-up and stilettos and all these things that he’d never even thought about ding, but he drew absolutely everything into it and was incredible.

“His performance is exactly what I wanted it to be and thankfully, since then, he’s been offered all sorts of other parts as well, so he’s officially out of retirement now. He’s going to keep making movies. He’s wonderful.”

The film also contains a wonderful turn from Steve Oram as a drug dealer with traditional views about gender who finds Jackie and her young protégée, Faith (Jordan Stephens), a bit much. Isn’t it difficult to contain Steve in a role like this when he has a tendency to dominate every film he’s in?

Jamie laughs. “Yes, it is! I’ve done another film [Justine] since that with Steve on board and I’m actually working on something else with him. He’s one of these incredible actors who can just come in and just bring a character to life. He’s so funny – he’s so naturally gifted as a comedian. And he can go so far. I guess he’s like a Jim Carrey type thing – if you don’t restrain him he’ll just go further and further and further and make it so big, but what’s great about him is that I think an audience just relates to him. They like him immediately as soon as he starts talking. If you look at a film like Sightseers, you know, his character in that is like a psychopath but you love him. He just has that way about him, and not only can he do that in his performances but he’s like the easiest actor in the world to work with.

Steve Oram in Tucked
Steve Oram in Tucked

“There’s a bit right at the end of his scene, when they [the two central characters] leave, and he just looks around to his girlfriend and he says ‘Confusing.’ That wasn’t in the script but it just sums up that scene. That was magical and we shot that it probably an hour and a half. He’s one of those actors who can just come in and you know he’s going to deliver. He’s absolutely awesome.”

How did he come to cast Jordan Stephens?

“Jordan was an interesting one because actually we had been developing it with another actor and about six days before e started shooting the other actor was in a TV show and it fell through and we were in a position where we needed to find someone very, very quickly. We started looking at everyone who might be right for it and at that time I didn’t really know Jordan was acting much. You know, I knew him as a musician from Rizzle Kicks and stuff but I hadn’t really seen and of his stuff. Then randomly, I think on the Thursday night – we started shooting on the Monday – I watched Glue. Glue happened to be on at about two o’clock in the morning and he came on and I was, like, ‘Wow! That’s the guy from Rizzle Kicks. He’s really good!’ He’s got great screen presence, looks great on camera, really, really interesting.

“I remember I mentioned to my producer ‘Hey, how about this Jordan Stephens? Would he be up for it?’ And he was in Amsterdam. So the next day I had a call with him, he’d read the script very quickly and he was, like, ‘Yeah, it sounds good,’ and we went back and forth and we talked about the character and the film and what I was going for with it. That was on the Friday and then that weekend he came back and he was on set on Monday, and he’d never met Derren before we started shooting, they had ne rehearsal. We had no idea if it was going to work. You’re kind of praying that they have that chemistry and that it all comes together, and thankfully they did.”

We discuss Jamie’s other films and I offer belated congratulations on Caught opening the Sci Fi London film festival in 2017.

Tucked poster
Tucked poster

“Caught was a big one for me,” he says. “It was my first movie for America. I wasn’t the original director lined up for it but it came my way via Alex Francis who’s a friend of mine who produced a movie called Moon which was really god and another movie called A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, so I loved his work. I met him when he was on a call with another director and as I was leaving I said ‘Hey, if it doesn’t work out with that director, I’ll do it,” and, like, it happened!” He sounds as if he still feels surprised about it. “I got the job on that and it was the biggest budget I’ve had to date. I’m a huge John Carpenter fan and Seventies sorts of horror films so it’s all about tone and atmosphere... It was in Variety and Deadline and people started talking about it. Not everyone loved the movie but it’s a bit of a marmite film I guess, you either love it or you hate it. I think, as a filmmaker, that’s the kind of film you want to make.

“I’m very proud of Caught. It’s out doing its thing here and in America and I think it’s slowly finding its audience. It was always going to be a bit of a slow burner.”

So what is he working on now?

“Since Tucked I’ve done another three feature films so they’re all in post-production. I did an interrailing comedy which we shot all around Europe in Paris, Nice, Milan, Florence, Rome, on a very, very small budget, about a couple that go interrailing together, and then I followed it up with a movie called Justine, which is written by a guy called Jeff Murphy, who won a BAFTA for his TV show Hinterland. It’s an LGBTQ drama about two young girls who fall in love from very different backgrounds, set in Brighton. And then I just wrapped a movie called God’s Petting You, which is this weird, True Romance wacky vibe film about two addicts who fall in love and plan on robbing the biggest porn star in Europe. It’s very, very stylised and very, very different. And then I’m in pre-production on a movie called The Kindred, which is a psychological thriller with April Pearson.”

There are two more big projects he’s attached to, he says, but they haven’t been greenlit yet so he can’t talk about them – he simply says that they have bigger budgets than anything he’s worked with in the past.

“I’m very busy, but yeah, I love making movies. It’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid so I feel very privileged and honoured to be in a position where I’m able to do that for a living.”

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