Essex Boys - Bravo Charlie

Last Update: 06 July 2000

Source: Evening Standard

06 July 2000

Bravo Charlie

by James Mottram

Halfway into my conversation with Charlie Creed-Miles,
held in the sunlit gardens of the Grand Hotel in Cannes,
an oblivious German PR woman comes over and
interrupts, unaware of who I'm talking to. 'Doesn't she
know who I am?' whispers Creed-Miles, grinning all the
while. 'I'm famous.'

His mock-concern is more than just good humour,
though. Although he's been acting for almost 13 years,
the 28-year-old only came to notice in 1997 for his
stunning portrayal of a heroin addict in Gary Oldman's
Nil By Mouth. With his shaven hair, wiry frame and
rough-hewn features, it was easy to see why some
thought Creed-Miles was a non-professional, educated
in the school of hard knocks.

'I am slightly afraid that people just think, "Oh, that's
some boy dragged off the street to go and play in Nil By
Mouth - he is the part!" And I do get that. Which I find a
compliment, but not necessarily to what I want to
become known for. But it's the last thing I should be
worried about. I stand up for the parts I play, and I've
tried to do them justice.'

The truth is, he - along with on-off (currently on)
girlfriend Samantha Morton, the mother of his
five-month-old daughter Esme - could well be the future
of British acting. While Morton can currently be seen in
her Oscar-nominated role as Sean Penn's squeeze in
Woody Allen's Sweet And Lowdown, Creed-Miles is
busy carving out a reputation for himself as the natural
successor to his Nil By Mouth co-star Ray (or
'Raymond', as he calls him) Winstone. 'All my friends,
we grew up saying [Winstone's oft-quoted line from
Scum], "Who's the daddy now?"' recalls Creed-Miles,
when I make the comparison. 'First time I met Raymond,
I was completely awe-struck and terrified. And Oldman,
of course, as well. I was lucky to have that opportunity
to shine. I feel so blessed, and forever in debt to Gary
for that. He's like Saint Oldman, from where I'm

For the record, Winstone believes Creed-Miles is 'the
best actor in the country at the moment... the top of the
list'. But this is no luvvie backslapping, as Creed-Miles's
latest film, Essex Boys, proves. Co-starring Sean Bean
and ER's Alex Kingston, the film is inspired, as the
press notes tell us, 'by a single true event which
happened in Essex in December 1995'. That being a
drugs-related ambush, which left three men shot dead
in a Range Rover, two serving life imprisonment and
another living under a false identity. The rest, we are
told, is fiction, but the death of a young girl in the film
from a bad Ecstasy tablet evokes the fate of teenager
Leah Betts.

'Everyone remembers that story,' says Creed-Miles,
who plays the film's narrator Billy, a naive taxi driver
who gets unwittingly sucked into the Essex underworld.
'I'm terrified of getting myself into trouble. It's a fine line
to tread. But certainly, Leah Betts died tragically
because she was given a pill. We know these things
happen. The firm that this film is about controlled the
drugs market in the clubs in Essex. They supply - and
there's the connection.'

During the shoot, a number of relatives of those
involved in the real-life incident turned up on set -
people Creed-Miles says have 'a vested interest' in the
outcome. As Creed-Miles says, Essex Boys has 'no fluff
about it'.

Sipping his beer, his speech becomes highly charged.
'It infuriates me in one way, because I find people
glorifying that world, and taking away from the fact that
it is serious. People like this get up to some really
horrible, nasty things. Let's not treat them like folk
heroes. That's not my cup of tea. I believe it should be
shown how it is. That's where I stand. I'm not a
gangster. I know them. I haven't grown up with my head
stuck up my arse. You see what you see and you know
what you know. You have to know people to play them.
You know what I'm saying?'

Certainly Creed-Miles gives a good impression of a
decent bloke, the sort you might meet down your local
boozer. A 'Londoner', as he describes himself, he's
outwardly friendly, despite being guarded about his
background. 'I don't talk about my parents. They're not
in the business - which is nice.' What is clear is that
Creed-Miles - a graduate of Anna Scher's stage school
in Islington (past pupils include Kathy Burke and Phil
Daniels) - was certainly destined to act. 'I think I've
always had it in me. I was a hyperactive kid. The class
clown almost. It's always been in there somewhere.'

Leaving school at 16, despite passing his GCSEs,
Creed-Miles pursued his career in acting, soon landing
a role in the popular kids' show Press Gang. Brief
appearances in films Let Him Have It and London Kills
Me followed, alongside TV sit-com work including Drop
The Dead Donkey. His big break came, oddly enough,
in Luc Besson's 1997 sci-fi extravaganza The Fifth
Element, where he first teamed up with Gary Oldman.
That he avoided capitalising on this success by
selecting more mainstream fare was more to do with his
integrity as an actor than lack of demand.

'I'm extremely picky and choosy,' he says, adding that
he refuses to court the celebrity circuit that so many
actors shackle themselves to. 'I hardly go out any more.
I love dancing. I used to club a lot more than I do now.
I'm a bit worried about what's happened to me, in some
ways. Perhaps I'm growing up.' That would be
fatherhood, one would think. 'It's just the most beautiful
thing,' he says, smiling. 'I'm missing my daughter madly.
I've not been away from her for this long [five days]. It's
changed my life, though I've got to admit, it's still sinking
in. It's bizarre - am I really a dad? What?'

Following a brief split shortly after Esme was born in
February, Creed-Miles is back with Morton, whom he
met long before they worked together on last year's
quirky thriller The Last Yellow. 'She's a real special little
lady,' he says. 'I love her enormously. What can you
say about Sam? She's just cracking.'

He is currently shooting six-part serial The Sins for the
BBC, alongside Pete Postlethwaite, written by William
Ivory, who penned Common As Muck. Creed-Miles
admits it was his co-star who sold him on the project.
'I'm chuffed to be invited to these parties,' he laughs.
And what about Hollywood, the biggest party of them
all? Creed-Miles hasn't ruled out making an
appearance. 'I certainly don't bracket myself that I would
never do a blockbuster. I f***ing love films that you can
go to and forget about life. They have a purpose and
that's a beautiful thing. I wouldn't want to take a young
lady on a Saturday night to go and see Nil By Mouth.
It'd probably kill that date dead. You don't want to be
confronted with real-life twentyfourseven. I'm a flexible
guy, I'm like a Visa card. You gotta appreciate all
aspects of film-making.'

Essex Boys opens Fri 14 Jul.

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