ESSEX BOYS was not written with particular cast members in mind. Terry Winsor explains: "I like to write the piece first, and then think that the actors take it on board and make it into something else. Once you get the actors involved in saying their lines, then the film takes on a life of its own. I think you have to accept that. You want that something extra that the actors can give you, and for them to use as much of their creativity as possible.
"Saying that, when we wrote the part of Locke, I kind of had Sean at the back of my mind as I'd worked with him before. There was always something that seemed to come back to the qualities that he could offer, and it then became a natural process to offer the part to him.
"We searched about quite a bit for the person who could play Lisa, and came to the conclusion that Alex (Kingston) was the one who could carry that sort of range; to be a bold character, someone who was attractive and strong, and could manipulate people. You can see in her eyes that she is capable of doing that. It's to do with her presence, and the strength that she has." Producer Jeff Pope continues: "We were interested in Alex early on, but she wasn't available because she was making ER, so we looked at various other people. In the meantime the whole schedule slipped back, so on a hunch we called her to see if she was free - which she was. We then went over to meet her and on the flight back, when we were going through the scenes in our head, the only face I could see was her's."
He goes on, "I think she probablv appreciated the fact that we didn't fuss over her because of her ER background. It's slightly different in this country from Hollywood, in that there's a lot of mutual trust here. We met her, and decided we wanted her to do it. We knew what she was capable of; and trusted that she would do it - which she did. I think she enjoyed the experience. It was a physically demanding role for her though. She was beaten up and God knows what.
"What I liked about Alex was that I had never quite come across anyone who threw themselves into a role like she did. Maybe it helped because her home is in LA, and she was on location shooting this. Inevitably when you are stuck in a hotel room you do become the character that you are playing so much more, because you spend a long period of each day being that person.
"I'd seen Charlie Creed-Miles in Nil by Mouth and thought he had a terrific screen presence," says Terry Winsor. "We did look exhaustively through all the youngsters around at the time, but he seemed to be the one that came out on top every time. What's interesting about him is that he does have a 'lad' quality, but it's something that you can take the top off. He can portray the vulnerable side of the character as well. What he had to embody is a fascination with criminals - I think most blokes have this. He also has to have that quality to take you through the journey of the film. He is there to be the everyman of the story. He represents all of us in a way."
Jeff Pope says, "Tom was the last of the main characters to be cast. We had a lot of problems with this character because we couldn't quite make up our minds what he was, or who he was. Tom's agent, who knew about the project, said to us that she would like to let Tom read it. Terry was initially slightly confused by it - I think he had got a picture of Tom from The Full Monty in his mind. But we knew how good an actor he was. He was cast just before Shakespeare in Love came out. The interesting thing was that by the time he had walked through the open-plan office to our little office at the end, I think Terry was convinced, just on how he looked. The first thing Tom said was that the story reminded him of Anthony & Cleopatra. I wouldn't normally use a Shakespeare analogy, but Terry and I both realised afterwards that that was exactly what it was. Within minutes of meeting him, we couldn't see the character any other way, and he was brilliant."
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