The way boys are

2010-12-03 12:46

A little more sex than Harry Potter and a little less sexual innuendo than Twilight, that’s what author John van der Ruit says he was hoping for with Spud. The book has sold in ­excess of 200 000 copies across the world and producer Ross Garland is hopeful that the film will do well too – not only here at home, but internationally too.

“District 9 and Die Antwoord are culturally revolutionary,” says Garland. “Spud has a good chance of crossing over too.”

The thing about Spud is that it is a universal story and the film is likely to appeal to teenagers and those nostalgic about their boarding-school days. ­Having spent five years in a ­boarding school myself, I could relate to almost all the weird ­goings on in the film.

I have not read the book – but 600 000 South ­Africans have and that’s a pretty good captive ­audience for any film to have.

Perhaps the film’s biggest coup, though, is having the great John Cleese in the pivotal role of The Guv. The 71-year-old British actor and writer, best known for his portrayal of the awful Basil ­Fawlty in Fawlty Towers, is ­endlessly gracious about the ­story and the production process.

He says: “When you receive a script that’s so good, you want to be part of it. Not just because of the character’s excellent ­eccentricities, but there are also drunk scenes and what I call sad acting bits too.

“This role had many facets I was interested in,” says Cleese.

As for working with a cast of children – something that sends a shiver of dread up the spines of the toughest of actors – Cleese was full of praise for the Crazy 8 (the nickname given to Spud and his dorm mates).

“When I met them, I was ­delighted to find the casting so good that I could guess who they were from the characters in the book,” says Cleese.

“I got to like them all and Troye Sivan (who plays Spud) is a really delightful human being. He comes up with suggestions he ought not to at his age.”

Sivan certainly has what it takes to carry this charming coming-of-age story. His angelic looks, heavenly singing voice and innate naivety make him perfect for the protagonist of this semi-biographical tale. As Van der Ruit says: “I was the boy things were done to. I was the kid who got his head flushed down the toilet.”

Of letting go of his story to be remade in another medium, Van der Ruit says: “Preciousness is not part of my process. I see words as my building blocks, but they are not sacred. As an actor previously it was a great challenge to see if it could be done.

“As an author you control ­everything, but making a film has lots of people involved.”

Spud was filmed at Michaelhouse, where Van der Ruit went to school and about which the Spud books reminisce and ­capture the exuberance of youth.

It reminds and guides us through the breathlessness of first love, the thorny issue of finding your place in your peer group, and dealing with issues such as bullying and loss.

Set in South Africa in 1990, it also captures a time of great change in our country. Some of Spud’s home-life scenes are cringeworthy in their extreme honesty about the attitudes to the promise of a new South ­Africa, and Spud’s interpretation of some of his family’s more ­extreme activities are hilarious.

While no one’s yet talking about a sequel, Cleese says he’d be happy to do one. In the meantime, his fans can look ­forward to the possibility of him bringing his current one-man show here in the new year.

» Spud is now on circuit>

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