Spudniks line up

2010-02-20 00:00

DURBAN comedian Aaron McIlroy has been signed to play John “Spud” Milton’s manic father in the film version of John van de Ruit’s hugely successful novel Spud.

McIlroy confirmed the good news after the press night performance. He will star alongside legendary comedian and actor John Cleese, who is playing Spud’s English teacher, Mr Edly — better known as The Guv — and rising star Troye Sivan, who has won the coveted role of the title character.

Producer Ross Garland of Rogue Star Films said Cleese, a member of the Monty Python team and star of films like A Fish Called Wanda, was at the top of their wish list.

“It is certainly very lucky to have an international star on board an independent South African film,” he added. “At the end of the day it came down to Donovan Marsh’s script, which John Cleese loved. And on that basis he signed up.”

Sivan (14), who is originally from SA but currently calls Perth, Australia, home, last appeared on the big screen as Young Logan (Hugh Jackman’s younger self) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Sivan was cast as Spud following a local and international talent search, which saw the filmmakers making use of social networking sites like YouTube and blogs to get the message across about auditions.

Asked why they had opted for this unusual route, Garland said: “We don’t have the British tradition of teen drama schools and lots of opportunities for teenagers to do professional work, so we couldn’t go to agents to find our teen cast for the most part.

“We advertised at schools in the big cities, but wanted to give kids from outlying areas and others who follow social networking sites a chance to have a go as well. One of the Crazy Eight came to us through a YouTube audition.” Unfortunately, Weekend Witness is unable to reveal who that young man is because there is currently an embargo on the full cast list.

Garland said his producing partner, Brad Logan, and cast co-ordinator Jolene Filmer “did some hard yards to go round the country to do the auditions”, adding: “A lot of kids fell out because they didn’t have the specific look required, for example for the character Fatty. In the end we had a shortlist for each character.

“Brad, John van de Ruit, Donovan and myself did viewing sessions late into the night to make final decisions …”

Marsh, who is scripting and directing the movie, worked closely with Van de Ruit on the film, although the Durban-based author and playwright downplayed his own efforts.

“I would be best described as a script consultant, chipping in with the odd line, and throwing in my thoughts and feelings as Don Marsh peeled off draft after draft,” he said. “I never felt like I ever had to protect the book against exploitation, nor did I ever dictate what elements of the book were retained and which were discarded.”

Asked if it was a difficult process turning the novel into a two-hour film, Marsh said: “Writing any screenplay is an extremely tough and arduous experience …”

Filming on Spud is expected to start early next month. The bulk of the shoot will take place at Michaelhouse in Balgowan, and Garland said they hope to be able to use some of the school’s pupils as extras. The crew will also spend a week in Durban North filming scenes at the Milton family home.

Filming is expected to wrap in late April with the plan to have the movie in cinemas around Christmas time.

 

It’s South Africa 1990. Two major events are about to happen: the release of Nelson Mandela and it’s John “Spud” Milton’s first year at an elite boys-only private boarding school in the KZN midlands.

Surrounded by boys with nicknames like Gecko, Rambo, Rain Man and Mad Dog, he has his hands full trying to adapt to his new home. He is also cursed with parents from well beyond the lunatic fringe and a senile granny.

Armed with only his wits and his diary, Spud takes us from illegal night swimming to the red-hot furnace of the cricket pitch, ghostbusting and a catastrophic family vacation.

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