A must-have for Spud fans

2011-01-12 00:00

IF there is such a thing as serendipity, then that’s precisely what helped bring Spud the movie to life. And that journey is chronicled by author John van de Ruit and one of the film’s producers, Ross Garland, who first met as teenagers in Durban North playing a game of back yard cricket. Later they would both attend the University of KwaZulu-Natal, studying drama, and then later, in Garland’s case, law.

After university, Van de Ruit had a hugely successful theatrical partnership with Ben Voss (of Bend it like Beauty and Beauty and the BEE fame) with their shows Green Mamba and Black Mamba; but Garland’s career took a turn in a different direction — he had started working as an investment banker in New York. Fate is, however, an odd mistress… Garland’s first day was the day of the attack on the World Trade Centre and it made him take stock of his life and decide to head back home to an uncertain future.

Van de Ruit, who also had a narrow brush with death when he got caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand, had in the interim penned Spud and in the months that followed realised he wanted to concentrate on his writing, a decision which meant breaking up his partnership with Voss. In the book he describes the moment as “difficult and desperately sad”, but the two men’s friendship was strong enough to withstand it.

Garland too had found a new career in film production. His first film was U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a Xhosa version of the opera Carmen, which won the coveted Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Film Festival. In October 2005 he picked up a copy of Spud and was captivated, so much so that he called Van de Ruit and told him not to sell the rights to film producer Anant Singh, because he was keen to make a film based on the book. He wasn’t the only one — even Leon Schuster expressed an interest.

Eventually, however, the two old friends sealed a deal and then began a long hard road to secure funding, an international star, and the casting of Spud and all the other characters.

Their story is written with humour — and offers a fascinating insight into the trials and tribulations that go into making a movie. There are also a host of anecdotes and delightful photos from the set, so if you want to know what cameo Spud’s author had in the film, who had to dye his hair and eyebrows and who else was considered for the role of The Guv, then you simply have to read this book. It’s a must-have for every Spud fan.

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