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Cemetery Junction - Christian Cooke interview

Christian Cooke

Interview by Rob Carnevale

CHRISTIAN Cooke talks about landing the lead role of Freddie in Cemetery Junction and why he was able to identify with its themes of escape.

He also talks about working with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and his appreciation of their skills as both co-directors, writers and stars…

Q. Was the script what you expected from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant when you first read it?
Christian Cooke: It was such a great script that you didn’t really think anything like: “Is this really what I expected?” I just really enjoyed the script.

Q. The synopsis is about three guys being trapped in a small town [Reading] and wanting to escape. Is that something you can relate to personally?
Christian Cooke: Definitely. I’m from Leeds and always thought that I’d live in London. I always wanted to live in London. My parents, as well, are an example of what happens to [my character] Freddie. They sort of got rid of everything they owned and went off travelling. I think it’s more poignant as well because it’s set in the ’70s, when people didn’t travel like that. It was more of a decision to get up and leave the place you live and go travelling. It changes you as well… it completely informs who you’re going to be for the rest of your life.

I know my dad, had he not gone travelling and lived in India and Sri Lanka for a year, had he not done all that when he was my age, he wouldn’t have been the same person that he is now. He grew up in a really rough estate in Leeds and went to the first Catholic school in Leeds. So, him really getting out and seeing the world really changed who he was as a person. I’d like to think that’s what happens to Freddie as well.

Q. Stephen and Ricky have a reputation for being very meticulous when it comes to directing. Did that surprise you?
Christian Cooke: One thing that I was impressed with, and I didn’t know what to expect, is how aware they are of filmmaking and what goes into making a film. They knew exactly…. there’s a lot of directors who just leave it up to the DoP [director of photography] and then sort of blag it, or can do that. But they knew exactly how they wanted to shoot it and they’ve got a great eye cinematically. So that impressed me. Obviously, I knew that they were great writers and were both great actors, so they’d be good on that front, but their knowledge technically was a real surprise.

Q. How collaborative were they with you. Could you bring your own ideas or did you have to stick to the script?
Christian Cooke: They’re not precious with their words. If you went up to them and said: “I don’t think that works…” Or: “Perhaps I could say that.” They’d say: “Yeah, say that – that’s better.” Or they’d say: “No, you can’t say that because if you do it comes across like this…” They make you see why their ideas are better. There’s always a reason.

Q. How daunting was the audition process?
Christian Cooke: Well, after 10 minutes of auditions and realising that you were in Ricky Gervais’ office, it was just fun. It’s a sort of workshop and it was really funny. People say it but it’s true… you do sort of feel that you have to raise your game when you’re with people like that. Obviously, you want the job but you also think that as much as Ricky and Stephen are great writers, they’re brilliant actors as well. So, we really wanted to be on top form.

Q. How does it feel to be in a movie when you’re basically going out on the piss, on the pull and fighting. How easy was that lifestyle to relate to?
Christian Cooke: Well, we all know how to go out and have a good time, if that’s what you mean. But I think that’s one of the joys of the film, those characters are universal. One guy who interviewed me before said you’ve got the cool guy, you’ve got the sensitive guy and you’ve got the geek. And that’s Only Fools & Horses… it’s a million comedies. It’s Friends. An audience will watch it and realise that everyone has a bit of geek, a bit of cool and a bit of naivety in them. So, they’ll see a bit of themselves in it. So, it is universal – it’s a broad theme and a broad message but I think they’ve handled it well.

Cemetery Junction is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday, April 14, 2010. Read our review