Weekender - Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Jack O’Connell interview
Film charting 1990s British rave scene
This article is from 2011.
“We’re a bit like a double-act”, quips Jack O’Connell, referring to himself and his co-star Henry Lloyd-Hughes, and it proves true as they talk to me. They’re ostensibly discussing Weekender, which has it’s World Premiere at this year’s Festival, but since neither of them has seen it yet our conversation spins off in many other directions. In the 1990-set film they play two best mate geezers who decide to start running their own club nights in Manchester as the rave scene explodes, but in real life the two are a less natural pairing – more like a mismatched comedy act, in fact. The immaculately dressed, well-spoken Lloyd-Hughes is five years O’Connell’s senior, and projects an air of confident professionalism as an interview subject (it’s not for nothing that he played David Milliband in a recent TV drama). Although most recognisable as school bully Mark Donavan in Channel 4’s The Inbetweeners, he has notched up an impressively varied list of film and TV credits in the last few years. Meanwhile O’Connell, who made his name as Cook in the groundbreaking teen drama Skins, freely admits that his career ‘has nowhere near the amount of contrast I’d like between different roles yet’. He’s open, cheeky and hugely personable, offering a fun and grounded counterpoint to Lloyd-Hughes’ practiced manner. In fact, his openness seems to prompt Lloyd-Hughes to be more forthcoming with some fun anecdotes of his own, the best of which comes out when I innocently mention Lloyd-Hughes has a small credit in Roland Emmerich’s upcoming Shakespeare film, Anonymous. The story that unfolds is probably best heard from the horse’s mouth, but this transcription hopefully still captures some of the posh-boy fun of it:
Me: So tell me about how you got involved with Anonymous?
Henry Lloyd Hughes: I didn’t get involved in it - I was trying to get on holiday, I was having a bit of a nervy B! I’d been doing a play and I went to try and visit my friend Rafe Spall, who’s in [Anonymous] and was in Berlin filming it. He had a cushty flat the producer had given him, so he was like “just come, lie low, free accommodation blah blah”, so I went, and I got there, exhausted from this play I’d been doing, and the producer offered me a role in it straight away! And I was like (sighs and shakes head no), but I did it, and basically it was the most insane job I’ve ever done. Not only was I exhausted, but what I didn’t know at the time was that I also had an incredibly bad eye infection because I was using a faulty batch of contact lens solution – I’m threatening to sue Boots so please quote me on that – which sent me blind for the three days that I was filming this scene. And I was playing a bear-baiter, so I was trying to learn how to co-operate with two six-foot grizzly bears, while I was going blind! And then on top of that, Roland was like (does camp German accent) “listen okay, I’ve decided that I really like this scene, it’s great and I want more of it. So can you write some more script?” So having not read the script, I had to write a whole new bunch of Jacobean speech – and there was this Hollywood writer there who would run onto set and say (does camp California accent) “no you can’t use that word, it wasn’t invented yet”. It was a total ‘mare. The best bit was when I went into my trailer: I’d just been bitten by the bear, I was freaking out, going blind and called for a medic. And this chilled-out Berlin medic came in and was like (does even camper German accent) “hello, so I hear you’re having problems with your eyes? Okay. I see you have some king size Rizla in your trailer?” and I’m like “er, are there?” So he says, “may I suggest you chill out, and smoke a bit of the Mary Jane?”
Jack O’Connell: Nice one mate! Actually, that’s the last thing you want when you’re going blind, a spliff on set. Not only are you worried about your vision –
HLH: You’re then stoned –
JO’C: With a bear behind. Haha.
HLH: Anyway, I survived, and apparently it’s in the film. And [Roland Emmerich] did get in touch with me to say he appreciated me going blind, and the work that I put in.
Me: Well I’m intrigued about the film – Independence Day director does Shakespeare?
HLH: Listen, based on my screenwriting ability I would not have high hopes! But seriously, you won’t recognise me, I’ve got shoulder-length curly hair in it.
JO’C: Your actual hair?
HLH: No, a wig! And a horrible little beard and I’m bare-chested and wearing a leather codpiece.
JO’C: (laughing) Yes man!
HLH: I look like Blackadder.
JO’C: Man, I need a mate like Rafe.
And so it goes on. I ask them what’s coming up next, and Lloyd-Hughes mentions the much-anticipated Inbetweeners movie, which he will theoretically be in: ‘I’ve filmed it, but I have a long illustrious career of being cut out of movies, so hopefully I’ll be in the finished thing. I do give a wedgie, I’ll give that much away, I give what I hope will be the greatest onscreen wedgie.’ He also has Dimensions, a ‘time-travel movie from the 1920s’ and most intriguingly is just about to start filming Paranoia in the Laundrette, an adaptation of a book by Withnail and I writer Bruce Robinson. ‘I’ve got a small but totally insane role’, says Lloyd-Hughes, ‘that involves firing a tazer, over and over again, into Simon Pegg. I get to play with guns and wear a lot of body armour!’ Not to be outdone, O’Connell chips in: ‘Next up, I’m gonna have a nervous breakdown and call you up.’ Ah, good times.