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Daniel Brocklebank interview part 1

Daniel talks to us about his career and new fillm Release.

Daniel Brocklebank
Credit: Paul Schnaars

Daniel Brocklebank has enjoyed a very varied and successful career. Enjoying a breakthrough with his role as Sam Gosse in Shakespeare In Love – and picking up a Screen Actors Guild Award along the way – Daniel has appeared in films such as The Hours and The Hole.

Alongside his film work Daniel has received critical acclaim for his theatrical work as well as being part of the popular ITV1 soapEmmerdale for two years.

We caught up with Daniel to talk about his brand new film Release, which arrives on DVD on Monday November 8th 2010.

Tell us a bit about ‘Release’.

It’s about a priest (Father Jack Gillie) that’s incarcerated you assume for paedophilia, as do the other inmates in the prison. He’s actually in there for something completely different which brings up many religious and moral dilemmas. While he’s in prison the only person that shows him any tenderness is a prison guard that works there and they start having an elicit affair. That’s where the religious aspects of the storyline become more humanist than religious. It’s a love story with major twists.

What attracted you to the film in the first place?

I liked the issues that it raised. I liked that it gave you such a twisted view of what love means, in all it’s forms. Love of others, of yourself.

You hear so much about the Catholic Church versus homosexuality. Especially since the pope visited. My opinion, and it is only my opinion, is that the Catholic Church is very archaic in its views towards gay men and women, safe sex, female equality etc. It’s not moved with the times. Anything to raise important questions and to be able to ruffle some feathers in the Catholic Church I was like ‘yeah, great!’ (laughs).

I like doing things that raise questions. Some of the work I’ve done, like Emmerdale, is purely entertainment whereas very occasionally you get given a script that has got an extra layer of substance to it that’s important and raises issues that aren’t necessarily politically correct to raise or address.

I did a film in 1999 called The Devil’s Arithmetic that was produced by Dustin Hoffman and I starred with Kirsten Dunst and Brittany Murphy. It was about the holocaust. I was 19 and it was the first time I’d done something where I thought ‘oh my god we’re doing something that matters here. We’re keeping people’s memories alive and educating.’ Dustin made this film to put out in schools to teach the next generation about the holocaust and because all the protagonists were between 16-20 it was easier for the audience to relate to us and follow it through. As an actor, you’re not saving lives, you’re entertaining people and sometimes barely doing that. But occasionally you get these projects that leave people with an after-taste, something to chew on and something to think about.

That’s what I liked about Release. I thought ‘this is raising questions and things that I’ve not seen in a script before.’ Obviously it’s a fairly small budgeted film compared to the other movies I’ve done but because I knew Christian and was able to work with him and Darren on the development of the script – I had some involvement in terms of where the character was going and what they were going to do – I thought it was an interesting idea.

How did you get involved with ‘Release’?

Release is an art house film made, written and produced by Darren Flaxstone and Christian Martin. Christian I met 9 years ago through Nick Hamm who directed The Hole. Christian and I stayed in touch and last summer I was doingHis Dark Materials, the Philip Pullman trilogy for the Birmingham Rep and I was on my way back from Edinburgh when I got a call from Christian saying ‘I’ve got this script, I want you to take a look at it and tell me what you think.’ He sent it over and i could see it could cause a little bit of controversy, which I love. I like doing things that are going to cause a reaction in people! Good or bad, (laughs) especially when it’s focusing on something a little taboo. Gays and Catholics in the same film? Who’d have thought it.

I read it and it was a really interesting concept. I’d never read a script where love, religious, moral and sexuality issues were all combined in one storyline. I thought ‘this is cool, this raises some interesting questions.’ I was quite protective about what I would and wouldn’t do in it. I have some sex scenes in it and I’d never done full-on sex scenes before so I was a little bit nervous about those and wanted to make sure that they weren’t in there just for being in there’s sake. I felt that they had to move the story along and they had to add something to the story rather than just getting your bits out.

Those scenes are promoted in the trailer…

Yes. Sex sells. I was very careful about what I would and wouldn’t show, where and how they could show it. I saw a rough cut at Christmas time last year and thought ‘ooh, it looks classy.’ They’re not gratuitous, they are loving and passionate – there’s a bit of bum on show. That’s ok.

Were you nervous about getting involved in the project?

A little bit at first. As good as it is to get a reaction from people you don’t want to rock the boat too much. I think you do have to be careful with projects like this that you’re not alienating an audience. Because of the gay storyline you don’t want to then alienate a straight audience from watching that film. You’ve got to then try and make it accessible to everyone else and that’s what FAQs, Darren and Christian’s production company, are trying to do, they’re trying to make gay films that appeal to a wider audience; films like Brokeback Mountain that have a wider audience.

I’ve got another film lined up with them next year but I can’t tell you about that right now. I’ll save that for another interview but it’s a completely different genre. It’s a comedy, it’s a musical…it’s going to be so much fun. Release isn’t the kind of film that you come out from skipping. You come out going ‘ooh, ooh my god!’ because it’s heavy. It leaves you with a lot to think about. My dad watched it and said ‘when are you going to do some comedy?’ It’s harrowing to watch. As a family we all sat there on Christmas day watching it and because of the sex scenes I said to dad ‘I don’t know how you’re going to feel about this. I’ve got gay sex scenes in it’ and he said ‘if it gets too much I’ll go and make a cup of tea.’ He sat there through all of it so I thought ‘that’s good then.’

I didn’t want it to be a film that straight people couldn’t relate to. We had a screening in Bristol last week – that’s where the production company is based and the film was shot – and we did a Q&A with the audience afterwards. They brought up some really interesting points. I just thought it’s important that the film isn’t billed as a gay film. Straight films aren’t billed as straight films so why should films with a gay theme be any different? From the great reviews we had here and in the USA, I think we’ve done it.

It’s always difficult when you’re in virtually every scene to stand back and disassociate yourself from it and watch it as a piece rather than going ‘oh god look at my hair there’ or ‘I can’t believe they used that shot’. It’s taken me a few times of seeing it just to be able to let it go and see it as a piece of drama rather than as something that I’m in. It’s hard-hitting and certainly not for the faint hearted.

You were saying you don’t want the film to be labelled as a ‘gay movie’. Inevitably it will be by the media. Does that frustrate you?

I do find it really frustrating because there’s still that massive gap. Why can’t it just be a film. This is what I don’t understand. I did an interview with someone down in Bristol and she said to me ‘as a gay actor, starring in a gay film’ and I said ‘no, no, no hang on a minute.’ First and foremost I’m an actor which by definition means I pretend to be other people for a living. My sexuality shouldn’t even come into it. It could have been a straight actor playing this role. My sexuality bears no relevance on what I do for a living. None at all. I’m an actor in a movie.’ Its a movie. That’s the way it should be billed so I do find it very frustrating.

I came out to my family when I was 15 and I’ve always been very open about my sexuality and never hidden it. Mainly because when I was 18 I was doing movies like Shakespeare In Love which had huge amounts of press and I did huge amounts of press for. I think if you’re cloak and dagger about anything when you’ve got a public persona then there’s always going to be something for people to write about and turn it into something negative. What can they scandalise if you’re open and honest about your life from the start?

It’s like you were saying before. If you were a straight actor you wouldn’t be asked about that in an interview would you?

No. It’s the same old adage of actors not coming out because they’re concerned they won’t get cast in straight roles. I’ve played predominantly straight roles, always have done. In 16 years I may have played 5 or 6 gay/bisexual roles so I do find it frustrating. The whole point is that we’re not being ourselves. Actors can be who ever they want to be. Even if it is a Londoner playing a Geordie!

Yeah, they’d put Cheryl Cole in it these days…

(laughs) Yeah. It’s very frustrating. As actors we hone in on these skills…this craft. I can do any accent under the sun which I use a lot in voiceover work. I’ve just finished shooting a bit in the next series of Waterloo Road and I’m playing a Northerner in it. I lived in Manchester when I was in Emmerdale – I owned a flat up there – they assumed that I was a Northern actor so they phoned up and offered me this job. When I rocked up and said ‘what accent do you want?’ they said ‘just your normal Northern accent.’ I said ‘what? I don’t have one. I’m from London.’ (laughs)

I guess I’m a character actor. I try to bring something different to every role. David Bradley and Michael Gambon; they’re character actors but they’re in their 60s. I’m in my 30s. I’ve grown up on screen and up until the age of 25/26 I’d go into castings and they’d go ‘oh you’re a lot older than we thought you would be’ I’d say ‘what have you seen me in? They’d reply Shakespeare In Love’. I was 18 playing a 14 year-old in that movie.

You’re constantly physically moving as an actor the whole time from one area to another with work. But also you move from being a child actor to a teen actor to being a mid-20s actor. I’m now in my 30s and I’m looking forward to the next 20 years because this is when all the really good meaty stuff comes in. I’m too old to be playing the sons of people anymore. I’m now playing roles where I’ve got kids myself which is terrifying.

You constantly have to adapt yourself and the way you work to whatever environment you’re working in. When I leftEmmerdale I was asked to do a lot of reality TV which I declined. I’m not a celebrity I’m an actor. I think they are two completely different things. I’ve never been interested in being a celebrity. I love what I do for a living and I’m passionate about the craft and the industry. I love theatre and I’m quite happy to go and work for poor money if I love the script. It’s not all about earning £100k on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. I want to go back to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Places like that wouldn’t take me back if I did that.

‘Release’ is available on DVD via TLA Releasing on Monday 8th November 2010.

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