Toby Kebbell Dead Mans Shoes Interview

Interview: Claire Foss
Thursday 10 February 2005
reading time: min, words

Notts actor Toby Kebbell has got a lot to be proud of. His first major part, as Anthony  in Shane Meadow's influencial Dead Man's Shoes earned him a Most Promising Newcomer nomination (British Independent Film Awards).Since then he's landed parts in Oliver Stone's Alexander and Woody Allen's newest project. He writes books and plays and on the side, he's studying plumbing. And, ladies and gentlemen, he is still just 22 years young.


Is it a big part?
Er, no, it's not a big part. You could possibly say blink and you'll miss me. Well I'm a minute and a few seconds but it's not a key role, it's not a vital role and it might even be cut out. But you know, to be 22 years old and to have my first three directors be Shane Meadows, Oliver Stone and Woody Allen is not bad.

You're only 22?
Yep, only 22, turned 22 in July.

So when is this film out?
I don't know, they haven't sent me a release date yet, but it'll be spring/summer this year.

Does it have a name?
At the moment it's called Match Point.

I understand you got your part in Dead Man's Shoes and filming began almost immediately. What is the story behind that?
Basically, Shane (Meadows) had an actor already for the part of Anthony who, for his own personal reasons, decided he couldn't do it. He was also a member of the (Central) Workshop and decided it wasn't what he wanted to do. So he rang Shane and Shane was like, "well, fuck". So I was called by his missus Louise and I popped down to their cottage in Matlock and Shane gave me what was then the script. A script for me has lines in it and this had a line every now and then. It was more of a story outline, the jist of what they wanted from the story. Anthony was a very small part but I could see that he was key and that he needed to be right, you couldn't just do any old shit. So I sat there on the sofa and he left me alone for an hour. I've got dyslexia and I read it through. I thought it was a brilliant thing, a really nice idea. And obviously, it was a Shane Meadows film and I'd fallen in love with A Room for Romeo Brass which had Paddy (Considine) in it and I knew that Paddy would be playing my brother so I thought, 'what an opportunity'. It was a tiny little part but I tried to make everything I could of it because that's the way I always do things. I'm not a leading man, I don't think I've got the face of a leading man and I don't think ever in my life, someone will cast me in the role of a leading man.

You might be eating those words one day.
You can never say never but it's something I don't see happening for me. I always thing that whatever you get you want to make the best of, that's the way I've been brought up, life and work all combine for me, it's the same thing.
So I went in full bore for Anthony, for what I saw him to be. I basically became `Standby Kebbell' because I was on standby for the whole three week shoot. It was two days later that we started filming and I was on standby until the last four days when I did all my work and every scene I did, every shot I did, Shane ended up putting in and it ended up that it drifted through the film and I ended up being one of the lead roles. I think if you watch it you know that Paddy is really the main role and I'm just his opposite, his co-star. But thankfully for me, being in my first role people have been impressed and said, "you stand out within that", which is nice, especially alongside such good actors.

The film got you a Best Newcomer nomination didn't it? (British Independent Film Awards)
That's right yeah. I lost out to one of the So Solid Crew.

You did a short film with Shane afterwards too, Northern Soul...
That's right yeah. It's ended up becoming something. Basically, what it was was that I was talking the piss out of the producer cos he's got the same voice as the character. My character's name is Mark Sherbert and the producer's name is Mark Herbert so it was very much a pisstake and we were just going to give it to him as a little pressie. But one of Shane's mates who was just starting a band saw it and said, "shit, we want to use this for our music video," so Shane then turned it into a short film. So that was a bit of a stroke rather than something that we worked on. That's just the way Shane is, we get on, we have a craic, we're just sitting around watching boxing, farting and telling jokes and all that crap. We were all taking the pee, getting the giggles and Shane said, 'We should whack that down, make a little mockumentary.' The more we pissed about with it the more we came up with more elaborate ways that he lived and it ended up with this thing about him being a wrestler and that's what Shane made the thing about, round that. Started as a joke and ended up with professional work, so not bad.

So as well as all this, you're in Alexander and you get to kill Val Kilmer. That must have been great fun...
Yeah I murder him, yeah. If you were to meet Val I'm sure you'd enjoy beating him up too. He's got a massive façade of who he is. Yeah he's a lovely guy. Originally it sorted out as this big elaborate role where he had a big speech and I had a big speech just before I kill him, because he's the King of Macedonia. So I basically went in and said to him, "Look, I wanted to talk to you about this because it all seems a bit staged and forced. If I was going to kill a man I wouldn't stand there chatting to him, I'd just want to be in and out and go." So they agreed and so basically I cut my lines and went in there and just stabbed him to death and spat in his face. But he rapes me beforehand, he rapes me five years previously so that's why I go and kill him.

Is it a big part?
Shockingly big. They used everything I did. Screen time, it's a mouse fart, mildly tangy and gone in the wind. But it's crucial because I change the course of history. Well not me, but the character, y'know.

The critics haven't been kind to Alexander have they?
It's getting slated but I went to see it and I actually enjoyed it, you know. I think it might be good for it because people aren't expecting anything then. They'll go and see it and think: "Oh I didn't mind that at all." People give everyone a good time, and I think with the amount of money spent on it people wanted it to be something they'd never seen before and I think unfortunately that's not what it is. People are comparing it to Gladiator and I can't understand why they're not saying it's as good because there are bits in Gladiator I watched where I was like, "fucking get on with it, come on", and there are bits in these where I was like, "fucking get on with it, come on", but that's the nature of `epic films'. I went and watched that film and I came away educated and I must have watched six different documentaries on it. But we're all different, it's what makes the world go round.

So how many times have you been to LA?
Not once in my life.

Is it something you're avoiding?
I don't try to avoid anything except for the clap. I'm not specifically avoiding America, I think you'd be an unwise businessman to avoid a huge money market. I think getting an American agent is a process you should go through as an actor. I've just had no call to go there as yet.

What are your plans for this year?
My plans for this year are to educate myself a bit more.

What are you going to learn?
Well, interestingly, I'm getting into plumbing. You're at the mercy of these tradesmen unless you do these courses or you have some basic knowledge. I've just renovated a house from scratch that was an absolute shitsite and I found out in the end that I could do most of the work on my own. I got a couple of people I know in the trade in and they were like, "mate, you don't need a proper tradesman for this, all you've got to do is pop a hole in the wall". For earthing the gas pipes, something like that, your standard man wouldn't know how to do it but it is easy once you do know. So I want to educate myself in those little things that will save me money and keep writing and shit.

What do you write?
I write all sorts. Short films, little stories, children's stories, because you never can tell. As a human being you can't just draw one string on your bow, man, you've got to have shit to fall back on. I don't know where acting's going to take me, it's just so topsy-turvy and you don't know when you're going to be working so you've got to keep all facets open I think.

Have you ever had any of your work published or produced?
I did a small radio play, but it didn't actually get put out in the end, which was frustrating. But me and my friend Tim, we did that, and it might come back, it might get produced. But I spend a lot of my time doing voice-overs.

Anything I'd know?
The Blavod black vodka advert, the one where she shaves her head, yeah, I did the voice for that. Lego, Lego Racers, Toys R Us. If you go into Blockbuster in Camberwell or the London area you'll hear a voice that goes "Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" or whatever it's called. Those sort of things, the reccommdations"

How about acting-wise?
I just had a film offered to me but the funding fell out of it because of the new tax break that's going on at the moment. It was a low-budget American film that had the money taken out of it. But I've kept in contact with the director, because I think that's important to do because if you lose the film, you don't want to lose all the people and all the connections that you would have met. And I'm doing quite a lot of premieres at the moment. There was the premiere of Alexander the other night so I'm sort of taking the other end of the films, the promotion and the chatting and being swanky, which is kind of bland man, once you've done it. These shrouds of illusions that are set upon these things are swiftly removed. But I'm still young man, plenty to learn. I'm only 22.

Do you think Nottingham is lacking anything in terms of arts and drama?
I don't think it's lacking too much you know. I think if your passion's there you'll do what you want to do anyway. People need to look around, and instead of moaning that you can't get cameras, just borrow a handicam or whatever. I think what people of our generation have got to understand is that mistakes are alright; it's alright to make a couple of mistakes because you'll learn from them and it's about growing as a person rather than just having everything you need straight away. Maybe it'll come, maybe people'll figure it out for themselves but I really think people need to be aware that it's not a bad thing to make mistakes so keep trying man, do your own shit, if no one else is helping you, do it yourself. If you've got fuck all to do, educate yourself, that's all I've got to say on it. I don't think Nottingham needs much more, I think it's got plenty to offer, you've just got to go and look.

Do you think moving to London was par for the course for your work?
I think I could do the acting side of it 100% from my home back in Nottingham and when I've got the money I will go back there. The reason I had to move to London was the voice-overs because I'm on call at an hour's notice and as we all know, Nottingham is two hours from London, and that's to King's Cross, I'd need to be centre of town in an hour, so I need to live in London. And I don't want to, it's stupidly expensive here, my grocery bills have doubled. It' ridiculous. I don't really, truly want to be here cos Nottingham does have shit loads of stuff available to me: Shane Meadows is there, Paddy is there, even Sam(Morton) still has a place there, although she lives in LA. I think it depends what you want. Having said that, I think when you're young you want to visit a lot of places, becase it's your time to.

What's your biggest beef with the film industry?
Everybody wants to be square-jawed and fucking handsome and at the same time everyone goes on about making films about `the truth' and real blah bullshit. And it's like, either make your film about pretty people or make your film about the truth but unfortunately there are ugly people in the world. I mean, look at The Calcium Kid, that was a British Film, so why did Orlando Bloom get that part? Why did anyone hire that guy? Because he's a good looking lad, it's important. I don't have a massive beef but it's all about the money and it all is man. What people need to understand is that we made Dead Man's Shoes in under a million pounds, Under a million pounds. So only if you're only giving out a million pounds then that's plenty to make what you need to. So that's my problem. If all we've got is low budget films about whatever, then let's keep making them, let's keep making those for little bits of money and don't worry about whether you're getting 10, 20 grand, don't worry about that, because you'll get the repercussions of making a good film. Everyone's too hungry for dollars at the minute and I think people need to realise that you can still catch a little part time job, you can still catch one of those and pay your bills, but you can make work that you can be proud of, that your family can be proud of and that your kids can be proud of. That's my main beef, and that everyone has to be a fucking god to get a part in a film man.

So, final question. Have you ever met anyone at the left lion?
I think I have you know. Who's down that way, probably Oggy and Wayno and Dean. But I don't think you know any of them. No, no. Why?

Because it's LeftLion, isn't it, that's the name of the magazine.
The Left Lion pub?

No. On the square, at the...left-hand lion.
Of course I have met someone at the left lion! That's where you always link up! Do you know what I've been out of Nottingham two years and I've already forgotten about the left lion! Have I ever met anybody there? Have I ever not met anybody at the left lion is a better question! Did I just sound like a cheesy bellend saying that? Well fuck it, it's true, if I sound like a bellend then I am, that's life. Everyone you link up with on a Saturday night, you meet at the left lion.

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