LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
By James Whittington, Sunday 1st November 2020
Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.
Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!
HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?
SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can remember really, I don't think I actually wanted to be an actor I think I just wanted to show off (!) and it only struck me later on I realised there could be a career there, a job and it was a craft and that. I remember being 13 or 14 and joining drama clubs and things, and I went to Mid-Glamorgan Youth Theatre where I met Rob Brydon and then I met Ruth Jones at National of Wales so there was a group of us around at that time and everything was exciting at that time and what you'd do and watch. I remember being really being taken by Spencer Tracey and watching a load of his stuff. He made it seem just so effortless. I loved looking at him as I just couldn't spot the acting and that's something I've always aspired to. Whether I'm doing comedy or drama like this is that you shouldn't really look like you're acting. He was just a good exponent of that and I read so much about him at the time and he'd rehearse for hours and hours and he'd go through camera marks and where lights were and that he'd only do one take and its really interesting with this film out (Concrete Plans) it was done of a shoestring budget and we didn't get more than one take really and you had to get to your marks and do you one or two shot and that was it. So you had to be prepared, there was no chance for preciousness for people wanting to do it again and again. I think because there was only one stab at it that first take is usually the best in all honesty.
HC: Do you think that's what added to its intensity?
SS: Yeah, I do. I've never really thought of this. When you've got a very big camera in a very small porta cabin and six blokes who have been on top of each other for twelve hours that day when you're shooting a scene and you know as it goes around the table for your shot you've only got one time to get it right and we were there for watch other, there was a real camaraderie in that respect. Don't get me wrong, when an actor gets the camera on him he wants to honour the character in that scene, you have to make sure that their character has a voice for that scene and give stuff for the editor to go back to during the edit. I gave the director a couple of grand before we started and said, "If in doubt, cut to Speirs!" (laughs)
HC: Concrete Plans is a superb movie, its intense and looks very real, what was the atmosphere like on set?
SS: When we were at work, shooting and rehearsing it is intense, you've got to be there in the moment. There was a lot of banter going on and mickey taking and I know Will Thomas (plays Dave in the movie) as we've worked together before you know there's a scene at the end where my character Bob has a great big nail in his head as he'd shot himself with this nail gun or whatever (laughs) and the cabin is covered in a blood and you've been there for hours and there's blood in your eyes, its all over your hands which are sticky from it and I turned to Will and I said, "I'm really not happy. Call my agent!" (laughs) We'd often just sing a song and you had to join along with it. When you're chucking concrete on somebody and you've just put a drill through his hand you've got to try and lighten the mood somehow.
HC: Are you fan of the horror and thriller genres?
SS: I really adore them but I'm a terrible viewer of them as I get involved so much, I really do suspend disbelief. I sometimes have to stop myself and say to myself, "There's a tracking shot there, that's a camera in shot" and get technical with myself to talk myself out of it. I remember the first Halloween coming out, Carpenter's masterpiece and I was about 15 at the time, mum and dad had gone out for a drink in the village and I was babysitting my younger brother who was in bed and I watched that film for the first time on my own and I swear to God, as soon as the film finished I put every f*****g light on. I checked behind the settee, you know that key scene with the light on his mask and the music going, "De de de de de de de de de..." its great. The Sixth Sense I literally nearly destroyed the cinema in shock! When I believe it, I believe it. What I do like is this stuff, I like psychological horror, the build up to the violence is almost as good as the violence itself. So it's that powder keg of the card scenes which builds tension which are the most uncomfortable, we all know when a drill goes through a wrist that's not the actor it's the build-up. Halloween is an hour and forty minutes of build-up. The violence comes at the end but the build up is excruciating.
HC: Your character, Bob just seems like the nicest guy in the world.
SS: Yeah, that's why I loved him when they gave me the script, I very much related to Bob and hopefully that's what an audience will in that he represents the humanity and decency in the film and see the film through his eyes. I'd like to think that if we were there, we'd be Bob.
HC: There seems to be a lot of your personality in Bob in the sense that he just wants the best for everybody.
SS: Yeah, he's a team player Bob and I am in a way and I think he feels responsible for all the people and I'm writing the third series of my sitcom at the moment and I feel really responsible for the cast and crew and I want to make sure we get out there and shoot it.
HC: Would you have tempted to direct Concrete Plans?
SS: Not this one, I have directed stuff and I enjoy it but it's such all time consuming that I wouldn't want to be in front of the camera and direct it. Will Jewel, the director has done a terrific job with it. Sometimes the director "owns stuff" because you go through the whole process of script editing, getting it to where it is, then you let that go and it becomes the trampoline that the actors bounce on. I love that, I love seeing the process that goes on and takes off with the actors and that. The process of it, the DNA of it you know Act 1 Scene 1 and what ends up on the screen is a bizarre one and I suppose that's a long answer to, "No, I wouldn't want to direct it" (laughs).
HC: Was it a long shoot?
SS: It was three weeks, well not three weeks but fifteen days. It was so intense. What you see on screen was what we shot. We were with each other from driving up to the place at 9am to be there for 10am then getting back by about half past twelve, it was as claustrophobic as... you're in that porta cabin and you've got that big Dolly and a camera on it, you can't go out so yeah it was quite fraught and I think we captured that.
HC: It is like Auf Wiedersehen, Pet directed by Eli Roth isn't it?
SS: (laughs) Yes! I know what you mean, yes.
HC: If FrightFest had been on as usual would have you attended the event?
SS: Yeah, I would have gone, I would have loved to have seen it. I am somebody who avidly believes in listening to the audience. It would have been great to have been on the room and see your work shared. It's a shame as we aren't able to share our craft at the moment.
HC: You've appeared in countless TV and film productions; do you have a favourite genre to work in?
SS: Well I suppose I make my living through comedy; I love comedy because you can have fun on set. I laughed loads when I was in Sharpe, I got to shoot Sean Bean. But when you're doing comedy its very intense because between the shots as you over analyse things.
HC: Your sitcom, The Tuckers is a huge success and just been recommissioned.
SS: That's right, we've been commissioned for two more series.
HC: Steve Speirs, thank you very much.
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