December 17th, 2016   Posted by admin

The book A Street Cat Named Bob was a huge bestseller. Now it’s been made into a film starring Luke Treadaway. Will the tale of the old moggy make him a star?

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Luke Treadaway is only a few minutes late, but he’s wide-eyed with remorse as he pulls up a chair in the west London café where we had arranged to meet, apologising as he explains that his early-morning audition overran. He has a full schedule today – so full that it appears he had to skip breakfast, going by the speed with which he demolishes his scrambled eggs on toast. As well as looking for his next job, he is busy promoting his new film in which, after 10 years playing in largely ensemble casts – from a posh comedy stoner in Attack the Block to a mythological cult leader in Clash of the Titans to a prisoner of war in the Coen brothers-scripted Second World War drama Unbroken – he not only tops the bill but appears in pretty much every scene.

A Street Cat Named Bob is an adaptation of James Bowen’s book about his time begging and busking on the streets of London with a charismatic ginger tom that refuses to leave his side. The book was a huge hit – spending 76 weeks at the top of the UK bestseller list. Treadaway plays James, a role that presented several new challenges for the actor. “Often if you’re playing a real person, they’ve been dead 50 years,” he says. “Not only was this about a real person and a real cat, but they were both there on set.” The first day’s filming for which James was present required Treadaway to re-enact his agonies in hospital after a heroin overdose. “As an actor you just hope you’ve done your homework and can do it justice.”

The second challenge was working with the cat. Several cats, in fact, all playing Bob at various times, including Bob himself. “It was like an extra layer, basically. You’d do everything you normally do to prepare for a scene, and then just before you go it’s, ‘And… here’s Bob.’ So you’ll do a scene and think it’s come out really well. But then they go, ‘No – the cat was looking grumpy.’ You have to use the takes that were good for Bob.”

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Much of the film was shot on the same busy streets in central London where James and Bob used to busk and sell The Big Issue, and during scenes passers-by would recognise them and want to stop and chat. “You have to let go of wanting it to be a quiet set,” laughs Treadaway. “They’ve got a really big fan base.” As the film shows, James and Bob would often find themselves surrounded by people wanting photographs, and Treadaway discovered he had his own personal connection to their popularity. “My girlfriend Ruta, when she found out I’d got the role, said: ‘I think I’ve got a photo somewhere of them.’ She looked back through all her old shots and there it was, from five years ago.” Actor Ruta Gedmintas, who met Treadaway on the set of the music-festival romance Tonight You’re Mine in 2011, also stars in A Street Cat Named Bob as Betty, James’s caring new-age neighbour. She was offered the role not long after Treadaway landed the lead. “That was just a really beautiful coincidence. I think it works really well.”

The film demanded that Treadaway busk in public. “We had guitars around as a kid. I’m not Frank Zappa, but I can play a bit,” he says. He’s being modest – he used to be in a band, Lizardsun, with his twin brother Harry, who is also an actor. Lizardsun performed guitar-heavy 70s-style psychedelic self-penned songs and Lou Reed covers. The songs he sings in A Street Cat Named Bob were written by Charlie Fink of Noah and the Whale and are being released as a soundtrack; this is his third album, he laughs. The first accompanied his debut film, Brothers of the Head, made while he was still at drama school, in which he starred alongside Harry as the lead singer of a punk band, and Tonight You’re Mine also saw him in the recording studio.

The favourite aspect of his job is doing the research: “It’s like being a detective, creating a world you can exist in.” This love of building imagined lives is what first drew him to acting as a child, growing up with Harry and older brother Sam, and their school-teacher mum and architect dad in the little village of Sandford in Devon. That’s where he made his debut playing a flower in the local pantomime. “All kids run round playing make-believe. At best that’s what acting is, really.” He got to revisit his childhood for another film of his that’s about to be released: Ethel & Ernest, an animation based on Raymond Briggs’s book about his parents, for which he voiced the young Raymond alongside Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent as his mum and dad. “I can still see myself as a five-year-old with his books. It’s the most moving, beautiful little film.” But young Treadaway enjoyed acting out stories more than reading them. “I loved school plays, then did the National Youth Theatre at 16 and found out about drama school.”

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In the decade since he graduated, Treadaway’s most celebrated performance came in the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for which his role as the teenage protagonist won him an Olivier Award in 2013. But A Street Cat Named Bob promises to reach a far broader audience. Bowen’s book was a bestseller in the US and the film is likely to match its transatlantic appeal. Director Roger Spottiswoode, known for his blockbusters Air America and Tomorrow Never Dies, has sprinkled the film with gratuitously tourist-friendly shots of London, and critics are already speculating that it could present the actor with his big break Stateside.

The media has made these sort of noises before. When news broke that Angelina Jolie had cast him in Unbroken, one headline read: Hollywood Comes Calling for Curious Incident Actor. “Yes, I remember that,” he harrumphs, clearly not impressed. “There are loads of incredible stories coming out of [Hollywood], so of course I’d love to go. But they’re making great stuff in many different parts of the world, and I’d be delighted with a part in any of them.”

View the photoshoot here

Source: The Observer


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