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Page last updated at 06:31 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 07:31 UK
Iraq war drama is 'very intense'

Interview by Sinead Garvan
Newsbeat entertainment reporter

Stephen Graham
Stephen Graham played Shang in movie Gangs Of New York

This Is England actor Stephen Graham is back on TV on Tuesday night (16 June) in BBC One's new three-part drama, Occupation.

It's about three British soldiers who have their lives changed by in incident during the war in Iraq in 2003.

Stephen Graham, who plays Corporal Danny Peterson, says he wanted to do the series as soon as he read the script and also talks about working with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale on new Hollywood mob film Public Enemies.

Why did you decide to take on a role like the one in Occupation?

I read the scripts and thought the scripts were absolutely fantastic. It's a great story about three friends who go over to Basra and one particular incident changes their lives forever. I just thought it was outstanding writing.

I've worked with Peter [Bowker] before on a thing called Flesh And Blood, which he wrote years ago and as soon as I read it I wanted to do it. It's a story of three friends who are out there in Basra, three soldiers, and how one particular incident in this war changes the direction of their lives forever. It sets them on this crazy journey.

Where did you film Occupation? Did you get to meet any soldiers before you filmed it?

For research, I've got a couple of cousins who are in the army, so I spoke to them a lot. I found out a lot about soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. We filmed it in Belfast. It's a bit of a cheat I know but we filmed it in Belfast and Morocco. For obvious reasons you can't really go to Basra and start filming.

I think it's important for us to remember that there's actually still a war going on out there. Soldiers are still out there fighting
Stephen Graham

What was it like filming a war drama? Was it intense?

The characters, and the journeys that they go on, are very intense. And the way it's written, the structure of the story is just unbelievable, it's heart racing until the final scene. You don't get a chance to catch your breath. The pace moves so beautifully, it's just really quick. It's like real old-fashioned British drama, like Boys From The Black Stuff and that kind of thing. That's what really drew my attention to it, to be honest with you.

Do you think there's room for more war dramas on TV? Why should people watch this one?

The war is just a backdrop for the story. It's just this incident for these three friends, these three soldiers, it's what happens this one particular time, this moment in time, which changes the course of their lives forever.

I think it's important for us to remember that there's actually still a war going on out there. Soldiers are still out there fighting. I read in the paper the other day people are dying daily still and it's nice to not forget. It's not a piece that's ramming any political issues down your throat. It just shows open sides and it's not overtly political. It allows you to make your own mind up about what's happening over there.

James Nesbitt
James Nesbitt plays Sergeant Mike Swift in Occupation

Moving on to your other projects, most people will know you from This Is England. Your latest film, Public Enemies, is coming out soon. What was it like to film alongside Johnny Depp and Christian Bale?

It's the kind of thing that you dream of when you're starting off being an actor when you're younger. It was just such a great thing to do. Johnny's a lovely man, he's a top man. And believe it or not, Christian Bale is absolutely hilarious. I thought he was a top fella, a really nice fella. It's good to just be involved with that.

You said Christian Bale was hilarious. So there was no flying off the handle on set when you were around?

No, not at all. Not with me at all. He was just so lovely. He's just such a top fella. He does a fantastic David Bellamy impression. They're the kind of things that you dream of doing. It's great to be hanging off the side of a car shooting a tommy gun pretending to be Baby Face Nelson.

Occupation starts on BBC One at 9pm on Tuesday 16 June.

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