Interview by Frances Cronin
Newsbeat entertainment reporter
Ralf Little (right) plays Chas Hodges, of Chas & Dave fame, in Telstar
Probably best known for playing Anthony Royle in The Royle Family, Ralf Little's latest role is in Telstar.
The film also stars Kevin Spacey, musicians Carl Barat and Justin Hawkins, is directed by Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels actor Nick Moran and follows the life of Joe Meek, a pioneering English record producer and songwriter in the 60s.
When did you sign up for this film and have you been waiting a long time to shoot it?
What's really weird is I've actually got a personal history with the film. When I was 18, I'd done the Royle Family but I didn't live in London and I was very rarely in London, I happened to be down for an audition when I was a kid. And one of the guys who I usually played with wasn't at the football game that I decided to play in. I'd finished my audition and I knew there were a few actors playing a football game on a Friday afternoon.
So I went down and had a kick around with them and one of the lads who I played with the few times I'd been down, I was like, 'Oh. Where's Rocky?' and a couple of our mutual friends went, 'Oh. He's doing this rehearsed reading tonight. It's only going to be in front of about 50 people and it's really rough. But it's this thing written by Nick Moran'.
And just for no other reason than I didn't have anything else to do, I thought, 'Oh well. I'll go along and have a look'. So 10, 11 years ago I saw a rehearsed reading of Telstar in front of less than 100 people when no one had ever heard of it and remember at the time thinking, 'Do you know what? This is brilliant. Oh, what a shame I'm never going to get a chance to be in it'. And then 11 years later, here I am in the film.
So they didn't sign you up there and then?
No. Not at all. I mean, I'd never met Nick [Moran] or anything. I met Nick properly a few years later and we became friends. I knew the play was happening and he managed to get it on tour and then he got it into the West End and then eventually he got the funding for a film.
Ralf Little played teenager Anthony Royle in The Royle Family
But we've been mates for a few years and he just turned around to me one day and went, 'Right. Great news. Telstar's happening. Are you interested?' I was like, 'Well, yeah. Of course I'm interested. I've seen the play, like, three times and really love it, love the script and yeah, I'd love to be a part of it'.
I was like, 'I'm not sure I'd be any good for Joe Meek'. And he went, 'Yeah, you wish. The lead's going to Con O'Neill who's been playing it for 10 years and is brilliant. You can play Chas Hodges'. And I was like, 'Perfect'.
Were you a frustrated rock star? Did you enjoy being able to do that?
Oh yeah. Who isn't a frustrated rock star? These guys in the film, they weren't just rock stars, they were the original British pioneers of rock 'n' roll before The Beatles. They were forging new territory in a way that very few people are ever going to get to do again. So to buy into that and be a part of that was really exciting.
I play a bit of guitar and a bit of bass so it was nice to play along properly with all the tunes. But I'm also playing Chas, out of Chas & Dave, when he's 20 years old in a true story that he happened to be involved in. So that was another really weird thing. I was like, 'This is brilliant. I'm playing this sort of brilliant Cockney icon from when he was 20 years old just wanting to play music and have a laugh and get drunk and chat people up'. It was great.
This role meant filming with some real life rock stars, didn't it?
That's right. Carl [Barat] was playing Gene Vincent. So it was brilliant. There were these incredible rehearsals that we would have to do where we'd have to turn up and we're all trying to play the guitar and trying to make it look real. We're all a load of actors trying to look like real life rock stars and he's a real life rock star trying to look like an actor, looking like a real life rock star. It was this really crazy thing.
Kevin Spacey plays Major Banks in Telstar and "was a laugh on set"
So, Carl's trying to do Gene Vincent with the American accent, which he was brilliant at by the way, and we're all going, 'So Carl. Are we getting this chord right? Which do you think would look better? If we played it as a bar chord or if we played it as an open?' And he's like, 'Yeah. Dunno. Let's figure it out'. So it was great getting to jam with Carl Barat. It was quality.
Was it hard to not laugh on set with James Corden about, who plays Clem Cattini?
I've known James for years as well. We just knew as soon as we were going to do this that we were going to have a bit of a ball. It was great. We'd be on set and the banter was flying and it was more than encouraged. JJ [Feild] is hilarious. Tom Burke was joining in. Sid Mitchell was great. But brilliantly, Kevin Spacey was totally a part of that as well. Kevin Spacey's a funny guy. His banter, it's right up there.
Telstar is released in cinemas today [19 June].