Friday, 31st Oct 2014
John Clark in "Northern Soul" is Elliot James Langridge's first lead role in a feature film. Directed by Elaine Constantine, the film opened across the UK in October 2014 to rave reviews and sold out cinema showings.
We met up with Elliot to find out how his participation in the film came about, and how it feels to finally have the film showing on screens all over the nation...
Elliot in Northern Soul
Hello Elliot. How did you come to be involved in the Northern Soul film project?
I met Elaine when I was 19; she was the photographer on one of my first modelling jobs. She kept saying I look like John Clarke and I didn’t really understand. She explained that he was the lead character in this script she had been writing. I didn’t give it much thought, then a year later she sent me the script to read. Reading through, I couldn’t believe I was getting a chance to look at it. Over the course of a couple of years I went through various screen tests and auditions to get the part. It was a very slow process.
The film is set in the 1970s – did you have an existing interest in the Northern Soul scene before you got the part?
To be completely honest, being a Southerner I’d heard of it but I didn’t know anything about it. I tried asking my Dad, because he’s of the right age (he’ll hate me saying that), but he had no idea either. So I really had to take in everything Elaine said to me and do my homework. I relied on Elaine and the people that taught me to dance like Kev Dodge, Frannie Franklin and Paul Sodot. Those guys know everything – they were there and experienced it, it was like having a database of the scene ready to tap into.
For the project we had the luxury of time – it was a completely different process to anything else I’d ever worked on. We had the time to research, and learn the dancing properly. One of the hardest aspects for me was learning the accent…
I can imagine…
Doing a generic Northern accent is fine. However when you have a Northern director who is from the place the film is set, you can’t slip up – and you can’t get it wrong. If my accent was off we did it over and over. It was quite daunting being one of the only Southerners on set - a lot of people involved in the film are from up North, so it had to be right.
I’m really interested in the dancing…
…Yeah the dancing was amazing! As somebody that had never experienced it before, the closest thing I can describe it as is a cross between breakdancing and Saturday Night Fever.
Did you feel self-conscious doing it?
Not really, but by the time we came around to filming it I had been doing dance training for nearly two years. So it becomes second nature. As soon as you hear one of the songs, dancing just feels like the right thing to do. Kev Dodge was my main teacher. Starting with the foundations was so difficult. I’ve had no formal dance training – although I’d done gymnastics in the past, which kind of helped. Once I got the basics and found my confidence, it became quite easy to do. The things that look quite impressive such as the tricks, became the easier part of the dance to learn.
On top of all this, everybody thinks I’m wearing a wig in the film – I’m not. That is my real hair. I also went from 11 stone to just under 9. I lost a lot of weight. I looked like I’d been doing a lot of drugs and a lot of dancing. I’d spent so many years trying to bulk up, and once I got this part I realised I’d have to lose all this weight.
How long did you have that image for?
Quite a while, because the film kept getting delayed, and the delays were only by small amounts like three months. So it was never long enough to allow me to put the weight back on. I was about 9 stone for a year and a half, with a long mullet! I kept going to other auditions, and people were looking at me like I was crazy. It was difficult, because I knew I couldn’t change how I looked because of the film, so once we had finished it was so nice to start eating properly, and cut my hair. When the film finished it was a massive sigh of relief because we had done it, and we’d done it well. It was such a sense of achievement for everybody involved in the project.
Were you involved in the Northern Soul dance clubs that Elaine set up?
Yeah, they were great. By the time the clubs came around I’d had enough training to learn to dance a bit, and in the clubs we did group lessons. We had people coming from all over the place to attend, with different degrees of ability – some of them had never danced before, some were experts. There was a family environment, and a healthy element of competition and rivalry. I’ve never experienced anything like it on any other job. The group lessons went on for over a year, and by the end we had so many people – we had dance lessons up North and in London because it had grown so much. It was amazing to see so many people do it for free because they believed in the project.
It sounds amazing. I really like the story behind the film itself. How do you feel about Northern Soul music, is it something you’ve grown to love?
Definitely. You can’t be involved in a project like this and walk away not feeling the music. I think that’s probably an impossibility. Learning to dance alongside the music, you hear the songs in a different way – the breaks in the song are where you do your tricks. You learn the beat and how you’re supposed to dance to it, so if a Northern Soul track comes on I start shuffling my feet. When I listen to the soundtrack it just brings back all the memories of everything I was involved in to make the film.
Elliot on-set with co-star Ricky Tomlinson
Alongside Josh and Antonia, who were your main co-stars, you also worked with some fantastic British talent in the film. How was that? Did it make you feel nervous?
It was crazy! I mean Steve Coogan – I never thought I’d work with somebody like that. I’m going to say this now, he’s one of my idols. He’s somebody I’ve looked up to since I was a kid. So to be able to do a scene with him was a real pinch-yourself moment. To work with all those people, and in one film as well – what an experience.
This was your first lead role in a film – how much pressure did you feel to deliver?
I didn’t at first realise I was being considered for a lead role, and as the process went on it became more apparent. One day it all clicked and I was like oh my god this is it – I’ve got to shoulder this film otherwise my career is over. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking realisation when you walk onto set and everybody is looking at you like who is this guy - why does he have the lead role? And you have to pull it off.
The film has taken a while to get to get to cinema – how does it feel for it to be on general release?
To finally have it out there, and to have people to be seeing it, and that it’s doing well, and that it’s got good reviews - it’s beyond my expectations. I always thought the project was special, but you’re obviously biased when working on something, but reaction confirms it. It’s amazing to see the audience enjoying the film as much as we enjoyed making it.
What’s next for you as an actor?
It felt a bit weird when I went to my next part after this – I wasn’t playing John Clarke anymore. Although I’ve started to realise I’m going up for a lot of Northern parts now – I’m getting typecast and I’m not even Northern, haha. I have a few really exciting projects coming up in the pipeline and I’ve written a script about a dyslexic boy at a special needs school. It’s called The No Hopers and being dyslexic myself it’s roughly based on my own experiences.
Good luck! Finally, one of the girls that works in our London stores is a huge Northern Soul fan, and she loved the film. She wanted to know whether you had a favourite track to dance to?
Yeah! It’s briefly in the film, “You Don’t Mean It” by Towanda Barnes. It’s got such a good beat. It’s the song that made me want to hear more about Northern Soul when I heard it, it’s really good to stomp to!
Elliot, thank you very much
Wednesday, 29th Oct 2014
Born in Bury, Lancashire, Elaine Constantine grew up surrounded by the Northern Soul scene, first making her name as a fashion photographer and music video director. Northern Soul is her first feature film. A true labour of love, it was in development for five years and finally hit UK cinemas in October 2014. We caught up with Elaine to see how it felt.
Elaine (middle) pictured on-set of Northern Soul
Elaine, the journey you undertook getting the film to screen could be a film in itself. Could you tell me a bit about the background behind Northern Soul?
It started out as an idea for a documentary about 16/17 years ago, but the further I got into it, the more it became clear that to get across what I really wanted to communicate - that youthful excitement of discovery and total immersion, and the way in which something quite alien became woven into the fabric of the daily life of a northern lad in the 70s - would require a period fiction, albeit firmly based on real characters, places and events.
How did you get all the dancing scenes to look so authentic?
A few years before we got green lit I realised that to do the club scenes justice I’d need hundreds of 16-25 year-olds who could dance as they did back then. They didn’t exist of course, so I set up dance sessions in London and Bolton and we invited 16-25 year olds to attend. The longer it took for us to raise funding the longer they went on. Some people were coming to them for nearly 4 years! We ended up casting quite a lot of our young actors through these dance sessions, including Josh Whitehouse who had never acted before. Elliott was there from the beginning too.
Elaine (left) on set
The whole film feels like a huge labour of love. How does it feel to have Northern Soul finished and showing in cinemas?
It means everything to me. I’ve spent nearly a third of my life on this film and every penny I could spare.
What has the reaction been like since the film hit cinemas? I hope you’ll be pleased to hear we’ve had a really enthusiastic (unprovoked) response to the film from Fred Perry customers!
It’s been overwhelming really. Initially we were told we might get 15 screens but never anticipated where we are today. It opened in 88 screens and showed at 100 or so on the 1st weekend - all of which sold out – we are now up to 150 cinemas showing it. This is in large part down to the soul scene in the UK demanding that their local cinemas program it. To have their approval and support has been humbling.
Elaine, thank you very much!
Northern Soul is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD
Monday, 27th Oct 2014
Five years in the making, "Northern Soul" is the cinematic debut from acclaimed photographer Elaine Constantine. The film saw its theatrical and home entertainment release in October 2014.
Newcomer Josh Whitehouse plays central character Matt, bad boy of the film who steers lead John Clark (played by Elliot James Langridge) towards the vibrant Northern Soul all-nighter scene of the 1970's.
We met up with Josh to discuss Northern Soul dancing, tattoos and how it felt working on a project that was such a labour of love...
How did you meet Elaine, and get involved with “Northern Soul”?
I met Elaine five years ago when my band were in the background of a photoshoot she was doing. She asked me to entertain a crowd whilst they were fixing something, and I jumped up on a hay bale played my guitar and sang a song. I think she noticed how responsive the crowd were in a situation like that. She invited me to her Northern Soul dance classes she was putting on in London, and I went along with no prior dancing or acting experience and just got involved really. I went for about six months, and after that she offered me private dance classes as I was getting better. We started doing acting workshops too – guys already involved with the film started trying out scripts with me and I then started doing acting classes. So from the dance classes, to script reading to acting lessons, one thing lead to another really. It was only about two months before we started filming that I was formally offered the part. It was two years of total anticipation and preparation.
I’ve seen footage from some of the Northern Soul dance classes on youtube - they look pretty incredible. How did that come about, did they slowly build over time?
I joined the classes two years before we started filming, and to be fair, they were as packed at the beginning as they were at the end. They were held at a pub called the Old Queens Head in North London. Everybody was incredibly inviting and welcoming – I started new to it all (everybody else was amazing at dancing), but I gave it my best. It was just a great environment. At the end of every dance class two people had to go up and show what they’d learned that day– everybody would clap, cheer and support. It was really helpful.
How was it learning Northern Soul dancing? Obviously the dancing is a little different from how most people normally dance. Were you nervous, or self-conscious?
Yeah, haha. It’s one of those things where you’re aware you feel nervous and self-conscious, but the only way to get past that is to throw yourself into it and let it go. It’s the same thing as moving to a new school and trying to make new friends. The more you do it, and the more you have people see you do it, the less it feels like something that is completely new to you.
With the music, was Northern Soul a genre you were into before the film, or is it something you’ve come to enjoy?
No, not at all, haha. I’m a musician – I play music, and I listen to a lot of different styles of music, but I’d never heard of Northern Soul. When I joined the dance classes I was given three albums of tracks being considered for the film’s soundtrack. I was asked to learn them, asked to listen to them. I really wanted to give everything to this so I listened to them day in day out, tried to learn all the vocals. Elaine would quiz us on the records, making sure we knew the songs. To be presented with a whole new genre of music – not just a genre, a culture of music, it was difficult for me to know whether I instantly liked it, but after going through all this – the classes, making the film, all these experiences really made me feel at one with soul music.
You mentioned you have your own band, is soul something you’ve started to incorporate into the music you make now?
Absolutely. It’s really inspiring. I’ve got a band called “More Like Trees” and we do a cover of Frankie Valli’s “The Night” which is in the film. We do it a bit flamenco-y a bit like house music, but all acoustic. It’s very different to the original, but I realised I’d been learning all of this music so rigidly that I have this catalogue of great soul tunes that have been hand-picked for me by people from the scene. I started playing the songs on guitar, partly to learn the words, partly to learn some of the feeling as we had to sing along with these songs when we’re on set. When I learn a song I use a guitar. Singing along to the record doesn’t quite bed the words into my brain as much. It was my way of getting into the songs.
Your character in the film is a bit of a bad boy, he’s the guy that steers Elliot’s character away – do you see much of yourself in him, or are you quite different?
Yeah he is a bit of a bad boy. I’m definitely different from the character, but I think you have to have an element of a character deep down in you to be able to portray it fully. The main thing I connected to with my character was his relentless hatred for chart music. I used to spend many long drives listening to the radio in someone else’s car, and it used to drive me mad. It’s one of the reasons I started a band to be honest. A lot of the great independent bands, they never seem to hit the mainstream, and even when they do they get turned into something completely different. Everybody hates them because they’ve gone into making money instead of doing this or that. It can be a really messed up industry. With my character, he was obsessed with these great records. He had a hatred for Cliff Richard and the charts - one of my favourite lines was (adopts Northern accent) “Forget the charts, it’s all propaganda”. So yeah, I channelled all of this into my character – he’s obsessed with music, and I think that if you have that same venom running through your veins, you’ll be alright.
Your character has lots of tattoos which stand out in the film, I heard you kept one of them – is that right?
Yeah ha, I got it on the wrong arm actually – I must have preferred it on this side. My girlfriend got it for me for my 24th – my last birthday. I always said to Elaine that if I got the part and I played the role for her, I wanted a reminder to represent all the work that went into the project. You can only really get tattoos to represent big moments of your life, and I guess “Northern Soul” is one that I’m not going to forget.
The film is now out in cinemas, how does it feel for it to be finally out there? It took a while to actually get to the screen…
Yeah, yeah it’s an incredible release of anticipation and waiting. Since I first got involved, the whole process has taken five years to release. For five years I’ve been imagining that film coming out, it’s been a really long wait and I’ve been looking forward to it a lot. It kind of feels a bit numb now, like it’s not necessarily happening – but I definitely know that it is, and the film seems to be doing really well, so I’m really really pleased about that.
We’ve already had a fantastic response from Fred Perry customers about the film
And something that keeps being mentioned in conversations is the level of detail and authenticity that runs through the film. How was it working with Elaine, who came from the scene itself?
Oh man, Elaine is incredible. I consider her one of my closest friends now, even though she’s 30 years older than me. I think when I met her on that first photoshoot, I decided internally I wanted to stay involved with what she was doing. She manages to be so on-point and professional, whilst making sure everybody is doing their job, but still keeping everybody relaxed…I don’t know if I’d describe it as Northern? Haha very Northern. She’s a dirty, grotty Northerner and she’s completely amazing, incredibly talented. She was a dream to work with really. She’ll be really blunt with you, and I need that because I wasn’t an actor before. She’d come up to us and say things like “Y’know that line you just did? You’re saying it all wrong. Could you just like, say the words properly?” which was great – I’d be like “OK love, yeah yeah, now I know exactly what you don’t want me to do”. Her way of handling people is really fantastic.
In terms of the authenticity and attention to detail, the costumes were just incredible. She’d have top DJs from the scene constantly down. If you think about the dance scenes where there were perhaps up to 2000 people on the floor dancing, what you can’t see is the other 1000 people sat on the balcony above who were all from the Northern Soul scene originally. They were there watching. They are the people who are going to really critique this film, the people this film is really going to matter to – she invited them all down to come and watch her make it. I think it was a smart move of her. She was saying she was confident she wasn’t going to get anything wrong, and if she did they could come here and tell her.
I think it definitely seems to have struck a chord. How was it working with your co-stars? There is some real British talent involved in the film.
It was fantastic. I’ve never really worked with other actors before. I was a bit nervous about acting with really experienced people. They were all brilliant to work with, and seemed really excited about the project and got really involved. We all got on really well, and spent the whole time on set talking in a proper Northern accent. The film completely came out in everybody – I felt Northern by the time the shoot was finished.
What has been the reaction been like since the film has been released?
I’ve been tagged in many, many, many posts on Facebook – I’ve been getting a lot of love from people. Loads of lovely messages, from old friends to complete strangers. It seems overall incredibly positive. I keep getting pictures from friends of sold out cinemas. There’s been a campaign to get the film shown in bigger cinemas, which I totally support. It’s a bit like going back to what I was saying about chart music. There are a lot of other films that get attention because of the name, or people cast in them, but I think sometimes people like to support the underdog. The film has done so well already at independent cinemas, I think the next step is to get the public to push to get the mainstream cinemas buckle I guess. There’s a load of groups for the film on Facebook and the internet, and I think public support is one of the main ways an independent film can get out there – and I’m just really happy it’s happened to Elaine.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I’ve just signed with an acting agency, and if something good comes in acting-wise then fantastic. But I’m mainly focusing on my music and my band, so lots of gigs and solo gigs. I’ve got big plans to have an all-powerful band by the New Year. It’s an exciting time.
Northern Soul is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital HD
Josh Whitehouse on Twitter