Liverpool-born Stephen Graham, 41, is one of the most in-demand actors of his generation, with roles in Snatch, Public Enemies and This Is England. He talks to Roger Crow about his new film Hyena, why an old pair of shoes helped him get into character, and his desire to do more comedy.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH NEW MOVIE HYENA?
I got sent the script from a casting director, Des Hamilton. It was about three years ago that he first sent me it, and then I watched [director] Gerard Johnson’s first film, Tony: Portrait Of A London Serial Killer, which I thought was fantastic. Des said: ‘I’d really like you to play this role; he’s written it with you in mind’, which I didn’t know was a compliment.
WHAT RESEARCH DID YOU DO TO PLAY DETECTIVE DAVID KNIGHT?
A lot of police research. I got a lot of information from Gerard and me and Peter went through a back story we had for our characters. We wanted him to be a character like... you know these people who you think are your friends and then all of a sudden they’ll stab you in the back?
DO YOU USE AN ITEM OF CLOTHING OR PROP TO GET INTO A CHARACTER?
What I like to do is find the shoes for the character and then sort of embody the physicality and stuff. Years ago I got these brown, suede Gucci loafers. I bought them in a pub and took them home and my wife Hannah went: ‘What the hell are they?’ I said: ‘They’re great; they’re Guccis.’ She said: ‘I don’t care what they are; they’re disgusting!’ I left them at the bottom of the wardrobe and I knew they’d come in handy some day, so when I was playing this part, I thought, ‘I know exactly what I’ll use; I’ll use them shoes’. So that’s what I did, and it was a way into the character.
WAS IT THE WILLY RUSSELL PLAY OUR DAY OUT THAT GAVE YOU A TASTE FOR ACTING?
I suppose it was. It was also when I was at school and we did Treasure Island. That was the first thing I’d ever been in, so that’s where I got the desire to be an actor.
AFTER MAKING GET SANTA DO YOU FANCY DOING MORE COMEDY?
Yeah, I’d love to. I’ve just finished This Is England 90, and it was all very emotional and very powerful, tears coming down my face, and I turned round to [director] Shane [Meadows] and I went: ‘I can do comedy you know!’ And we just burst out laughing.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
I’m going to do Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and I’ll be there for a while; that’s in Australia so I’ll be away for a little bit. There’s a couple of things in America that people want meetings for, and then a couple of little independent things over here, so hopefully just keep doing the same thing I’m doing.
CAREERWISE, WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU HAPPIEST AND WHY?
Today really, because of everything I’ve done. I’m very lucky. I’ve got a beautiful wife and two gorgeous kids.
lHyena is released in cinemas today.