We catch up with Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison and James Buckley to talk abou the spin-off movie from E4’s hit show.
A few hours before the world premiere of The Inbetweeners Movie, Roe McDermott met Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison and James Buckley and found them a far cry from their loud, wise-cracking, fun-loving, clunge-hunting characters. Mourning the end of their hit television show and saying goodbye to the hilariously awkward characters they’ve played for three years, the interview turned into therapy as they spoke about bringing the show to the big screen, ending on a high and getting critique on their masturbation faces. Freud would be proud.
While waiting to interview the cast of The Inbetweeners Movie, I ask the chirpy PR girl how the lads are, in much the same way I’d inquire after the health of a vague acquaintance – even as I’m asking the question I’ve tuned out, not expecting anything other than a “Great, thanks!” But this girl apparently doesn’t know the rules of small talk, and gives me a genuine answer. And it’s one I didn’t want to hear.
“I think they’re a bit down, actually. After the premiere tonight The Inbetweeners is over, really, and it’s just sinking in now that this is the end.”
Wonderful. I thought I was being invited to a large-scale end-of-term party, when it turns out I’m actually gate-crashing a wake.
When Simon Bird, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison and James Buckley – also known as the fumbling sixth-form foursome Will, Simon, Neil and Jay – finally arrive, they give me a lukewarm greeting and ignore the several chairs in the room, instead bunching together on the two-seater couch that’s beside my armchair. Does someone have a bust of Freud and a Rorshach test handy? Because apparently the therapy session has begun.
“We’re sort of a bit emotional now, to be honest,” sighs Bird. “Because the end of filming wasn’t really the end of the process, you have to come back in a month into the studio and do voiceovers and all small technical jobs and then there’s all the promotion -“
” – so tonight’s really the end,” interrupts Thomas, sounding like a harbinger of the Rapture. “This really is the final end of it all. This project started last August and we’ve been working on it quite literally until now, as it was only finished last week.”
“So tonight’s going to be emotional. It’s goodbye” concludes Harrison. Damn you Blake, I was depending on you to bring some of Neil’s trademark cheeriness to the room.
But though the film may mark the end of The Inbetweeners, the actors can take comfort in the knowledge that the show went out on a complete high. The brilliantly funny E4 sitcom about four awkward teens brought together by a lack of social skills and status won numerous awards, sold 1.5 million DVDs and attracted a record 3 million viewers to its final episode. But though the actors say they wouldn’t have been averse to making The Inbetweeners: The University Years, they saw the wisdom in not overstaying their welcome.
“With British comedy, it’s rare to get a third series in a lot of ways,” says Harrison. “Some of the classic comedy like The Office and Extras get maybe two series and a Christmas special. So we were apprehensive about doing a third series, let alone a film. But ultimately we have tremendous faith in the writers Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, and that always convinced us to do more of it because they’re so talented.”
Buckley agrees with the comparison to Ricky Gervais’ hit shows, saying “I don’t think there’s a bad episode of The Inbetweeners. So we’re kind of like Fawlty Towers and The Young Ones and Extras like that. Just, you know, obviously they’re better!”
But despite the success of the show, the actors are aware that British sitcoms that jump to the big screen have had mixed results in the past. When it goes (unexpectedly) right, you have the worldwide success of Bean and Mr. Bean’s Holiday and $400 million in the bank. If it goes wrong, you have Kevin and Perry Go Large, and a huge embarrassment on your hands. No pressure or anything.
“We definitely were wary about making a film,” agrees Thomas. “But the idea of a lads’ summer holiday is a good stand-alone idea which also worked for the characters. It is what the characters would do next, and I don’t think we would have done it if we were looking for contrived reasons for these characters to be together.”
As with the series, the film is true to the experiences of many schoolboys. The friends head to Malia expecting constant sex and lots of boozing, but quickly realize that though the scenery may be different, they are sadly the same as ever.
“The boys think they’re bound to have a good time because it’s abroad, but they’re just as pathetic out there,” says Bird.
And though the group fight, make up, get their hearts broken and advances rebuffed, it’s less a rite of passage movie and more an extended exercise in excruciating humiliation.
“There is a slight learning curve, and some hugging and a slight emotional journey,” says Harrison. “But there’s also a hell of a lot of vomiting and boners and motor-boating old dinner ladies, so it’s not exactly melodrama.”
As ever, it’s Buckley’s character Jay who gets some of the most explicit scenes, having his swimming trunks pulled down to reveal the diminutive contents – “I had a body double, I swear!” – and yet again is caught masturbating, this time in a scuba mask, with a hockey glove of ham. And thanks to the expert input of the writers, Buckley’s technique in this field is unrivalled.
“I remember one scene from the series where I was doing it in an old folks’ home, Ian Morris gave me examples of faces I should pull whilst doing it…it’s a bloody weird job.”
As for the future, Bird and Thomas have written filmed a Channel 4 pilot called Chickens, while Buckley is expecting his first child with model Clair Meek. After years of exploring the themes of love, sex and relationships on the show, his co-stars have some words of wisdom for his offspring: “Don’t come to us for advice. That’s probably the key.”
As the actors thank me and leave to get ready for the premiere, it’s clear the Inbetweeners’ school days really were the best days of their lives. But school’s out of session, which means two things: the lads have to grow up, and my role as school psychologist is over. It’s probably for the best.