Rocking out in the Dorchester with Georgia Groome, teen queen and star of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, released in cinemas July 25.
LWLies: This film is very different to London to Brighton, not just in terms of your role but presumably the whole set up. Was it a bit of a culture shock? Groome: It was weird because London to Brighton, and all the other films I’ve done, have not had huge budgets. Like, London to Brighton was £180,000 for the whole thing and there was barely two pennies to rub together for anything. We didn’t have trailers, there were no dressing rooms; make-up, grooming, costume and tea and coffee took place in the same room in some little, dingy flat that they’d borrowed off people and things like that. So it was really hard but I learned so much off Paul and all the others. Then it came to Angus and, seriously, it was like weird because I had a trailer – and I spent no time in the trailer but I had one anyway.
LWLies: Was it a Will Smith one that morphs into a music studio? Groome: It had a TV in it, but to be honest the coolest bit was a switch on the wall which made the sofa come out the side of the wall like a theme park ride, so I’d be switching it on and off. But I didn’t really spend much time in it. And then the scale of everything, like, there was no catering bus on London to Brighton, there was a man called Ben who biked over to Sainsbury’s to feed 50 for £15 with lentil soup or something. The difference is that London to Brighton was tough, and we had to scrape it, and the good thing about Angus is that the money means you have time. Whereas on low budget flicks you’re having to, like, get it done and you don’t have the opportunity to do a third take – you’re lucky to get two – here we could do as many as we needed until we had all the cameras and stuff right, which is great to be able to do that because it means you can play, you can play with the way that you’re doing it and you can try it all different ways and they can piece it together how they want, whereas the low budgets are done on instincts and you really have to trust.
LWLies: Do you feel like you learnt as much doing this then? Groome: Yeah, I think the difference with London to Brighton… I learnt so much because it was my first taste of it and the way Paul works is really unique, and the way that we were treated made me grow up a lot. LWLies: How old were you? Like, 13? 14? Groome: Yeah, 13 when we started shooting. The things I had to do on that and the things that I brought away from that are great and I owe them so much. They’re like another family and everyone keeps in touch. With Angus I learnt so much because it’s on a much bigger scale, I was working with Gurinder, working with Dick Pope as the DoP and I think he’s… He’s famous for like Mike Leigh, and Mike Leigh’s like the British filmmaker and then Gurinder as well. You just learn so much from everybody, and that’s what I love about it – everyday I learnt something new, whether it’d be like how the camera works or checking the gates and stuff. And they let me do things as well. Paul let me take decisions on scenes if they weren’t working and listened to me, as did Gurinder. And for any director to listen to, a) a kid like in London to Brighton who had no experience and was only 13 and didn’t really know much about life in general.
LWLies: Unlike now? Groome: Yeah! Well, as I say, I don’t really know anything now, and Gurinder listened to me. To have that trust is crazy.
LWLies: Did you feel the pressure a little more? A bit more weight of expectation? You’re the banner star of this big film… Groome: I think that it became more apparent as time went on. To meet the people from Paramount was scary for us all, and we seemed to always meet them on the days where everybody was having serious bloopers and things were going horribly wrong. That was the day that the big officials came in from Paramount in America. I think I’m feeling the pressure more now when it’s nearly out and everybody is starting to build up some sort of hype about it. It’s different from anything else because London to Brighton was low budget and got seen by a lot of people for the money it was made on, but it didn’t get seen by the public it got seen by the industry, which in a way is good and the praise it got is great and it’s great for Paul, but this is kind of completely different on every level. My part was big and it is scary.
LWLies: You’re sat here talking and the stuff you say here today will go out and be the final word on the film – you’re the spokesperson. Groome: It’s really good!
LWLies: How did the people from Paramount treat you? Did they kiss your ass? Groome: With the budget they had – it’s not a huge budget, it’s not like they’re doing The Golden Compass or Lord of the Rings with it but it was a big piece of money – and for them… For a lot of people it would have been some kind of dream, but for me I always remember that you have to respect everybody that you meet. And I picked my own costumes up and a lot of the time I would take my own costumes back or my mum would take my costumes back, and I tried not to let people slave off me, as they do, and I know it’s their job and if that’s what they’re being paid to do you should let them do it, but you have to remember where you came from, and that’s important. But the guys from Paramount I felt quite scared to meet them because primarily they’re the people that you need to impress. And they were lovely. They were all really down to earth and were like, ‘If you come over to the States then we’ll do this…’ Talking about, just like, being nice but it’s a bit scary.
LWLies: Is this it for you now? Five star hotels. Blockbuster films. There’s no going back? Groome: I don’t know. This is the weirdest thing. I was sleeping at The Dorchester last night. What is all that about? I’m used to the Ramada or a Travel Lodge.
LWLies: Have you thrown your first diva tantrum yet? Groome: No, no. I walked in last night like ‘Oh my God!’ It’s really nice, it’s nice to sort of live the life but I don’t mind getting on the tube and walking round London – I love London to bits.
LWLies: Where are you from? Groome: Derby. Or Nottingham, I live in Nottingham now. So it’s nice but I do really like the element of the British films that are really gritty. I think the perfect thing for me would be to keep on going for as long as I can keep on going and doing it but giving it a good mix of, like, the British independent stuff and then movies like Angus. And I suppose Angus is still a British film; it’s just got the money and the backing behind it to go somewhere, as a lot of them don’t.
LWLies: There are a lot of terrible British films around though, how did you manage to strike gold? Groome: I think it is luck. We came across London to Brighton through Central Workshop just because the producers lived down the road, and I got lucky with that – someone took the gamble of using a kid that isn’t known. That’s why I appreciate everything that Paul’s done for me and why I would do anything back for him. And I know that he’s said I can be in all of his films if I want to be, and I think he’s amazing. Angus, likewise, I was quite wary of it at first, worried about it being Disney-fied. LWLies: It should have been terrible, in a way. Everything about it makes it seem like it should be really bad, and against all the odds it’s actually quite sweet natured. Groome: The good thing behind it is that Gurinder kept her stand and said, ‘No, you’re not having those people for the part,’ and she got what she wanted for it. The whole idea of the film is that it’s culturally British, and I think that’s why it’s hopefully good because she’s kept it British and it’s not a British film that they’re trying to LA-up. It’s got its Hollywood moments, like the party at the end where everything’s happy, but the whole film isn’t like bright white teeth and sparkling eyes. It’s just normal and I think that’s the good thing about it. I don’t know how I do it. It just sort of happens.
LWLies: Have you ever actually used any of these following words: ‘marvy’? Groome: No.
LWLies: ‘Nervy b’? Groome: No.
LWLies: ‘Beyond the valley of…’ more or less anything? Groome: No.
LWLies: Or have you ever done a spontaneous but choreographed dance in the middle of the street with your best friend to express how happy you are? Groome: I don’t know! Maybe. LWLies: Do teenagers really talk like that? The teens in Angus seem so 1950s almost compared to the likes of Skins. Do you recognise yourself at all in these characters? Groome: No, you see I think this whole sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll thing that they’re trying to do with teens at the moment is completely false because I’m 16 and nobody’s ever offered me any drugs. It’s like, kids do that if they want to do that and that’s part of growing up but I think that the beauty of Georgia Nicholson is that she’s not growing up as in Skins growing up, she’s growing up the way a lot of 10, 11, 12-year-olds are growing up, and that’s kind of like… It’s sad that it’s happening that early because you should be a kid for as long as possible but it’s sort of like the first stages of growing up, and that’s why it’s cute, not typical, it’s sweet. LWLies: Did you ever say to Gurinder, ‘I can’t say this. No one I know would say this’? Groome: There’s one line where I shave my eyebrow and I say, ‘Oh flip, flipper and flippin’ hell’. I so hope they cut it because I would never say that, and I said that. But basically because of the books it’s how the books are, and they needed to keep some of the essence of the books. It’s Louise Rennison’s book and that’s what the books are like. And I think that’s why the books have gone down so well in America and so well in Australia and here as well because they don’t get the language, and we don’t totally get the language but they relate to it. It’s just a bit of a giggle.
LWLies: The film is about body issues and are you aware of the fact or concerned about the fact that you’re in an industry which is almost all about the external bullshit? Are you prepared for rubbing up against that? Groome: I’m really happy with who I am – I don’t try to be anything that I’m not and I’m not wrapped up in the whole being somebody for the sake of having your photo taken. I am who I am, and I’m quite happy with that – it’s got me this far. I’m just happy being normal. I hate having my photo taken. It’s so fake; it’s like, ‘What is that?’ It’s not real in any way. I’ll just be who I am. I don’t know. I’m not worried; I’m not going to change for anybody. Or maybe I would, I don’t know. It’s weird because it’s not got to that stage yet. I think it’s a confidence thing – I’m confident talking, I’m confident doing acting, but not standing and smiling for the cameras.
LWLies: Working with a female director, did you notice a different kind of sensibility? Groome: What was great was the power that she has. And I think men and women are equal but I think that a lot of people probably won’t believe how she’s so well respected in what she does and she’s great at it. The whole crew just worked for her and with her completely. Like, a lot of those people are really close friends of Gurinder’s, a lot of them worked on Beckham and Baji on the Beach and What’s Cooking?, and most of those people are really well respected, as is Gurinder. Like, her and Dick Pope’s partnership on the film was awesome to watch because he’s got the real eye and he knew where Gurinder was going and it was all done on this new stock of Fuji film, a really bright colour, so the whole film’s brighter. But everyone worked together with her; she’s such a strong person. To do a film after you’ve just had twins must have been quite tiring and I think most people need time to wind down, but she made the film and she still spent time with the twins – they were forever on set, forever under her arms.
LWLies: Did you benefit from this massive maternal instinct? Groome: Yeah, she had it for everyone. The twins were under her arms constantly, they were on set most days for an hour or so and she’s so great with them. If we were the Suffragettes back then, she would be… She’s so strong and she knows she’s strong, and she’s so good at what she does it was great to watch. It wasn’t different. It was the same as how – well not the same as how Paul works – but she got the same respect as Paul, and you wouldn’t expect anything different because we’re living in a world where men and women are mainly now equal, but there’s not a lot of female directors and Gurinder’s very high profile. I think that’s cool.
LWLies: Now that you’ve had two great experiences, are you nervous about the point where you hit a set and have a bad experience? Because it happens to everyone. Groome: I think I’m lucky that the two things I’ve had the biggest parts in had two of the best directors around at the moment, and I’ve worked with directors who are good but they’re not… Sort of like up and coming people that are learning but they’re not quite as good, they’ve not got what Paul and Gurinder have. And I think that over time people get better but it’s about doing it their way and doing their vision of the film and working with them. And I think a good director is somebody who will listen but give good direction. Both Paul and Gurinder do that, and I think, I dunno, you just have to wait and see who you work with. LWLies: Now you’re the star you can just get them fired anyway. Get Paramount on the phone – ‘Listen dickheads, we have a major problem here…’ Do you refer to yourself in the third person yet? Groome: No.
LWLies: You should do that. Groome: Everyone started telling me to do diva strops at the end of Angus. When we moved into the studio we wanted to keep the make-up bus and everyone’s like, ‘Go throw a diva strop!’ It was a really nice trailer and then Ealing Studios is all being re-built up at the moment so it’s not like having a trailer and nobody wanted it to go so they were like, ‘Let’s go have a diva strop!’ I just couldn’t do it.
LWLies: How has balancing school and acting been? Are you doing GCSEs? Groome: Yeah, at the moment. I’m half way through. It’s a bit crazy – this last year I don’t know where it’s gone. It’s been insane. I finished Year 10 in June time and I didn’t go back until January so I had six-month period where I wasn’t at school, and half of that was filming and I had tutors. School’s been absolutely great, like, they sent the work and the tutors were really good and made sure I was doing it. We did as much as we could but obviously with the size of the part there wasn’t a lot of time. But we did as much as we could, not as much as we should have, but as much as we could. Then I got back to school and I had mocks within days of being back, which was insane.
LWLies: How did they go? Groome: Alright… Mocks! They’re mocks anyway so it doesn’t mean anything! They were alright – I did well but not as well as I know I can do. School were like, ‘That’s really good seeing as you’ve been away,’ and it was good seeing as I’ve been away but I’m in the middle of them now and I’m actually finding them alright. Everybody makes such a big deal about it.
LWLies: So cool. We’re done now unless there’s anything else you want to talk about? The Iraq War? Gordon Brown? The state of the nation? The 10p tax? Anything you want to put to rights? The human embryology bill? Groome: That human embryology bill! I agree. I agree with it all.
LWLies: You do? Groome: I do.
LWLies: Controversial. All of it? Groome: No, not the Iraq War! I say, ‘Get them out of Iraq!’ I say, ‘Vote Obama!’ Osama? Obama. What’s his name?
LWLies: Voting Osama might not go down that well. We’ll leave it there before you say anything else incriminating.