meet the small town star of the british 'gummo'
Get to know the 21-year-old star of 'The Goob,' who left behind rural unemployment to become our new favorite film star.
Liam Walpole finds interviews weird. But considering he jumped from unemployment in rural Norfolk to fronting Guy Myhill's award-winning debut feature and signing to NEXT Management's specials board in two short years, that's pretty understandable. Selected for the lead role in The Goob by a casting director who saw him walking through his hometown, Myhill has praised the young actor's extraordinary physicality and ethereal look. Completely owning the stoic protagonist alongside veterans Sean Harris and Sienna Guillory, who do rough-and-ready so very well, Liam plays a parallel of his own life in this frank account of small-town coming of age and lost family loyalty.
There's an overwhelming sense of innocence and honesty to Liam, his complete lack of acting experience naturally bringing these qualities to the film hailed as the British Gummo. Cars are flipped, panties are dropped and punches are thrown in this beautifully shot coming of age drama, set to a brilliant soundtrack by Norwich-native Luke Abbott. In fact, scenes tracking Goob across the flat landscape on his motorbike were just as special as those nighttime drive scenes in, well, Drive. Following a world premiere at Venice Film Festival, a screening at SXSW and countless nominations and awards, The Goob is about to be released in cinemas. We went for a Coke with Liam Walpole to discuss the trials and tribulations of acting, dreams of escaping to America, and what his mates think of his newfound fame.
When do you feel that you yourself came of age?
Probably about the same sort of age as Goob really, maybe a bit younger… like 16?
And you just turned 21! How did you celebrate?
I went to Paris and got really drunk with friends.
What was your life like before making the film?
Tough. Quite boring at times, and really, really stressful.
What was stressful about it?
Just the area I grew up in really. Ever since I was like 16 and leaving school, all I wanted to do was work but it's such a hard area to find any. It's not like London where it's always busy and there are jobs opening up every other day. There's so much distance between towns where I'm from, and if I cant find a job in the nearest 15 miles to me then I've got to look further and then it gets more difficult to get to.
Did you have a certain job in mind?
At one point I wanted to be an electrician because when I was younger I would always be taking my toys to pieces and re-building them and stuff like that. Ever since then I've been quite hands on and manual handed. I still love doing that, but this just a different experience I suppose… it's been really, really overwhelming.
How's your life changed since the film?
I've been on vacation loads. I got to go to Texas for SXSW and that was great. I feel quite lost since I've stopped filming. Every time I do something I'm constantly thinking about what I'm doing - like my actions and stuff like that. I also always need to be doing something with my hands. Since doing the film I've been overly focused on everything I'm doing… really strange.
You're really conscious of everything?
Yeah, it's really opened my mind up.
Well word on the street is that you've been doing some modelling as well. I guess that relates?
Yeah. That kind of come about through the film. Somebody spotted me. I done a couple of jobs and that, nothing's really taken off at the moment but we will wait and see.
What do you think to it all? I bet it's a bit different?
Definitely different. Ever since I was very little I was never really one to have any pictures taken of me, so to have loads of people to want to take pictures of me now is quite strange.
What do your mates think of you suddenly being a film star and a model?
Oh that's all I ever hear about! I don't go out with them anymore in town. The next thing I know they're dragging some random person over and telling them about ever thing I've done and its like, oh Jesus…chill out for one night.
So is acting harder or easier than you imagined?
Harder, a lot harder. Because of the constant going over the same scenes, over and over again. I didn't realize how many time people do some scenes and that. It's crazy to think we spent hours to do one scene until you get it right. The most frustrating thing I found when I was filming was that when I was off camera I would try go for a quick cigarette, but every time I'd light my cigarette I'd have a runner running over to me, going 'right, you're on!' So that was a nightmare, but apart from that it was alright.
I think it worked well that your character was the strong silent type. In what ways did you relate to him?
I can kind of relate to a lot of the domestic abuse. But then I suppose a lot of people have probably seen those kinds of arguments within their families. I mean it's just what happens isn't it? People argue. I really felt for him and how his mother was really confusing him because of her love for Womack even though he was a bad person.
So you drew from your personal experiences with that?
Yeah. I'd say we're quite similar characters too.
At the end of the film when Goob drives off on his bike, where do you think he is going?
Well when I was at SXSW I actually spotted one of the same bikes and I decided that the Goob probably gets on his bike and bikes all the way to the States somehow and just chills over there, enjoying the sun.
That would be a good plan. Do you have a bike yourself?
No, not at the minute but I did do a lot of biking and stuff when I was younger… around 10, 11, 12.
So you knew how to ride it already. It looks like so much fun!
Oh it was. That was probably the best part about filming to be honest.
Those shots were your on the bike are so beautiful.
Especially with the sunset…
Definitely. Do you ever feel like you want to escape and leave your hometown as well?
Yeah I do. I want to escape to America. Because it's always warm and I'd love to go to somewhere like California where it hardly rains. I hate the rain. It makes me miserable. When you wake up and the sky's all grey, it just makes me feel horrible sometimes.
Did you know any of your co-stars as actors before working with them?
Yeah Sienna cause I'd seen her obviously in Resident Evil. I can't actually watch anything now with her in it. I find it so strange. It doesn't seem right.
The film is on the verge of being released at the cinema where loads of people are going to see it. How does that make you feel?
I don't know… my heart's in my throat sometimes when I think about it. I hope people like it.
Finally, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My dad's uncle once told me to never assume anything because it causes a lot more problems than it's worth.
The Goob is in cinemas Friday, May 29.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Amber Grace Dixon