The Goob gives Norfolk its 15 minutes in Guy Myhill's electrifying debut, and the lead was on the dole before stepping in front of the lens
Liam Walpole was on the dole in sleepy Norfolk before he literally bumped his way into a leading role in Guy Myhill's debut feature The Goob. After he finished filming, he humbly continued working at the local chick factory. The film, about a 16-year-old helping his mum at their roadside greasy spoon, is as languid as it is a viscious shout to "get the hell out of Dodge". It's perhaps the film we're most excited about at the BFI LFF. Before its debut screening tonight, we caught up with the two stars in Venice – Liam Walpole & Sienna Guillory – to chat getting plucked from obscurity, the somnambulance of Norfolk, and why it (sometimes) still sucks being a teen.
So Liam, how were you discovered? You didn't have any aspirations to act, did you?
Liam Walpole: No. It was just completely by chance, really. I was out in my town of Dereham, just going to the shop one day, and I was playing with my phone while I was walking along, and I bumped into the casting lady. She spoke to me and explained to me what Guy (Myhill, the director) was doing and about the film, and asked me if I was interested in possibly auditioning to maybe get a part.
What did you think when that happened?
Liam Walpole: I didn't believe it to start with. I went home and told my friends about it and they were like, 'Oh no, shut up. That's not going to happen.' And then here I am.
Sienna Guillory: Then he had two weeks of grilling on camera. We had two weeks with Guy with his camera going, like, 'Make him cry. Make him laugh.' So just putting him in all these really awkward, uncomfortable situations and making it up, just messing around. Playing with each other.
You must have been nervous, Liam.
Liam Walpole: Yeah, I was very nervous. I was very nervous when I started filming. I think I got a bit better more into the filming. I started to feel a bit more confident as I knew more about what was going on. Knew what was what by that point. But when I did first start filming I found it really difficult.
Did you have to get over any self-consciousness?
Liam Walpole: Well no, not really, because I'm not really self-conscious about myself at all in any way. I'm quite comfortable in who I am and everything like that. The camera didn't really faze me, to be honest. It was as if it wasn't there. It really was.
Almost all of you involved in The Goob have a connection to Norfolk. Is the picture it paints close to the reality of life there?
Sienna Guillory: It is entirely authentic. But, I mean, my friends Norfolk race those cars. I know the people on the race track. That's the life.
Have you been to the track, Liam?
Liam Walpole: I've been to the bangers before. Also I've been to a different track, not the one we filmed at, in a different area of Norfolk. There's a few tracks dotted around in Norfolk for banger racing.
Sienna Guillory: It is quite a unique area. There are several factors geographically that make it unique. If England is like a witch riding a pig, then Norfolk is like the pig's arse. And there are no surrounding counties so it's very insular. There's that whole joke, 'You're from Norfolk. Have you got six toes?' So it's all very inbred. But it makes the people very aggressive because everyone knows each other and knows each other's business. But it is such a flat landscape, that 360-degrees sky thing, that honesty is part and parcel of that area and unique to that way of life. It's not big on secrets. It's not like the home counties where there's secrets and it's gossipy. Everything's out in the open and everyone knows each other's business and there's a parity between the honesty of the people and the honesty of the landscape. You see everything.
“Well my life's kind of been kind of like Goob's in a way. Kind of up and down throughout my life, to be honest. I haven't really had anything that's really stayed a constant. The only thing that's really stayed a constant is my perspective, my views towards things, basically” – Liam Walpole
Sienna, what do you think about the relationship in the film between your character, Janet, and Womak, played by Sean Harris?
Sienna Guillory: When I was 14 I found this scrap of paper with handwriting on it, and it said, 'It is questionable whether it is weak or strong to tolerate the excesses of moody men.' And for me it has always been one of those dilemmas. Every bit of relationship counselling you do with friends is like, 'What do I do? Do I put up with this or do I stand against it?' I really love the way that in this story she's trying to rediscover her own sexuality, which kind of mirrors Goob discovering his sexuality, and we're coming at it from different areas. I know what I want because I've got this idea of it whereas he doesn't have an idea or it and doesn't know what he wants. My relationship with Womak is quite nurturing and I'm very acquiescent to his whims and ways, and accepting of the greyness of our complicities and how complicated our relationships are because of the compromises I have to make because I want him, and I need him, because I can't do the work on the farm on my own, with the elder son laid up. And yet with my boy (Goob) I'm kind of overly cloying and grabby and needy and manipulative in the way that you would be with a lover, because he's my only true love and I need to keep him close. I just thought it was a lovely juxtaposition of the woman getting everything wrong. And I really like that. She's so wrong.
Liam, do you think you could get used to a job like this?
Liam Walpole: I don't know to be honest. I haven't put much thought into pursuing this kind of career. If I get approached or anybody offers me any more roles or anything, of course if I enjoy the script then I would possibly be interested.
What is your life like normally?
Liam Walpole: Well my life's kind of been like Goob's in a way. Kind of up and down throughout my life, to be honest. I haven't really had anything that's really stayed a constant. The only thing that's really stayed a constant is my perspective, my views towards things, basically.
You now work in a chicken factory?
Liam Walpole: Yeah. I wasn't working when I met Guy. I was on the dole when I first met Guy. And then after doing filming I was out of work for a little while. But then I did find work where I am working at the moment, in a chick factory. Which isn't really too great but it's work.
Sienna Guillory: Still eats chicken.
It seems to me that life is quite hard for young people in the UK at the moment.
Sienna Guillory: Is it ever good being a teenager? It's always a bit shit.
But the opportunities that were there for young people in the past don't seem to be there any more.
Sienna Guillory: I think depression isn't endemic. And I think it's due in part to there's a widening realisation that we're supposed to want all these things and attain all these things and achieve all these things to be happy. We're never allowed to sit and enjoy the moment. It's like, you know, we're in Venice. We're here now and the sun is shining. It's amazing. You're always being asked what's next? What are your dreams? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to get, have? And those things, I think, are unsettling. Liam could go to RADA but it doesn't guarantee that he's going to have an ongoing career. I might never work again. We never know. And to define happiness or intelligence or perception in those terms of what are your dreams and what do you need to achieve is, I think, terrifying, and creates distress and discomfort and depression. I think that's the bigger problem right now for most people.
”It's not like the home counties where there's secrets and it's gossipy. Everything's out in the open and everyone knows each other's business and there's a parity between the honesty of the people and the honesty of the landscape. You see everything” - Sienna Guillory
Are you about start anything else, Sienna?
Sienna Guillory: I just finished High-Rise, (the adaptation of) J.G. Ballard's book. Ben Wheatley directing, Jeremy Thomas producing. I've never been so excited about something like this. I mean I'm very excited about this because it's all heart and it was family and it's honest. But High-Rise is completely difference. It's like The Great Beauty meets Fawlty Towers meets a sort of Jacobean revenge tragedy. It's extraordinary. It's immense.
Liam, what do you think your friends are going to think when they see The Goob? Will you go with your mates?
Liam Walpole: Yeah, I think I probably will go with a couple of friends. To be honest with you I don't really know how they will react to it. I think they will be a bit weirded-out seeing me up there on the big screen like I was the first time.
When did you see it for the first time?
Liam Walpole: Today. I hadn't seen anything. I had seen a few bits and pieces when we were filming but I hadn't seen anything until now.
Was there anything unexpected?
Liam Walpole: Yeah, it was a lot more different than what I first thought and what I could remember because of the way it had been cut. Some of the parts cut into it I didn't remember shooting, because we had shot so much in the short period of time. I kind of looked at the film and I was like, 'Where's that bit? What's this bit? Where did this come from?' It was amazing.
The Goob is screening as part of BFI LFF today, 12 & 15 October