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The Girl Inside The Firm

Actress Joanne Matthews talks tracksuits, football violence and her battles with some killer parachute pants

Nick Love, the director of 2004's The Football Factory has returned to familiar territory with his new film The Firm. Only this time around it's 1984, so the clobber is Sergio Tacchini and the soundtrack is Soft Cell, The Jam and Donna Summer. Here we talk to Joanne Matthews – who plays Suze, wife of chief hooligan Bex (Paul Anderson) – about football, fighting, sweatbands and tracksuits.

Dazed Digital: Why did you want to do a film about football hooliganism?
Joanne Matthews: The subject might be football, but it could be anything that people get passionate about. It’s a religion for these guys. It’s about patriotism and a sense of belonging. It sounds fella-orientated, but there’s heart to the film. I remember being emailed the script even before I knew that I had a casting for it. I didn’t have the internet at home at the time and I sat in this internet café at the bottom of my road in Walthamstow, which isn’t the nicest of areas. But I forced myself to read the whole thing and fell in love with it. I wanted it so bad; I was like a woman possessed.

DD: It hasn’t been in the news for a while, but there seems to be a resurgence of violence on the terraces with Milwall and West Ham fans rioting during the Carling Cup recently…
Joanne Matthews: I know. There’s always been a massive rivalry between those two. But the film doesn’t promote violence. It shows violence, but it also shows the consequence. It’s not glamorising it at all.

DD: What’s it like working with Nick Love? He has something of a reputation…
Joanne Matthews: I was scared at first because I knew a few people that had worked with him. But I think it’s just down to jealousy, at the end of the day, when people make comments about him. He’s a passionate man and he’s good at what he does. He picks the right people for the parts because he can see something of his characters in them. You don’t have to have gone to stage school to be in one of his films. He wants it to feel as real as possible. He’s an amazing man whose at the top of his game at the moment. And he was ever so sweet to me, because I was one of only very few girls on set.

DD: So tell me about the wardrobe…
Joanne Matthews: Ooh, yeah. Lots of off-the-shoulder numbers and stonewash jeans. I even had a Dash tracksuit at one point. I’m 24 so I don’t really remember it first time around, but I phoned my brother because he’s 37 so he’s a proper 80s kid. He was very jealous. My mum was an aerobics instructor back then so she was a right little Jane Fonda: always in a sweatband and leg warmers.

DD: Did you keep any of the clothes?
Joanne Matthews: No! I mean, I loved them, but they were so 80s that everyone would have thought I’d stolen them off my mum. Especially some of the clothes in the nightclub scenes. There was one pair of parachute pants that were so big at the top, then tightly laced up around the ankles. I wore them with red stilettos. And there were a couple of leather tops that were made especially for me. So I was alright getting them on, but getting them off was a nightmare. At the end of the day, everyone would go off and I’d be stuck in the winnebago screaming, ‘I need talcum powder and a shoe-horn!’

The Firm is in cinemas now: