NOEL CLARKE needs no introduction.
For the last fifteen years, the British actor and filmmaker has helped change the landscape of UK cinema with his cult ‘Hood’ trilogy.
First came Kidulthood in 2006, which was described by The Guardian as “a rollicking UK youth ride, cinematically filmed, persuasively acted and bumped along by a fantastic all-British soundtrack”. Then came Adulthood two years later and, this year, fans were treated to the box office-breaking, Brotherhood, which made almost £2 million in its opening weekend.
Boasting an all-star cast featuring some of the UK’s most in-demand talent, including MOBO Award-winning south London MC Stormzy and Hollywood star Arnold Oceng, did Noel always know that the Brotherhood would be so well received?
“I thought people would come back and watch it because I felt like if they’d seen the first two, they’d want to come back and watch it,” he admits. “The first one was such a cult movie in terms of how people related to and grew up with it if you were 15 to 20 years old and sometimes younger. I felt that people would relate to the film and come back and seen themselves reflected in where Sam [his character in the franchise] is now”.
Not only did the films provide an amazing platform for young, British on-screen talent such as actors Aml Ameen and Arnold Oceng, it also gave exposure to up and coming music artists such as Tinchy Stryder, Chip and Shystie.
This was a deliberate move by the outspoken Londoner, who explains: “I like people who like to work. If you’re a grafter, my company will provide opportunities, that’s what we do.”
He continues: “A lot of the actors were up and coming. That was important. We didn’t want the people in the film to take away from it. With the Hood films, it almost doesn’t matter who’s in them. If I wasn’t in it, it would still have done well. It may not have done as well because we created a brand.”
Though the ‘Hood’ trilogy has become a cultural phenomenon, of which Noel is proud, the award-winning director is not tempted to replicate this winning streak with a fourth instalment.
He says: “There would be no point in me carrying on. I think you have to go out knowing that people still appreciate it and get on with your career. That’s what I did”.
And despite earning critical acclaim for his skills behind the camera, Noel admits he has only ever wanted to act.
He started to create films as a way of making opportunities for him to do what he loved.
“I was not going up for roles that I felt I deserved,” he says. “I didn’t just want to play bank robber #3, thief #2 or hoody #4. So I started writing roles that I thought I’d like to play. These characters had names, stories and a voice. That was the difference. When the films did well, it showed that a lot of people felt that felt the same way too”.
Since starting his career in 1999, Noel cites the UK film industry’s advancement in terms of opportunities for diverse individuals.
“In 15, 20 years, it’s changed massively,” he says. “We only have to look at [British Star Wards actor] John Boyega. I like to think that people like Ashley Walters, myself and Idris [Elba] have kind of created what’s happened now [in the way of opening doors]”.
He adds: “Has it changed enough? It’s not for me to say”.
In spite of this slow, albeit sure, diminishment of the infamous glass ceiling across UK film and theatre, film fans have witnessed a number of black British actors move abroad in search of acting opportunities.
How does Noel feel about the mass migration of British stars overseas?
The BAFTA Award-winning filmmaker is on the fence with this one: “If people want to seek opportunities elsewhere, then they are entitled to do that. I don’t begrudge any actor who wants to go elsewhere or stay in the same country that they are in. The industry is the industry. It’s like drinking a drink every day and saying you don’t like it”.
Noel’s new projects include a role in director Duncan Jones’ film entitled Mute.
He is now producing a thriller called 10×10 starring Luke Evans and has just finished shooting for a project that he remains tight lipped about, but he is keen to tell younger fans that nothing beats hard work and determination.
In his own words: “There’s no shortcut into how it’s done.”
WORDS: Nadine White
Own BrOTHERHOOD on Blu-ray & DVD on December 26 and on Digital Download December 22.
Own the complete Hood trilogy on December 26.