09 Jul 2009

Nick Moran is more Meek than mild

+ posted by FlamingWhopper

When you think of Nick Moran, who comes to mind? Chances are it's cocky card-sharp Eddie from Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. But then there's gossip-column bad boy, boozy carouser, paparazzi basher: rightly or wrongly, he's been them all.

'I've been miscast,' says Moran. 'Not in films. Not in life. But just in print. I've been miscast as this Lock, Stock lad when all along I've been a theatre buff, a music buff and a playwright. But that doesn't quite wash you want a guy in a sharp suit who has the odd one-liner, not one who listens to Radio 4.'

While he concedes he has acted in plenty of bad films since Lock, Stock, Moran also feels undervalued.

He points to when Telstar, the play he co-wrote with James Hicks about British record producer Joe Meek, opened in the West End. 'I was in The Countess, playing John Ruskin at the Criterion, and Telstar was on at the Ambassadors.

And I was the first person since Nol Coward to have two plays running concurrently in the West End one you're starring in and one you've written. I thought the tabloids would go: “Maybe we've got him wrong,” but they didn't.'

I was the first person since Nol Coward to have two plays running in the West End… I thought the tabloids would go: ‘Maybe we’ve got him wrong

Maybe now, though, he'll get that reassessment. His feature directorial debut, the film adaptation of Telstar, is a compelling look at Meek (starring Con O'Neill, reprising his role from the stage): the self-destructive, gay producer who worked out of a small studio on London's Holloway Road. He is commemorated by a plaque there that reads 'Joe Meek lived, worked and died here', and it was the sight of this at 2am after a drunken night out that first turned Moran and Hicks on to the idea of writing about Meek.

Best known for producing The Tornados' otherworldly hit Telstar in 1962, Meek began to buy into his own genius, becoming better known for who he rejected (The Beatles among them) than who he championed.

'I didn't want to get too carried away with all of those stories,' says Moran. 'I was more interested in the human drama than the comical failures.' Still, Meek's judgement was appalling. Check out the poster in the film that shows the Rolling Stones supporting his protg Heinz. 'We did have a scene [originally] where someone says: “Are you going to make a record with those Rolling boys?”' says Moran, 'and he says: “Oh no, they're just a warm-up act!”'

Featuring Ralf Little and James Corden as members of The Tornados, as well as Justin Hawkins, former frontman of pomp-rockers The Darkness, as Meek cohort Screaming Lord Sutch, you could be forgiven for thinking Telstar leans more towards comedy. But thanks in part to O'Neill's brilliant turn, the dark clouds gather in the second half as Meek becomes paranoid, bankrupt and entangled in a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

'It's one man's journey into depression, mental illness, heartbreak and ultimately tragedy,' says Moran of Meek, who in 1967 shot his landlady before turning the gun on himself.

I suggest that Meek seems like the British version of US producer Phil Spector, recently imprisoned for second-degree murder. Moran is not so sure. 'Phil Spector wandered around with his wigs and firearms, trying to be overtly as a small Jewish guy heterosexual. Whereas Joe Meek, who is built like a farm hand and could rip your head off, is being fey and trying to behave like a ballet dancer.'

He stops for a second, giving it more thought. 'Maybe there is some connection,' he concedes. 'I mean, obviously you're sat in a dark room listening to funny noises all the time. It does drive you mad.'

Telstar (15) opens on Friday.

Credit: JAMES MOTTRAM | www.metro.co.uk

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