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Jarrold loves those Kinky Boots

PUBLISHED: 10:30 04 October 2005 | UPDATED: 15:35 22 October 2010

Julian Jarrold.

Julian Jarrold.

JON WELCH

Julian Jarrold’s decision not to enter the family business is paying off; his debut feature film looks set to be the hit British movie of the year. JON WELCH spoke to the Norwich-born director of Kinky Boots.

Mention the name Jarrold to anyone in Norfolk and the chances are they'll think of two things: department stores and printing.

But one member of the family looks set to make the name known far beyond Norfolk's borders for something entirely different.

Julian Jarrold is already an established name in TV, with successful dramas including All The King's Men, White Teeth and Great Expectations to his credit.

Now his debut feature film Kinky Boots - from the producers of Calendar Girls - is about to hit the nation's screens.

"I'm very happy with it," says the polite and thoughtful Julian.

"I have done quite a lot of television and the great thing about a film is there is a bigger canvas at your disposal, a lot more toys to play with and more time to make it, really - although not that much more time.

"Television is more of a writer's medium. Film is more of a director's medium and you can have more impact.

"Instead of it going out once and being seen by quite a lot of people, it stays out there for longer and has more of a life."

Based on a true story, Kinky Boots tells how Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) takes over his family's traditional shoe business Price and Sons after the death of his father.

But with orders drying up, Charlie has to take drastic action in order to save the company.

Salvation comes in the unlikely form of sassy drag queen Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who opens Charlie's eyes to an intriguing niche market, a long way from men's classic brogues. Soon the factory is making erotic women's shoes - for men.

As a member of the Jarrold dynasty - his father Peter was chairman of the business, a post now held by his brother-in-law David Hill - did the story of Price and Sons resonate with Julian?

"It did a little bit: a son has to return home because he feels loyalty to the family business and is determined to make a go of it."

Did Julian, who lives near Norwich, ever consider going into his own family firm? "I did work there a bit when I was a student but my interests lay in other areas. I'm the one that got away!"

There are also parallels between Northampton, where the film is set, and Norwich, another former centre of the shoe industry.

Julian considered shooting some of the scenes in Norwich before settling for the Tricker's shoe factory in Northampton.

For the sake of authenticity, Julian and the cast were given a crash course in making shoes - and also undertook some other research.

"The great thing about doing this was I spent half my time clicking, closing, buffing and welting and the rest of the time researching in drag clubs: watching these high octane performances, soaking up that atmosphere. The clubs were very friendly, unthreatening places. The drag queens were very quick to take the Mickey out of you but it was all in good fun."

Although the subject matter might seem risque, Kinky Boots' 12A certificate pitches it firmly into the family category. "I hope it's a film for everybody," says Julian.

"It's for all age groups, young and old. We didn't want to exclude anybody.

The drag queen world is just one small aspect of it. The character of Lola is very gentle and you do feel very warm towards her."

What was it about the storyline that drew Julian to the project?

"It was that clash of two worlds: the provincial world of the old-fashioned shoe factory and this rather shy character, and the glitz and glamour of Soho and Lola. I knew there would be lots of good comedy to come out of that.

"The scenes between Charlie and Lola were great.

"There was a real chemistry between the actors and those scenes just lifted off the page."

Chiwetel Ejiofor, who gives the film's stand-out performance, had to endure five hours of preparation each day to become Lola.

"It was quite a long, tough road for him," says Julian.

"I knew Chiwe was a great actor, but I didn't know he could transform himself into a cabaret drag queen.

"At the auditions he was the only one who put on a wig. He was straight into character. It was a witty, sparky audition and I knew pretty much instantly he was going to be very, very good."

In Julian's favourite scene in the film Lola returns to Clacton Pier to confront a ghost from her childhood: the disapproving father who would later disown his cross-dressing son.

"We were going to shoot that on Cromer pier, but Cromer Pier is rather too attractive and Clacton's rather bleaker."

What of Julian's future plans? "I would like to go and make more feature films - in England," he says.

In Norfolk? He hopes so. "I love the landscape there, and it's not used that much. North Norfolk is fantastic."

There is talk, too, of a Jane Austen film. "Which will be a nice contrast to this," he smiles.

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