He’s worked on Star Wars, James Bond and with One Direction - but now a Norfolk casting agent is accused of not paying his actors
Norfolk actor and casting agent Johnny Lynch has worked with some of the biggest names in showbiz and appears in the latest Star Wars movie, claiming to be 'the smallest Stormtrooper in the galaxy'.
The Cromer man's CV includes films starring Jude Law, Harrison Ford, Richard E Grant and the band One Direction.
But we can reveal the 45-year-old is involved in some star wars of his own, with a host of extras claiming his casting agencies owe them thousands of pounds after failing to pay them for work in film and television.
We have claims from 10 actors and extras involved in more than a dozen projects with Mr Lynch's agencies. Many more have made the same allegations across social media.
They all tell similar stories of being called up for a project and being promised money which never materialises.
Today, an entertainments union said Mr Lynch's agencies had caused 'no end of problems' for several of its members.
Meanwhile Mr Lynch –director of Johnny Lynch Casting Limited, Bam Extras Limited and The Lynch Mob Limited, which provides extras for the industry – admitted he had experienced some problems paying his extras, but only when he had not been paid for work himself.
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He claimed to have helped find roles for more than 35,000 people over the years, the majority of whom went away happy.
But those actors we spoke to told a different story.
Jeremy Oliver, 53, from Croydon, signed up for a 2012 film called Strippers vs Werewolves, starring Martin Kemp. He said: 'I worked two 12-hour shifts so expected to get just over £200. Johnny said he'd be on set on the Sunday to pay the extras, but he was nowhere to be seen.
'I kept hassling him about it and he kept coming up with excuses.'
He took his case to the small claims court and in 2013 was awarded £200 at Northampton County Court.
Mr Lynch, who grew up in North Walsham, admitted he 'couldn't argue' with the ruling, adding: 'We had about 80 extras and I had been told they would get paid that day. When the money was delayed I paid them out of my own pocket, but a few of the cheques bounced as it was a lot of money to come out. His was one of them. I wanted to sort it but it ended up in court.'
Steve Brunton, 55, from Brighton, signed up with Mr Lynch's agency to appear as a zombie in the BBC series Atlantis in 2014.
He claims he received around £350 pounds for three days work but says he is still waiting for another £540 owed to him. In an email seen by this paper from the show's producers, Urban Myth Films, they claim they paid Mr Lynch for the work. Two other extras on the same show told us the same thing had happened to them.
Mr Brunton said: 'This whole experience left a bitter taste in my mouth.'
Mr Lynch, who previously ran a boating lake in Cromer and an ice cream shop in Sheringham, but now works out of an office at Pinewood Studios, in Shepperton, has dozens of acting credits to his name and has been involved in casting for more than 50 projects.
When approached with our findings, he admitted to having made mistakes, but said he now worked hard to ensure people signed a contract for work and were given clear indications of the terms and conditions.
He told us: 'I have probably placed about 35,000 people into televison and films – you will always have some people who are upset. The problem is, if I am not being paid, I can't pay people myself. It does hurt when I see what people say about me, because all I have ever done for the last five years is try to work hard and help others.
'When I started out it was low-budget films and that could cause problems. As time has gone on I'm working on bigger films and the bigger and better the work, the better they are at meeting the terms set out.
'Anyone who works with me on set knows I am always fighting for better food, working conditions and pay. Most people I work with love being on set and realise it is an amazing and privileged experience.'
Following a phone conversation with Mr Lynch, we sent him a series of follow up questions, to which he failed to respond.
OTHER ACTOR'S STORIES
After 20 years in the RAF, Mark Steadman, decided to try acting and signed up with Mr Lynch's agency to be a zombie for the BBC Atlantis series in August 2014. The 46-year-old, from Swindon, claims to be owed around £600 for that work.
He explained: 'I did two four-day shoots. I was paid for the first on August 5, 2014, but not the second. I tried to phone Mr Lynch, email him and, in January 2015, even went to his home in Cromer, but had no luck.'
Also on the same set was actor Colin Murtagh, 43, from Bristol. He said: 'We filmed about 10 days in total. I'd expect to get more than £1,000 for that.
'I was paid £35 for the initial day but nothing more. It might not sound a lot but you plan for money you expect to get, so it made things tight.'
A Norfolk actor, who did not wish to be identified, claims to be owed £230 for work in a 2009 film.
He added: '[Mr Lynch] told everyone that he had not received any money from the production company to pay us.'
Emily Ng, 29, from Greenwich, in London, said she was promised £65 for a day on a film called Level Up in March 2015 and two of her friends were also promised cash, which never materialised.
She added: 'I have never been treated so appallingly.'
Mr Lynch said of these claims: 'We paid them all a pittance, about £20 a day and then all of the extras got called back for seven or eight more days of filming. I was only involved however for the first day, the rest was nothing to do with me.
'I did spend ages trying to sort it out for those who didn't get their money.'
Violet Stevens, 57, from East London, was signed up by Mr Lynch's agency for a day's work in a 2013 NHS training video. She claims to have been told she would receive £80, which never arrived.
Raj Awasti also from London, also claims to be owed money for two pieces of work, an NHS video and an online casino advert.
Actor Gloria Riccip said she was owed £80 for a day's work as a supporting artist on the 2011 film Big Fat Gypsy Gangster.
Atul Sharma, 53, an actor from Buckinghamshire, also claimed to be owed money for several pieces of work, but had a different take on the issue. He said: 'I know what I'm getting and have always been relaxed about it because of the doors he's opened. I did a film with One Direction, didn't get paid, but I got to have my photo taken with Harry Styles.'
And 67-year-old Milton Keynes actor Jim Cuffaro stood up for Mr Lynch, adding: 'I've always found him to be a gentleman, honest and reliable.'
UNION SAYS PROBLEMS ARE 'WELL KNOWN' TO THEM
Bectu, the media and entertainment union, said Mr Lynch's agencies were 'well known' to them and had caused trouble to some of their members.
Disputes like this are common in the film and television industry, according to Sharon Elliott, communications officer.
Bectu has an agreement with The Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT) regarding rates, terms and conditions extras can expect to receive, but the union says some ignore it. She added: 'There are some people who treat supporting artistes with a lack of respect. They will try and negotiate cheaper deals on the side to save money.
'We would advise anyone who is carrying out freelance acting work to ensure there is a written agreement outlining exactly what the terms are. If there isn't they should put in writing to that person what has been agreed and get them to sign it.'
For more on the agreement log on to www.bectu.org.uk