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Dexter Fletcher shows his mature side with Wild Bill
Child actor Dexter Fletcher has come full circle - the Edmonton boy who played a cheeky tike in Alan Parker's kiddie crime caper Bugsy Malone, is now directing his own gangster movie with a difference.
Set in East End gangland, Wild Bill is the redemptive story of a family struggling to make ends meet against the odds. Fresh out of prison, Bill (Charlie Creed-Miles), returns to his Newham flat to find his girlfriend gone and two sons, 15-year-old Dean (Will Poulter) and 11-year-old Jimmy (Sammy Williams) fending for themselves.
Dean has a job on a construction site but is unable to stop Jimmy from bunking off school and getting into dangerous company. Bill has to decide if he has it in him to stick around and help out.
Much of the filming for Wild Bill took place in late 2010 in the shadow of the Olympic construction site in Stratford, on the old Carpenter’s Road Council Estate and Rokeby School for Boys in Canning Town.
The dodgy boozers, stained sofas, dirty toilets and overriding air of grim foreboding give the film the kind of realism worthy of a Ken Loach screenplay, but Dexter says he's not out to make any moral statement.
"There's social comment in it because it's in the shadow of the Olympics and its five billion pound investment. the area is going through massive change but there's real people living there and their lives are affected or they're not.
I wanted to write a story about a man who's a boy and a boy who's a manDexter Fletcher
"When I spoke to people in Newham, their comments played into what I was thinking about capturing London as it is now. By the time I found the flat in May 2010, I knew exactly what was in it, what was out of those windows and in those corridors and the people that lived in that area.I think film reflects that but what I've not been overburdened by is trying to make any big comment but allow people to be who they are."
Born in Edmonton and raised in Bounds Green, Dexter went to Bowes Road Primary School and then Creighton's in Muswell Hill when the family moved to Palmers Green, close to Broomfield Park. He began his acting career at the age of six at the Anna Scher Theatre School for children in Islington, north London. At school, Dexter says his peers didn't think that much of him being taken out of class to do plays and films.
"Some boys were captain of the football team some were in a play and not that many 13-year-olds went to see The Elephant Man."
As well as starring alongside John Hurt and his debut alongside Jodie Foster, Dexter's early movie career also includes The Long Good Friday with Bob Hoskins, Caravaggio and The Rachel Papers and as teenage heartthrob Spike Thomson in the cult drama series, Press Gang. In recent years he's had roles in Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Band of Brothers, Stardust and Kick-Ass.
Telling a tale about East End gangsters, it could have been easy for Dexter to stray into caricature, but he hasn't. The fact that he could reel in high calibre actors for supporting roles - Liz White excels as warm-hearted prostitute Roxy, Andy Serkis as gang leader Glen and Jaime Winstone as a social worker - is testament to the quality of Dexter's script, which he co-wrote with one-time offender, turned author, Danny King.
"This isn't about a crime caper gone wrong; there's elements of that in it but it's so not what the film's about - it's about normal people with real human stories that are not about something extraordinary or completely fantastical happening.
"I wanted to write a story about these two main characters - a man who's a boy and a boy who's a man and I knew very clearly the effect I wanted these characters to have on each other. Here's a young man whose had a lot of adult responsibility and what's admirable about him is it would be really easy for him to be the drug dealer on the corner, but he's not.
"For Bill it's about finding his own self worth. There's a bit towards the end of the film where Roxy says, 'He's alright your dad' and Dean replies: 'Yeah, I suppose', that's such an amazing moment. It informs us a lot about the journey that kid has made from where at the beginning he's saying get your stuff and leave, to yeah, you're okay. That's the only admission he can make, but it's a massive leap."
Wild Bill is on general release from March 24.