Dexter Fletcher’s career in movies kicked off in earnest when he was 10-years-old, starring as Baby Face in the 1976 musical Buggsy Malone.
As a child, he went on to land roles in huge British productions such as “The Long Good Friday,” “The Elephant Man,” and the popular UK children’s series “Press Gang.”
Later, he appeared in HBO drama “Band of Brothers,” “Carvaggio,” and “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”
Fletcher made his directorial debut in 2012 with “Wild Bill,” but this year he notched up his biggest director credit yet: “Eddie the Eagle.” The comedy movie tells the true story of the first Great British Olympic ski jumper and stars Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, and Christopher Walken.
We grabbed a quick five minutes with Fletcher shortly after his appearance at Advertising Week Europe in London on Wednesday. We spoke about his favourite moments from “Eddie the Eagle” and the dream cast he’d love to assemble for a future movie.
Business Insider: When was the first moment you realised you can actually start making money from acting and film?
Dexter Fletcher: The first thing I did I made money and I was only 6-years-old [in a stage show.] It wasn’t lost on me that it was a job. Then I remember when I did “Buggsy Malone,” I was paid £15 a day. I did four days work and I worked out I had sixty quid.
BI: What did you spend the money on?
DF: I went and bought a bike. Just as much money as I’ve made, I’ve also lost as well. I’ve been bankrupt in my time and I’ve been homeless.
The thing about acting is it’s very hand to mouth, as they say. There’s a small band of actors who really make a good living out of it. In my experience, 90% of actors at one time are unemployed. It’s a very tough existence, that’s why I think people are always invariably advising young people who say “I want to be an actor” that you should have something to fall back on and think again about it. It’s tough. But it’s like any self-employed work. It’s difficult.
BI: Did you do any interesting jobs in between jobs?
DF: I’ve not had to do that. I probably wouldn’t be well-suited for it anyway, unless it was manual work of some description, to be honest. There is a challenge of keeping yourself busy. I started writing, I sold some scripts and stuff like that so it’s always been in and around acting and entertainment that I’ve done.
You can end up working in a pub theatre for £12 a week if you’re really desperate, but I’ve been lucky enough to not have to do that. I probably should have done it. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone bankrupt 20 years ago.
BI: You’ve had an amazing year this year so you won’t have to worry about those bar jobs just yet. Some people are saying you may become a ‘national treasure‘ this year. When you think of the UK’s lineage of long national treasures, does sit easy with you?
DF: I don’t know how these things are determined! I don’t know. That’s very flattering and lovely and I think that I’ve been acting since I was 6-years-old and I’ve been around and people have known me for the best part of 40 years, so that gives me a kind of great nostalgic tint when people see me. I think that’s probably what it refers to, is that we know and we like and we remember this guy because people remember me from their childhood and that’s always a nice thing.
BI: What do people recognise you for the most?
DF: I don’t know, it varies. It could be “Lock Stock, [and Two Smoking Barrels],” it could be “Hotel Babylon,” “Caravaggio,” it could be “Press Gang,” it could be any number of things. That’s why I’m lucky.
BI For me it’s “Press Gang.”
DF: “Press Gang” is a very important piece of work because there’s a whole generation of journalists who watched that show and were inspired to write.
Writing is a fantastic, creative, wonderful thing to be part of. I’m not sure what something like [BBC 1990s kids drama] “Byker Grove” inspired people to be. You know what I mean?
I think that’s what separated “Press Gang” because it had some sort of impetus in terms of you can do this thing. And here’s these kids to look up to. She was a great character, Lynda Day, in that running the newspaper role. And Stephen Moffat wrote it and he’s doing” Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” — he’s a great writer.
BI: You’ve had the great fortune of acting, writing, and directing. Which do you prefer?
DF: They’re all equally as frustrating and rewarding. Anything borne of your own imagination it’s always tough. When you get there you doubt it very quickly and you think “I’ve got to do this again, but better.” That’s the natural instinct I think. I couldn’t pinpoint it out.
BI: What’s your favourite scene in “Eddie the Eagle”?
DF: There’s a nice shot I like when Eddie meets this PR girl in Calgary. It’s all in one shot and she’s really excited to meet him because all the press are asking for him and she wants to get him in front of the press. He’s a bit bewildered.
There’s another shot where Eddie and Bronson Peary meet for the first time, that’s an all-in-one as well, so if you’re talking about really technical, those are very good.
But in terms of acting, I think my favourite scene is when Eddie and Peary argue just before he goes off to Calgary and he says: “Don’t be a fool, don’t go there and be a fool, go there and be a contender. Don’t go and squander your chance.” And Eddie can’t see what he’s talking about. Just dramatically I think that’s a very very good scene.
BI: Does it stir up anything emotive? What struck you so much?
DF: Because it’s good acting. I don’t have the emotional connection to it that maybe the audience have when they are watching it. There are certain things that resonate with the audience that is different for everybody.
Some people get very choked up when Christopher Walken comes at the end and Hugh Jackman meets his mentor and they have a reconciliation and other people get very choked up when the dad opens up his jacket and he says “I’m Eddie’s dad,” and other people get choked up when he’s in the air and just want him to land.
For me, I just made the film, all I do is hope that these things work. Then I don’t know. They don’t affect me emotionally. I’m too involved in it. But it’s only when I sit down and watch the audience and see what they’re reacting to, that’s the only way I can gauge that it’s worked.
BI: Is there a particular actor that’s on your whilst to work with?
DF: Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron; I’d love to work with them. I’d quite like to work with Channing Tatum as well. I think he’s an interesting dude.
If you see a film called “Foxcatcher,” Channing Tatum is actually f—–g brilliant in it. Same as Oscar Isaac and Mark Ruffalo, these are all great interesting actors that whenever you’re casting a film, you put together a wishlist, and you put those sort of people at the top.
I just think Julia Roberts is stunningly beautiful and incredibly intelligent. But I just love most actors, I’m easily pleased when it comes to actors.
BI: What’s next for you this year? What are you working on at the moment?
DF: I’m not at liberty to say, I’m afraid. Watch this space.