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Reda Elazouar

Reda Elazouar on ‘Pirates’

Culture

Everyone is talking about Reggie Yates directorial debut, Pirates, and here we talk to one of the film's charismatic and hilarious leads...meet Reda Elazouar...

‘Pirates’ may just be the funniest film of the year. Directed by Reggie Yates – his debut in the chair, not that you’d know it – it is set on New Year’s Eve 1999 and tells the story of three not very cool but highly loveable friends, with aspirations to get into the garage scene and the more pressing concerns of meeting girls on NYE, getting some new clothes and dealing with one of their number who wants to leave the ‘Ice Cold Crew’. Elliot Edusah plays Cappo, and Jordan Peters plays Two Tonne, but the reason we’re here today is to hear from Reda Elazouar, who plays the ‘say the unsayable’ character Kidda. Like the others, Reda is outrageously good in the film which acts as a celebration of male friendship in a way you don’t normally see; these lads are fun, funny, vulnerable, emotional, and silly in a way often neglected in the hard knocks and mean faces of much London cinema. These are not middle class lads, they’re from estates, but the film wants to make clear friendships anywhere can be this open and honest and daft. We spoke to Reda to find out more…

Can you just tell us about how you got involved in the film?

Yeah in mid-December 2019, I auditioned for it. I went on holiday, literally thinking about it all the time, and then I came back and did a second audition. The third audition was a chemistry read where we had to audition with different actors. It sounds cheesy, but when me, Jordan and Elliot were all in the room, something clicked. You could see it in Reggie’s eyes, you could see it in the casting director’s eyes. We auditioned twice together, first at the start, and then at the end of the day, and about five days after we all got a call that we’d got it. And then Reggie caught us all individually to congratulate us. He asked me guess who had the other roles? And I said, ‘Jordan and Elliot.’ There we go. Something in that room clicked.

Where did it go from that point to keeping that chemistry going and researching for the film?

We made a group chat, so we started actually speaking with each other. And the main thing I think we all did was learn more about garage music. I didn’t know anything about garage, I had no clue about it at all. So I was listening to the music, making playlists, rereading the script. But the most interesting part was when Reggie took us to Suffolk for three days. While we were there, we got to get close with each other and really understand what Reggie’s vision was. And we got to speak to the MCs and DJs at the time, who gave us so much information on the slang of the time, what they would wear, how important haircuts were, how important the clothes were. And so even though none of us had lived through that era, or were out there partying to garage in ’99, we felt a sense of nostalgic attachment to it. Seeing how excited people were about this movie and seeing how excited people were to speak about this time and this era, it put something in us to feel like we had to do this justice. I had actually met Elliot on a previous film he did and Elliot and Jordan knew each other so there was a familiarity between all of us that we just had off the rip, just like that. So we bonded and are literally like our characters are now.

What were some of the surprising things that you learned about that time?

The one thing I was surprised about was how expensive the clothes were, but how abundant they were – everyone was wearing really expensive clothes. I’d be saying, ‘how could people afford these clothes?’  And I’ve got the same reply all the time: ‘It was just about partying.’ Everything was about going out that Friday or Saturday, and buying clothes and keeping the tags on – it was showing people that you bought it fresh and new. I was shocked as well because the closest thing that I listened to Garage would be Grime. And Grime is very different to Garage. Garage is sometimes very light. When you’re watching these videos of clubs back in the early 2000s, the late 90s, everyone is dancing in such a different way, it’s such a different dynamic to the clubs of today. Like, Summer of Love by Lonyo, you don’t really hear those kind of songs played anymore.

How was the actual filming, including when Covid hit?

We filmed for about three, three and a half weeks, then were cut I think about eight days before we wrapped. It was an amazing time filming, every day we would be improvising and Reggie has such a nice way of letting you be yourself and also making sure you stay true to the story. And because he lived through that time, he’s someone that knows it. He wrote and directed this piece, this is his baby, and he knows exactly how to how to go about it. He was always on hand for questions. Of course, the break was didn’t seem helpful at first, we stopped nearly for seven months. But it gave him the opportunity to edit the movie and see the whole, and see there were things that could be added on. And it gave Jordan, Elliot and I a chance to bond even more. We were always in the group chat, Reggie was always on, we were able to FaceTime and talk, so we helped each other through it. Because we were going through this experience of being three first time leads, and this was a shock to do a big movie and having it stop. Your mind races, thinking ‘Are we going to finish this movie?’ So we just were able to speak with each other and with Reggie, and we all calmed down, basically. When we came back to the film, Reggie’s immediate reaction was, ‘you guys were good before, but this is a whole different level.’ We became brothers in that time.

It’s a brilliant depiction of sort of male friendship, you’re all really physical with each other and also surprisingly emotional as well. It’s refreshing to see that on screen.

It really is, it is something that really drew me to the script. Sometimes you feel like you want to be cool. You want to fit in with the crowd. But one of the first few things that Reggie told us when we auditioned was: You guys aren’t cool. You guys think you’re cool.’ That’s a crucial difference. I think that’s what it was in the audition room, as well as on set, we were just able to be ourselves and be goofy because I’d be like that with my friends. Especially sometimes with men or young adults, you have this idea of what masculinity is. And I think when you have really, really close friends and people that you trust around you, you can let that that kind of barrier down a little bit. You can just be yourself. You can express pain, you can express sorrow, you can express happiness, you can express your feelings. And of course, our characters maybe struggle to do that. But at least we feel comfortable enough and in the movie, it goes up and down, up and down. It’s a beautiful thing. I really liked that. You’re with your friends, so you can be free to be yourself.

What was some of the some of your favourite scenes to do? 

One of my favourite scenes was actually a scene I did in the audition. It’s a scene with Princess, played by Shiloh Coke. The plantain thing. It’s one of my favourite scenes because I couldn’t wait to see how the dynamic would work between my character, Kidda, who just doesn’t care, is blasé, ‘I’ll say whatever I want’, versus someone that is providing such a wall against them. And also what I love the most about that scene is the reactions of Two Tonne and Cappo behind me. Because we’ve all been in a situation where you have that friend that doesn’t care about saying what he really thinks.

What was Reggie like directing you?

Well, it was his first time directing but it did not seem like it. It was the best experience I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s the first time of me being a lead that helps that, but I have to give a big credit to Reggie basically. He’d throw us a line to improvise, we could throw one back, he wasn’t precious about the script, he really wanted us to bring our own selves to it. He would correct us on the slang that we were using, of course. He was 18 in ’99, or something, so he was at those parties, he was wearing those things, he knew exactly what to do, and he knew exactly what to say. He was like Google for us. Most of our research came from him and the people that he put in connection with. For that reason, I have to give a big round of applause.

How was it shooting on the streets at night, especially in the quieter time just after lockdown? 

Some of it was quiet but you know, London still has this sense of being alive at night. The lights, that kind of stuff. One of the memories that pops up was the scene where Kidda is cussing Two Tonne’s mum, with the wardrobe line: ‘Your mum’s a wardrobe’. We were going around Waterloo I think, the BFI IMAX, as I’m saying the lines, I’m like, ‘I’ve walked this road, I’ve been to all these places, I’ve seen films at the BFI, I have walked down here when I was auditioning.’  So it was nostalgic. We filmed a lot of it in North London, which I’m not very familiar with, but whenever we went a bit further south, I’m looking at these roads and going, ‘that was me three years ago.’ I loved it. I’ve been acting professionally for about three and a half years now and most of my jobs have been abroad. To film in London, making a film about London, with a director from London and kitchen, with guys from London, was such an amazing experience.

Why did you want to get into acting and how is it going for you now? 

Well, I’ve been into performance since I was a kid. I’m sure there’s old SD cards that my mum has of me singing High School Musical. I started off doing a bit of dancing, and then I started singing a lot. But I’ve always, always, wanted to do acting. As a kid I watched Harry Potter and thought I want to do that. At 15 I started training, and I fell in love with it more and more until I was able to go into the industry and have the opportunity to audition and finally get jobs. It’s been going great. Of course, we’ve had this long break but I had Pirates to help carry me through that. It’s been cool, and there’s some great projects going on right now. But who knows what the future may hold and what the future may bring, especially after the release of this, which I hope will aid in, you know, showing people different types of movies with a different type of cast. And showing a different side of London.

Are you prepared for the fame side?

I always say, I love acting, and the things that come around it you have to kind of accept, especially when you’re going into film, and TV. But I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about it. But you don’t know what you don’t know. And do you know what the beauty of it is? I don’t know if I know exactly how I will be, but I do know that I’ve got people beside me such as Elliot and Jordan that I can speak to, and someone like Reggie who I can go to for advice. I’m just gonna take it as it comes. I think the way it’s written means there’s so many little lines, so we’re bound to get shouted out across the street. ‘Your mum’s a wardrobe’ or ‘plantain not plantin.’ Whether or not we’re ready for it, it’s gonna happen!

Pirates is out now.

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