Adam Deacon: the new face of youth cinema
After ‘Anuvahood’, Adam Deacon is an actor and director truly down with the kids. Cath Clarke meets him. Photography Rob Greig
Here, in a nutshell, is the urban movie phenomenon – films about teenagers that teenagers want to watch. It started with ‘Kidulthood’, in which Deacon played Jay; its sequel, ‘Adulthood’, took £3.4 million. He recently wrote, directed and starred in a comedy spin-off, ‘Anuvahood’. Slated by critics, he says it made back its budget on opening night. Not that Deacon gives a stuff about critics: ‘I just care if the young people went to the cinema and laughed. If not, it would have gone round like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter: the film’s crap, don’t go to see it.’
If you are over 25, frankly, you’re probably too old. Watching these films is like listening to kids on the bus: funny, cringey, filthy, head-splittingly loud, talking in nasty-sounding slang. Teenagers say they love them because they are real. Undoubtedly, their influence has trickled into the mainstream. Deacon says he noticed ‘Hollyoaks’ trying to go a bit street after ‘Kidulthood’: ‘It was like they watched the film, wrote down the words and got it all wrong.’
He is meant to be talking about ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’, a new film by ‘Kidulthood’ director Menhaj Huda, in which he has a supporting role. ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’ is quieter than ‘Kidulthood’, exploring the double-lives of second-generation British Asians. Deacon is Zaf, who acts the big man, but is a real softy, tenderly caring for his elderly, sick dad. In the past, Deacon has played nasty pieces of work, kids full of attitude (he tends to make their bravado look ridiculous, insecure).
Which is funny, because he is a charmer, unflaggingly friendly to the people coming up to him. And he talks for England. He grew up just down the road in a now-demolished Hackney estate, the only child of an English mum and Egyptian dad, who walked out when he was two. ‘I’ve had a bit of an up-and-down relationship with my mum: didn’t get on with my stepdad.’ He moved out at 15, slept on a friend’s sofa for a year before moving into a hostel: ‘That’s when I really learned about the street.’
He was never a bad kid, more the class joker. Acting kept him out of trouble – he started aged 12 when a drama teacher suggested he try out for the Anna Scher theatre school in Islington. Sweetly, Deacon says he owes everything to Scher. He got parts in ‘The Bill’ and ‘EastEnders’. He’d get in trouble for slipping the odd ‘blud’ into his lines. For all their mischief, you can’t fault the urban movies for their portrayal of London – a million miles from the airbrushed city of Woody Allen or Richard Curtis. ‘London is a massive melting pot,’ says Deacon. ‘That’s what I wanted to get across with “Anuvahood”.’
He wrote the film in his flat with a school friend, Michael Vu, who works as a youth worker at their old school. Both of them appear in the film, with Deacon playing Kay, who ditches his supermarket job and takes up drug dealing. It took the pair two months to write the script: ‘A lot of lot of late nights, a lot of Red Bull.’
‘Anuvahood’ has been hugely successful in London. Not everyone is best pleased. It ignited a feud between Deacon and his friend Noel Clarke – the actor/writer behind the two ‘Kidulthood’ films. Clarke posted a blog last year, indirectly attacking Deacon for appropriating the ‘-hood’ suffix. ‘It’s called stealing,’ he wrote. ‘Or, as the lawyers have been calling it, copyright infringement (look it up).’ The release reignited the spat, with a round of tit-for-tat Twitter posts. Deacon says he was under the impression he had Clarke’s blessing and the pair have patched up their difference. Still, Deacon can’t resist a cheeky dig: ‘No one’s got any rights to the word “hood”,’ he says with a big grin. ‘You’ve got Robin Hood, Little Red Riding Hood.’ Has he seen Clarke? ‘No, but we spoke on the phone.’
Deacon has played so many dealers and thugs, does he worry about being stereotyped? Not really: ‘There’s not many actors who can say they haven’t. Look at Hugh Grant.’ Still, people do mistake him for his characters, and the faces of casting directors drop at auditions, he says. ‘You think: maybe their kid got robbed at a bus stop. They think, “He’s responsible.”’
Does he ever think where his life might have gone without the acting? ‘I count my blessings. I hate actors who just go on like they’re the best thing since sliced bread. You're only as good as your last job. Be humble. Even now, I’m on my estate. I’m not rich. My whole life hasn’t changed. It’s a bit of a surreal life.’
Read our review of 'Anuvahood'
Author: Cath Clarke
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’