Directing Running Riot was an entirely new, exiting and sometimes frightening experience for me. I am more used to the situation comedy that is dialogue driven, but after the first day of shooting with Bill and Paul, I was much more relaxed. Both of them knew the script extremely well, as they should after performing it nearly 600 times on the stage.
Paul speaks in a sort of sound FX way - the comic character Gerald McBoing-Boing springs to mind - which helps to envisage exactly what is required in the scene. During rehearsals, Paul would not only say his words, but also make all the necessary sound effects, for example: Door opens...SQUEEK! …wall falls on Bill … CRASH! and so forth. Likewise, Bill also had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do which saved a lot of time and unnecessary effort during our very short shoot.
The script was extensively rewritten to suite the film media, but without losing any of the charm or humour of the stage play. Those who have seen both the play and the film seem to regard the latter as being funnier. The fact that we were able to break out and leave the interiors every so often, made an enormous difference to the storyline. It was great to shoot in Durban for three days and have the characters of Tjokkie, Crispin and Ratkas join Bruce Fordyce in the Comrades.
Great effort was put into making this story move and move it does, with a capital M. When you walk out of the cinema after 95 minutes, you are literally breathless. We used an enormous amount of cuts - the sequence where Brutonov, the Russian, discovers his fiancée's bra and dress in the boy's room ran only for about 1 minute, but it has 55 shots, and many more cuts.
Although the film is dominated by quick cuts, we have one static scene which is by far one of the funniest I have ever seen on the screen. This is a 4-minute close up of Tjokkie (Bill) trying to talk himself out of being murdered by the Russian Brutonov.
The location of the hotel where the majority of the action takes place is the most important. We found a lodge in Krugersdorp that met all our requirements and the art department did splendid job of changing it into the lush greenery of Natal. We were lucky that the Highveld had exceptional summer rainfall last season as everything was a glowing, rich green. Small adaptations were made to the script to fit the location and it did so, seamlessly.
About the Filmmakers…
KOOS ROETS - Director
Born in 1943, Koos Roets started his career in the film industry in 1962, working as an Assistant cameraman for the legendary South African filmmaker, Jamie Uys (The Gods Must Be Crazy). Koos is acknowledged to be one of South Africa's leading Directors of Photography and has earned the highly prized Australian ACS accreditation. His credits as a Director of Photography include After the Rain, Paljas, Storie van Klara Viljee, Funeral for an Assassin, Wie Laaste Lag and The Yellow Bus (Australia)
In later years, Koos turned his hand to directing and worked in both South Africa and Australia. He has completed some 26 feature films including Sersant en die Tiger Moth, Erfgenaam, Vlug van die Seemeeu, Daar Kom Tant Alie, Kootjie Emmer, Nag van die Negentiende, Die Groen Faktor, Kaalgat Tussen die Daisies, The Angel, The Bicycle and the Chinaman's Finger, The Maggot, Geheim van Nantes, Brutal Glory and Sandgrass People.
Koos has directed 12 television drama series including the record-breaking Kooperasie Stories, Manheim Saga, Mannakwalanders, as well as a number of single episodes.
He has been nominated for and won a number of top awards including 4 Artes, SA Academy for Arts and Science Awards and 2 Rapport Oscars, 3 ATKV Awards, 4 Star Tonight Awards and numerous photographic awards including the Stephen Farrell Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Cinematography.
About the Actors…
PAUL SLABOLEPSZY - Crispin
Actor, Playwright, Screenwriter and Director Paul Slabolepszy was born in Bolton, England and immigrated to South Africa at the age of 3. He grew up in small towns - Modderfontein, Witbank and Musina - before heading for the University of Cape Town, where he graduated with a B.A. (Drama) degree. He is a founder member of South Africa's first non-racial theatre company, The Space with Athol Fugard, John Kani & Yvonne Bryceland in 1972.
In Johannesburg, Paul along with Mannie Manim & Barney Simon, was a founder member of the world famous Market Theatre Company in 1976.
In 1983, Paul received the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award.
As an actor, Paul has appeared in well over a hundred stage and television plays, as well as a couple of dozen feature films. Highlights include Frederick Courtney Selous in Rhodes (for the BBC) and Jan Christiaan Smuts, in The Apprenticeship of a Mahatma. Numerous awards for Stage include Biff in Death of a Salesman, Chance Wayne in Sweet Bird of Youth, Kaspar in Pieter Handke's Kaspar, Smitty in Fortune and Men's Eyes for which he garnered his first DALRO Best Actor Award in 1976, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, and Chandebise/Poche in A Flea in Her Ear. As Eddie, in his own play The Return of Elvis Du Pisanie, he became the first actor in South Africa to win every Best Actor Award nationwide in 1993 (Vita, Fleur du Cap and DALRO).
With close on thirty plays to his credit, Paul is arguably, after Athol Fugard, South Africa's foremost playwright, his work having been performed in the UK, the USA, Germany, France, Australia, Sweden, Denmark and the Middle East.
Paul has an impressive list of plays: Renovations (1979), The Defloration of Miles Koekemoer (1980); Saturday Night at the Palace (1982 winner of Amstel, Vita & Fleur du Cap Best Play); Karoo Grand (1983); Under the Oaks (1984); Over the Hill (1985 DALRO Best Play); Boo to the Moon, Making Like America (1986 Vita Best Play); Travelling Shots (1988); Smallholding (1989 Vita Best Play); One For the High Jump, The Eyes of Their Whites (1990); Braait Laaities (1991 Pick of the Fringe, Grahamstown Fest); Mooi Street Moves (1992 - Paper Boat Best Play Award, Glasgow MayFest; The Return of Elvis Du Pisanie (Vita, Fleur du Cap and DALRO Best Play); Pale Natives (1993); Victoria Almost Falls, Tickle to Fine Leg (1994); Heel Against the Head (1995 Vita, Star Tonight Best Comedy); Once a Pirate (1996); Going for the Jocular, Fordsburg's Finest (1997); Planet Perth, Life's a Pitch (1998); Crashing the Night (2000)' Running Riot (2001); It's Just Not Cricket (2002); Whole in One (2003); Art of Charf (Lady Lonely Hearts) 2005.
Paul's screenplays include Saturday Night at the Palace (Merit Award AFI Festival, Los Angeles 1987; Taormina Best Actor, John Kani); Heel Against the Head; Swansong for Charlie (based on his own play Over the Hill); Running Riot.
For Leon Schuster, Paul wrote the screenplay for Oh, Shucks - Here Comes UNTAG (1989), and contributed substantially to Sweet and Short and Mama Jack (2005); other co-written screenplays include Van Der Merwe P.I. for Philo Pieterse, Prince of Pretoria for Frans Marx and Taxi to Soweto for Edgar Bold. Paul's unproduced screenplays include King of Swing, Far From Arizona, Making Like America, Bushmoon and Rainbow Warriors.
Paul has a record five World Premieres at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. Saturday Night at the Palace went on to London's Old Vic Theatre in 1984. The Eyes of their Whites, co-written and co-performed with David Kramer, received acclaim at the 1990 Edinburgh Festival, and Mooi Street Moves was invited to the Teater der Weld Festival in Germany and the Images of Africa Festival in Denmark, in 1993. The same play won the Paper Boat Award at the Glasgow MayFest in 1994 and went on to the Edinburgh festival in the same year. Once a Pirate, starring Seputla Sebogodi, was part of the Lincoln Centre's Woza Africa Festival in New York City in July, 1997.
In March, 1993 Paul was invited to do a four week study tour of American Theatres with a group of international drama practitioners as part of the USA International Vistor Program.
Paul lives in Johannesburg with his wife, Carol and three children, Frances, Alice and Timothy.
BILL FLYNN - Tjokkie
Widely regarded as one of South Africa's most versatile performers, Bill Flynn has become a household name via his film, television and stage work. He holds a degree in English & Drama and is a founder member of the historic Space Theatre.
His massive CV includes leading roles in over 120 stage plays, musicals, 35 movies, and 80 television dramas & comedies. As an actor he is equally talented in comedy and dramatic roles, while his singing abilities range from Rock & Roll to Comedy Opera.
His talent for both comedy and drama has won him 14 Best Actor awards (including the Dublin Critic's Award) and 35 Best Actor nominations. His prolific film writing also earned him a Best Screenplay award.
As an ambassador for South African Arts and Culture, he has performed leading roles on stages all over the world including the USA, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Holland and Sweden. He was invited to perform in two seasons at London's famous Old Vic theatre.
Many of his movies and television shows have been seen throughout the world. Bill also starred in the karate comedy movie Kill and Kill Again, a top box office hit in America.
He starred and co-wrote Saturday Night at the Palace which won several Vita Film Awards, a Best Actor award at the Italian Taormina Film festival as well as a Merit Award at the Los Angeles Film festival.
For ten years he was a lead singer with Vinnie and the Viscounts. They released two CD's, Get Vrot and Rock & Roll Party. His new band, The Rock Rebels have released two CD's, Get This and Gooi Mielies.
Bill's solo CD's include The Toyi Kaka, I Don't Like Cricket I love It, Gees, Gooi My a Tenor, Bokke and Tenors Racket (best Comedy Album) as well as his latest CD, Rainbow Worrier.
His most recent dramatic role was as Willy Loman in the Death of a Salesman for which he won every Best Actor award across the country. His last comedy role was playing his all-time favourite character of Tjokkie in the smash hit comedy Running Riot, the hilarious sequel to the mega-hit Heel Against the Head.
His most recent television show was the popular Jozi Streets, a hard-hitting cop drama series in which he played the lead role of Captain Boki Basson.
Bill was voted by 61% of the public as winner of South African Celebrity Big Brother.
He wrote and recorded two new songs for the Official CD for the 2003 Cricket World Cup. His most recent films were the musical feature The Sunflower and the comedy Oh Shucks, I'm Gatvol.
Bill is currently touring nationally with the South African musical comedy, Fangs.
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