Read an exclusive interview with Troye Sivan,
who delivers a powerful performance in the title role of SPUD.
SPUD: THE MOVIE ***** A sincere and utterly charming journey into the heart of a South African teenager who has already captured the imagination of millions in the groundbreaking bestselling novel by John van de Ruit.Director Donovan Marsh aptly opens the story up to give us a majestic portrait of the life of a teenager growing up during the birth of a New South Africa. If there is one reason to see this well crafted film, it is for the solid performances from the entire cast, particularly Troye Sivan who shines in the title role, and Jamie Royal as Gecko. John Cleese breaks away from his comic persona and delivers an astounding performance as Spud's mentor. Although the film wickedly explores the sexual awakening of a teenage boy (with humourous fantasy flashes of the girls who awaken his desire) it is ultimately the bond between Spud and his friends and his mentor that turns Spud into a rewarding and meaningful experience. If you enjoyed The History Boys and Dead Poets Society, you can now add Spud to your list. (review by Daniel Dercksen)
John Milton, a.k.a. Spud (Troye Sivan), is a small boy from an ordinary background who wins a scholarship to an elite private school in South Africa.
It's 1990 and Spud's Dad (Aaron McIlroy) is not reacting well to the news that Nelson Mandela is going to be released from prison. He thinks the country will be taken over by the Communists. Spud is an only child who is cursed with parents from well beyond the lunatic fringe, and a senile granny.
At his new school full of rich kids, Spud is surrounded by boys with nicknames like Gecko (Jamie Royal), Rambo (Sven Ruygrok), Rain Man (Tom Burne), Boggo (Travis Hornsby), Fatty (Blessing Xaba) and Mad Dog (Josh Goddard), and he has his hands full trying to adapt to his new home. He also has to outwit Pike (Darren Frances) and Devries (Ricky Cruz), two of the older boys who do all they can to get Spud, the scholar and outsider, expelled.
Spud is also taking his first tentative steps along the path to manhood. He decides that the only way for him to be accepted and to survive the bullying in this crazy new world is through fame and women. So he auditions for the school play *Oliver!* and gets the lead role. He also throws himself into his emerging love life with Mermaid (Genna Blair) and the femme fatale Amanda (Charlbi Dean).
Through all his adventures, Spud is advised by his eccentric, alcoholic English teacher The Guv (John Cleese), who introduces him to great literature and, despite his own failing marriage, offers relationship advice; his unlikely, sickly friend Gecko - the one boy who is more of an outsider than himself - and his new hero, Luthuli (Lehasa Moloi), the Head of House.
Armed with only his wits and his diary, Spud takes us from illegal night swimming to the red-hot furnace of the cricket pitch, from ghostbusting to a catastrophic family vacation. He also invites us into the mind of a boy struggling to come to terms with a strange new world, a boy whose eyes are being opened to love and its perils, the value of true friendship and the complete insanity of life..
THE GUV (John Cleese)
Mr Edly - The Guv - is the school's cantankerous, eccentric English teacher and Spud's cricket coach.
He spots Spud's writing talent in class and forms a bond over classic novels, inviting Spud to rambling lunches at his house on the school grounds where the two discuss the women in their lives as The Guv works his way through copious quantities of wine.Seeing something of himself in Spud, The Guv becomes a listening post for our young hero as he struggles to fit in at school.Hugely intelligent and highly emptional, Spud sees The Guv unravel as his drinking spirals out of control and fights with his wife, Marion, escalate.
SPUD (Troye Sivan)
13 year-old John "Spud" Milton wins a cricket scholarship to attend a prestigious public school. Coming from an insane, middle class family, all his worst fears are realised when he finds himself living in a dormitory surrounded by crazy characters who he struggles to relate to.
Immersing himself in his diary musings, he struggles to come to terms with fitting in with his new surroundings and discovers the first pangs of young love when he meets Debbie, who he instantly christens "Mermaid". Blessed with "the voice of an angel" as his mom calls it, Spud wins the role of Oliver in the school play .
Spud develops a close bond with his English teacher and cricket coach nicknamed "The Guv". The Guv sees something of himself in young Spud and nurtures his interest in literature.
Though Spud never quite fits in with his dorm mates, he soon finds himself getting up to mischief as part of the self-styled "Crazy 8". He becomes close friends with frail dorm-mate "Gecko", who he really identifies with, though he tragically loses his close friend in the end.
About the Production
"Spud", the groundbreaking bestselling novel by John van de Ruit, is now a feature film. South Africa's record-breaking novel is a coming-of-age comedy following a young boy through his year at a private boarding school, and set against the backdrop of a country coming of age.
It's South Africa 1990. Two major events are about to happen: The release of Nelson Mandela and, more importantly, it's Spud Milton's first year at an elite boys only private boarding school. John Milton is a boy from an ordinary background who wins a scholarship to a private school in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Surrounded by boys with nicknames like Gecko, Rambo, Rain Man and Mad Dog, Spud has his hands full trying to adapt to his new home. Along the way Spud takes his first tentative steps along the path to manhood. (The path it seems could be a rather long road).
Armed with only his wits and his diary, Spud takes us from illegal night swimming to the red-hot furnace of the cricket pitch, from ghost busting to a catastrophic family vacation. He also invites us into the mind of a boy struggling to come to terms with a strange new world, a boy whose eyes are being opened to love, friendship and complete insanity.
Spud the book
Spud is the most successful and popular book in South African publishing history. Written by John van de Ruit, it was published by Penguin in 2005.
Over 200,000 copies have been sold with an estimated readership of over 600,000 in South Africa alone. Spud won the Booksellers' Choice award 2006, and continues to break SA fiction publishing records. The book was launched internationally in 2007. A Barnes & Noble top 10 hard cover youth title in the USA in 2007, it won a US national teen book award in June 2008. It has subsequently been published in the UK, Commonwealth, Italy, Brazil, Russia and India.
John van de Ruit continued his record-breaking writing with the sequel Spud - The Madness Continues, which was published in 2007, and released in the US at the end of 2008.
The third installment in the series, Spud - Learning to Fly, was published in 2009, and sold 65,000 copies in SA in the first two weeks from the launch date.
The fourth and final book in the series will launch in 2012.
Spud: The Movie
The process of adapting this beloved book into a screenplay began in 2008, when producer Ross Garland, who optioned the rights in 2006, brought writer/director Donovan Marsh on board the project.
With John van de Ruit always standing by with his input, the team had a draft screenplay ready to be sent to international cast by the end of 2008. A crackling high pace script, the screenplay is true to the story of Spud, whilst adapted for the demands of the big screen.
With a thirteen year-old boy as the main character in the film, the search for a young actor to play the lead role was critical. A global search started in early 2009. But it was good fortune that led to the discovery of Troye Sivan. Producer Ross Garland's uncle in Australia sent him a newspaper clipping of a boy from Perth who had just starred in Hollywood blockbuster "X-men Origins: Wolverine". The article also said he was born in Johannesburg and a well-known singing sensation. Ross tracked down his agent in Los Angeles, and Troye sent his audition in from Australia. After a search all over South Africa, he came out streaks ahead as the perfect boy to play John "Spud" Milton.
Top international casting agency Hubbard Casting was recruited to find a British star to play "the Guv". After initially hearing that John Cleese didn't do this type of smaller, independent film, the screenplay was sent to him on a wing and a prayer. The call came back that he liked the script, and wanted to sign on to the project. With a performance that is both comical and moving, it's new ground for John Cleese. Nobody can think who would have been more perfect for the part.
The Crazy 8
Finding the young teenage cast was a daunting task, as these boys and girls form the backbone of the movie. Producer Brad Logan headed up a 6-month effort to find young actors from schools across South Africa. The teenagers who were cast in these roles come from all over the country.
Jamie Royal (Gecko) Grade 9 Glenwood High pupil Jamie Royal has extensive theatre experience, but Spud is his first feature film. A proficient actor, Jamie already has an impressive resume with roles in Winnie The Pooh, Aladdin, Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan amongst others, at the Elizabeth Sneddon and Playhouse theatres in Durban. He also spent two seasons on SABC3's Creature Club at the age of 12 - yet surprisingly, this Durban born-and-bred youngster has never appeared in a school play! Jamie has always wanted to be an actor and hopes his role in Spud will be a fillip to his future career. A multi-talented cultural star, Jamie also sings and participates in modern and ballroom dancing while he also considers himself to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie with a passion for bungee jumping.
Sven Ruygrok (Rambo) Dynamic 18 year-old Sven Ruygrok graduated from Beaulieu College in 2009 with two distinctions - one of them in his favourite subject, Drama. A natural leader, Sven was Deputy Head Boy and was awarded Full Drama Colours. Until recently, he was involved in Men's Artistic Gymnastics and received his Junior Protea Colours in this sport. He is a wonderful all-round performer and this was recognised early on in his life as he successfully auditioned for Cirque du Soleil in 2005. His abilities were also more recently acknowledged by the judges in the ACT / Dalro Performing Arts Scholarship last year, where he was one of the 6 national finalists. 2010 saw Sven enrol as a student at UCT where he had been accepted for a Degree in Theatre and Performance, but he deferred his studies when he won the role of Rambo in Spud: The Movie.
Josh Goddard (Mad Dog) All-action Josh Goddard is a Grade 11 student at Michaelhouse, where he is an active sportsman who plays rugby and water polo and participates in athletics. He auditioned for Spud for fun and acted as crazy as he possibly could - which clearly went down well as he won the role of madcap Mad Dog hands-down. Originally from Zimbabwe, Josh currently calls Northern Johannesburg home. He is an avid Spud fan, having read all three books and thinks that being part of the Crazy 8 is a surreal experience. "It's pretty sweet!" he says. "I can't wait to have fun with the rest of the gang - we're already mates and are going to really enjoy ourselves on set."
Tom Burne (Vern) First-time actor Tom Burne is a 15 year-old student at Michaelhouse, where he has half colours for Academics. Despite never having previously considered a career in acting, the bug has well and truly bitten! Tom only auditioned for the film at the prompting of his drama teacher and couldn't be happier to have landed the role of misfit Vern. Pietermaritzburg-born Tom is really looking forward to sharing the screen with veteran star John Cleese and can't wait to see the Crazy 8 come to life on the screen.
Byron Langley (Simon) A student at Glenwood Boys' High in Durban, Byron Langley is a newcomer to acting, having only previously performed in primary school plays. He auditioned for Spud on the advice of his school drama teacher and has subsequently fallen in love with acting, a career he can see himself pursuing in the future.A talented all-rounder, Byron recently received Full Academic Colours, participated in Natal Cricket Trials and has previously been selected for PADSA Cricket and hockey and the South African Allstars team for Action Cricket.
Travis Hornsby (Boggo) Travis was born in Port Elizabeth but currently lives in Edenvale, Gauteng and attends St John's College. He was top of his class academically from Grade 1 to 7 and received the Dux Scholae Award in 2009. An Eisteddfod veteran, he received awards for poetry, poetry writing, mime and dramatized prose. He lists his hobbies as playing Playstation games, writing poetry, and girls! Travis had his heart set on being a plastic surgeon but his role in Spud may yet change his preference.
Blessing Xaba (Fatty) Blessing Xaba hails from Berea in Durban and is a Grade 11 student at DHS. He has already performed in a number of professional theatre productions including Annie, School of Rock and Big River at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. When he's not on stage, Blessing enjoys community work and is the Deputy Mayor of the Durban Youth Council. He participates in every cultural activity available at school - apart from chess. He was recently awarded a Drama Scholarship and has a mature take on the entertainment industry, with the belief that blood, sweat and tears are the key to success!
Donovan Marsh, who wrote the screenplay, also directs the movie. This is his second movie after his first film "Dollars and White Pipes" garnered him numerous awards locally and internationally. A veteran of the local television industry, his schooling at private school Bishops in Cape Town was the perfect grounding for a film about a boy at boarding school.
Cinematographer Lance Gewer has composed a classically shot film, and demonstrates his diversity after shooting the Oscar-winning Tsotsi. Fellow Bishops graduate Ed Jordan composed the music in the film, including the original pieces for a fresh musical adaptation of Dicken's Oliver Twist. Another Tsotsi alumnus Megan Gill, fresh from editing two films in Hollywood, came on board to edit Spud.
Location and Design
The film was shot in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa in March 2010. Michaelhouse school was the primary location for filming. Many of the film's scenes are set in the actual locations where John van de Ruit went to school, and where his books are set.
All the sets and wardrobe in the KZN Midlands and Durban were adapted to be authentic for the 1990 setting of the story.
Nu Metro Films has acquired the distribution rights to Africa, and releases the film in Southern African cinemas in December 2010. The Little Film Company, the Los Angeles-based sales agent which successfully sold the Oscar-winning Tsotsi around the world, is representing the film for worldwide sales.
The film is produced by Ross Garland of Rogue Star Films, and Brad Logan of BLM Productions. Donovan Marsh directs.
PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN FILMMAKING