Wild Bill with Dexter Fletcher

Since he started acting at 6 years old, Dexter Fletcher has been a familiar face on film and TV.

On the small screen, he’s starred in the kids’ series Press Gang, World War Two mini-series Band of Brothers, and BBC drama Hotel Babylon.

And his big-screen credits include kids’ mobster musical Bugsy Malone; an adaptation of Martin Amis’ novel The Rachel Papers; Guy Ritchie’s geezers and guns hit, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; and comic book creation Kick-Ass.

Now in his 40s, Fletcher’s stepped behind the camera to direct his debut feature, Wild Bill, which adds a fine touch of spaghetti western to a family drama.

The film follows Bill, a recently released ex-con, who returns home to find his teen and tween sons, Dean and Jimmy, coping alone in the family’s East End flat after being abandoned by their mother.

With Wild Bill out on DVD and Blu-ray this week, Fletcher talks here about the influence of director Sergio Leone, casting famous friends in cameos, and the London Olympics.

Directorial debut:

When you’ve been involved in acting as long as I have, there’s always an aspiration to move the other side of the camera eventually, and that had become more prevalent for me in the last five years.

Wild Bill was the right time, the right piece of material with the right people. It was a magical coming together of the right elements.

The inspiration for Wild Bill:

Home alone: Will Poulter (R) & Sammy Williams (L) as Dean & Jimmy

I saw a news story a few years back about a woman who’d gone to Greece and left her kids alone. I was like ‘wow’.

I don’t have any kids of my own, but it just seemed to me an extraordinary thing to be able to do.

That kind of stayed with me. I thought maybe there was an interesting idea in that.

Then I had this other idea for creating characters – a man who was still a boy and a boy who was a man… that was something I’d kind of experienced in my own life growing up as a child actor with a lot of adult responsibility.

And those elements of the story really seemed to gel and make something interesting happen.

Westerns and Wild Bill:

I had Sergio Leone in mind – the old man reading the paper, the bar room door closing, the music stopping and the close ups.

We started calling them the spaghettis on set. I’d say, ‘Give me a spaghetti’, which basically meant a really big close up.

We also had lots of wide-open vistas, so we get lovely shots of the kids walking in front of the Olympic building site, which really started to play into our story and became a character itself.

That kept the breadth of the film, but we also had close moments of intensity between [father and son] Dean and Bill.

We really got in on the eyes… the joke was ‘hey, that’s where the magic happens’, but it is where the magic happens.

Jaime Winstone & Jason Flemyng in Wild Bill

Casting cameos:

There were lots of people I knew I wanted to see in the film.

Sean Pertwee pops up. Jason Flemyng pops up. Jaime Winstone pops up.

But I wanted to create opportunities for them to do something a little bit different.

So, Jason Flemyng plays a social worker with Jaime Winstone as his assistant.

It’s quite an interesting idea because you’d think, like when we were first discussing casting, ‘ok, single mum: Jaime Winstone’.

And of course she can do it, she’s done it before, but we wanted to go another way and offer something more interesting.

Same with Sean Pertwee playing a policeman. It’s a different take on what we’d expect.

It keeps it interesting, and makes it interesting for those actors to sacrifice a day for a friend.

Olympic location:

Charlie Creed-Miles stars as Wild Bill

Newham council showed me an empty tower block with six flats on one floor.

They said I could have one of the flats to film in.

I looked out of the window and there was the Olympic village, the stadium and the velodrome. I thought ‘this is too good!’

I spent a lot of time walking around, getting to know the area.

The film’s writer and I thought Dean’s character should work on the building site of the Olympic village, so the location became more and more integral… a character in the film.

And it was reflective of Bill’s journey. Here was a man who’s supposedly one thing but is going through a massive change.

The location reflects that, so we didn’t have to stick it in big wordy scenes… it’s there, really strongly illustrated… he’s looking out over this huge change. You hear the sound of it and feel the vibration of it.