"Taking this role was
one of the easiest decisions of my life"
Itís his day off, and heís sitting in his home away
from home, a Dublin cottage, taking calls from Sydney: Stephen
Tompkinson is helping to promote the film that gave him his first
crack at big screen acting, Brassed Off - and heís anything
"Taking this role was one of the easiest decisions of my
life," he says. "The character I play, Phil, has the
most dramatic journey of all, and I was actually offered it
directly, without having to audition."
Tompkinson, in the middle of shooting the third series of
Ballykissangel for the BBC (playing Father Peter), has won the
Best Television Comedy Actor in 1994 for his role as Damien Day
in Channel 4ís hit series, Drop the Dead Donkey (seen in
Australia on SBS), and while in Brassed Off he gets to don a
clownís outfit, the role is far from comic. If anything,
Phil a tragic figure, "a difficult character because
heís not all that sympathetic," says Tompkinson,
"as itís his fault that his home life is such a mess;
he ignore the problems, doesnít communicate with his wife or
his father, but I still had to find some sympathy for him."
"Without a word of a
lie, I turned away with tears in my eyes, it was so
The work was made specially rewarding for Tompkinson by
working alongside Pete Postlethwaite, who plays his father. Their
relationship is a crucial and emotional part of the story.
Tompkinson tells of a scene where Danny (Postlethwaite) is lying
in a hospital bed; "I watched him working and, without a
word of a lie, I turned away with tears in my eyes, it was so
"I learnt that less is
Tompkinson, who is single but works with his girlfriend who
co-stars with him in Ballykissangel, says he learnt a great deal
from the film experience, especially from Postlethwaite. "I
learnt that less is more; previously, Iíve only worked on
the small screen. Writer/director Mark Herman is terrific: he
gave us enough rope to interpret the roles ourselves, and this
was a great film to work on, because itís rare that your
emotional and political beliefs donít get compromised.
Itís nice to be able to speak your mind through your
character," says Tompkinson, referring to the mine closure
orchestrated by the Thatcher government in the UK.
When Tompkinson finishes shooting this series of
Ballykissangel, he goes on to star in Oktober, a mini series to
be shot between October and December 1997, written and directed
by Steven Gallagher, "playing a character like Cary Grant in
North by North West, an ordinary man who gets caught up in
international intrigue. Itís very different from my other
With six months of the year working in Dublin and six months
based at home in Londonís Kilburn, Tompkinson is looking
forward to more film roles: "I love films and go to the
cinema whenever I can."
Brassed Off, he says, is a film that travels well,
"partly because of the music, but also because it could be
about any small community facing a crisis. Itís a really
powerful script about this community, their grit, determination
and the will to survive against the odds. Itís also in some
cases, about people whoíve almost thrown in the towel
Including Phil, Tompkinsonís character.