I recently got the chance to talk to Ben Shockley about his role in ‘On The Ropes’. Here, Ben talks about what it was like working with Joe Egan and Mark Noyce, and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Ben. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘On The Ropes’ had it’s DVD premiere in the UK on 8th August 2011.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
I don’t want to give too much away. but basically a documentary crew meets characters from a rival boxing gym and a karate school and eventually their two very different worlds collide! But I don’t mean in a science fiction kind of way…
The film focuses on boxing and martial arts – yet it’s listed as a comedy film….how would you say the film is funny? How is it unique?
It’s funny in a character study sort of way, and the situations these people get themselves into that the viewer becomes aware of. It’s unique in the way that I don’t think many people have tackled the subject of boxing and karate together in this way before.
Tell us a bit about your character in the movie…
I play Mick Western who is Keith Kraft’s assistant at the karate school. He put the ass in assistant! He’s loyal if not a little dumb at times. He’d do almost anything for Keith…well almost – and is slightly obsessed with Elvis…a bit like me.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I had worked with Mark Noyce on a previous feature film in Bristol a couple of years ago called ‘The Landlord’, and when he was planning ‘On The Ropes’ he got in touch with me and offered me the role of Mick. I thought the script had a lot of potential and I really liked the character, and Mark was up for re-working some scenes and improvising a bit too. He was always interested in other people’s input which made it really collaborative. I love working like that. Mark and Hamdy also had a specific idea about what they wanted to achieve over all though which is always helpful.
The film stars Joe Egan, your good self and Steve Perry – what was it like working with the cast and crew on this film?
It was an absolute pleasure. It was a thrill working with Joe Egan and Steve Perry of course, and other new people who I hadn’t worked with before like Emma Louise Cargill, Steve Coleman, and Raymond Griffiths to name but a few. It was fantastic to be working with Mark again too, Dionne Vincent – who I had also worked with before on ‘The Landlord’, and Brook Burfitt who I worked with in the film ‘Death’. They were all top-notch. There was a real sense that people just wanted to make the best movie they could. It was great watching other people’s acting and fighting styles. I based mine on Elvis Presley’s stage karate fighting style which meant of course I could take any of them on at the drop of a hat (but not you Joe), and if my moves didn’t work I could just sing to them instead! I’m not called the toughest bald man on the planet for nothing you know! Unfortunately I’m not called that. It was great hanging out with the cast and crew before and after filming too. Mark and Nikki Noyce were the perfect hosts…I have to say that because I’m hoping to stay with them again sometime…
Who is your favourite boxer or martial artist?
You mean apart from Joe Egan, Mark Noyce, Steve Coleman and the rest of the guys in ‘On The Ropes’ of course? (pheew!) Well my favourite boxers of all time are Ali and Mike Tyson and my favourite martial artist has to be Jackie Chan. I totally appreciate the talent and iconic status of Bruce Lee, but I was brought up more on the films of Jackie Chan. I loved the mix of action and comedy. I think I first saw him in the Burt Reynolds/Hal Needham movie ‘Cannonball Run’, and then watched the documentary on Jackie hosted by Jonathan Ross. So thanks to Jonathan Ross, Jackie Chan became a hero of mine. He’s fearless and dedicated which must be two of the most important traits to have in any profession.
Let’s talk a bit about you Ben. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
Thanks to my Mum and Dad allowing me too, I was brought up on watching a lot of 70’s movies and shows on TV when I was growing up. Particularly Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds movies. I wanted to be an actor or a stuntman or both! When I left school I went to my career adviser and told him I wanted to be a stuntman and or an actor. Instead of putting me off he made some calls and got me a job interview at the local repertory theatre that until then I didn’t even know had existed. I got the job, and although there was no stunt work involved as such I stayed there for four years gaining experience in all aspects of theatre including acting, which I then began to pursue as a career.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in acting?
I met Charlton Heston in London a number of years ago – (I don’t mean to name drop but what the hell), and I asked him the same question, so I’m going to give the same answer he gave me. “If you enjoy it, stick with it, and don’t give up. Just don’t give up”. The thing is though there are so many ways into the acting business and what works for one might not work for another. Listen to everybody’s advice and then make your own mind up I reckon. I wasn’t lucky enough to have the chance to go to drama school even though I was accepted at one. I just couldn’t afford to take the place but instead of giving up I decided to follow a career in acting anyway. I’m living the dream as they say, and it’s been a fantastic journey so far. Difficult at times but fantastic and I don’t regret a second of it…well maybe one or two. You can take drama classes if you want to but you can also learn a lot by watching and working with other people. You learn by doing.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
I like listening to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dwight Yoakam, John Fogerty, Steve Earle, Hank Williams Snr, Hank III, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Dale Watson and George Jones to name but a few.
You’ve had a number of different roles on a range of different film and TV projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with so far and which project has been your favourite to be a part of??
That is such a difficult one. I’ve enjoyed them all is the diplomatic answer. I loved doing ‘On The Ropes’ and another new film I’ve just been in called ‘Death’ directed by Martin Gooch. It was great working with yet another superb cast and crew, and I got to meet and work with Leslie Phillips and Linal Haft too. Another of my favourite films I worked on has to be ‘Greetings’ in which I played my first lead role. It was directed by Ken Colley who amongst other things played Admiral Piett in the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy! Also ‘Bloodmyth’, a low-budget horror film I did a few years ago, directed by my mate John Rackham – was great to work on. I have worked with so many actors that I have learnt so much from. Ken Colley for one. One of the most enjoyable acting experience on stage though must be working in the West End in the play ‘Hurly Burly’ with Mark Benton, David Tennant, Andy Serkis, Rupert Graves and Jenny Seagrove. That was awesome!
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
It would be so easy to talk politics but I’m going to resist the urge as I would probably go on for pages! Instead I was impressed by one paper a couple of weeks ago (one that I wouldn’t usually buy so the headline must have worked!), which stated on it’s front page ‘Wonder Diet Cures Heart Disease’, just stressing again how really important it is to have your five portions of fruit and raw vegetables (or more) a day to help beat heart disease. I just thought it was refreshing to read something that might actually help people instead of some of the usual headlines we are fed.
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
I’m playing a World War 1 German officer next week in an educational TV episode of a series made by KETV called ‘Davey Smith And The Walking Wounded’, and playing a cameo in a feature film called ‘Knight Knight’. I’ve got several possible feature film roles coming up next year, but you never know which ones are going to get the green light until nearer the time usually or sometimes finding out whether you’re still on board at all!
At the moment though I have the role of a father coming up in Ink Pixel’s next film project ‘Shaniqua’. It will be great to work with the ‘On The Ropes’ team again. Other possible film roles include parts in the films ‘Manor Hunt Ball’, ‘Two By The Sea’, ‘The Final Reel’, ‘Daementia’, ‘Vigilante’ and also a zombie film project in Bristol. I’d love to be in the new film version of ‘The Sweeney’ too, but unfortunately I’m either not with the right agent (I’m not with any agent at all at the moment actually), I don’t know the casting director well enough or not famous enough…or possibly all three!
Thanks for the interview!