Interview: Jonny Owen on the ‘Svengali’ film & being a VIP with The Stone Roses at Heaton Park

Following on from Live4ever’s interview with Jonny Owen early last year, when he told us all about his Internet comedy series Svengali, Carl Stanley has caught up with him again to talk about taking the show all the way to the big screen. In the last laps of editing the film for release next year,  Jonny discuses the film, Cardiff City and clothes…

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Just finished the filming Svengali – I know you can’t say much but you’ve got actors like Martin Freeman and Vicki McClure in the film haven’t you?

It was fantastic; my two favourite actors in the world and I got ’em! Up to my neck now in the edit but it looks great and I can’t wait for people to see it.

What’s it meant to you personally though – this is your project, your baby, so to speak. It must be special to see it go all the way and eventually to the big screen?

Ha, yeah, it was a labour of love though. Vicky McClure said to me; ‘I’ve heard of method acting but you’ve literally lived this part for three years!’. I knew what she meant. It’s weird when you write and produce it too. I even knew the other actors’ lines, so I’d be watching them do them thinking, ‘You need to say this there’ and they always did. The key is in the casting, and I wrote for actors. People like Roger Evans and Matt Berry you know are going to be brilliant and bring even more to a part and they did. Bless them.

Going all the way back to its origins, how did Svengali come about?

It was myself and Dean Cavanagh; we came up with idea in Soho. Literally a rainy night in Soho. We then got Phil John involved with Roger Evans and just decided to shoot and stick in on the ‘net. The idea was to see if people would follow a drama on there and do it our own way.

When’s the film’s release date?

It will be sometime in 2013. All being negotiated over the autumn.

Before getting into acting though you started out singing in a band didn’t you?

Yes, I was in a band called The Pocket Devils. We did alright, better than most. Got a deal with Santuary Warner and played the States. Then I got offered a part in an ITV series and thought, ‘I’ll give that a go’. People seemed to like it and from there I got an agent and ended up acting.

Music, football and clothes all seem to be big passions of yours – in what order though Jon?

Oh dear, tough to choose! I’d say all three equally. I’ve been into clothes since I was a kid. I was a Mod (or thought I was!) from about 11 when I first saw The Jam. I then started going to the football, Merthyr and Cardiff, and looked on in slack-jawed awe at the Casuals (they were called Trendies or Dressers then). I started to copy them, saving up. They seemed to have all the smart girls, travelled and listened to great music – House, The Smiths, Northern and other 60’s stuff. I thought, ‘I’ll have a bit of that!’. I watched the Martyrs and Bluebirds all over the UK from about 16-21. It was a great education. I got given so many books, great films, mix-tapes on the terraces. The fanzine movement was at its height, it was a great time and I caught it smack in the mouth. I was lucky really. Football, clothes and music all seemed to go hand in hand. I heard The Roses first when a lad Richie Collins (Merthyr fan) gave me a Revolver label single of The Roses doing ‘Sally Cinnamon’. Same went with someone handing me a Minerva print of Trainspotting. It all kind of dovetailed, a perfect storm I suppose. You couldn’t help but be inspired by it all.

Heaton Park, you were there. I know your a big roses fan so what did you think?

I was indeed – VIP! I’ve met Mani (big Svengali fan) and Ian. Lovely guys too. It was a magnificent day and I was encouraged by the kids there. I went to Spike Island; it was a lot different for me than then. In 1990 I was 18, able to walk miles, sleep in a car and stay dancing just on my own natural youthful energy. This time it was The Lowry, tickets from Adidas, back stage with Shane Meadows, and having a chat to the band before and after. Both probably the best gigs of my life.

What other bands or artists have stood out lately for you?

I’m a huge Rifles fan. Loved the last album and ‘Tangled up in Love’. Nice lads too. Just done their new video for the States for them – me and Vicky McClure as she’s a fan too. Miles Kane and this new kid Jake Bugg are both brilliant – look like Rock Stars should too!

Cardiff City are a massive part of your life aren’t they? Looking forward to the new season, plenty to talk about as the debate over the teams colours and re-branding has become quite an issue hasn’t it?

It was a shame. I didn’t want it, although I wasn’t going to argue with anyone about it as I can understand the people saying it’s to save us. To me, losing your colour, badge and nickname is worth no price. But others would say we’d have gone bust. I don’t think a club like Cardiff City will ever go bust. You just start again. Pompey and Rangers will come back. But we’re red now and that’s the way it is. I’m still a City fan and will remain friends with every single one of them as they are family.

So is Svengali the first of more ideas and projects you’ve got lined up? What would you like to do next?

Have a break(!) I’ve got December off and I’ll spend some time sleeping somewhere, and then see where I’m at. It’s very flattering that I’m getting offers on writing and acting stuff but I’ve had to write the rest of 2012 off to get Svengali where I want it, and I’m lucky enough to be able to do that. We’ve got to give this baby the love she deserves as Dixie seems to be something of a hero for people so I gotta get it right!

(Carl Stanley)

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