Still Standing: Interview with Dexter Fletcher
Blockbuster's Marshall Julius chats with Stander star Dexter Fletcher about baboons, bears and demons from Mars.
One year shy of his fortieth birthday, Dexter Fletcher is having the time of his life. "Right now," says the actor, "I'm the happiest I've ever been with my career. There are plenty of opportunities still for me, more so than ever maybe. I've moved on from being that boy who people used to know from Press Gang, and now I'm a man." Back in his twenties, Dexter was as famous for partying as he was for acting. "It did get a bit excessive," he confesses. "When it gets detrimental to your health and your work and you neglect your responsibilities, that's when you have to re-evaluate your life. That was ten years ago now, and ever since I've reaped the benefits of getting on with my career."
Fletcher is especially pleased to have been a part of Stander, new to DVD, a true-life tale of bank robbing folk heroes set in Eighties South Africa. "It's such a great film," he enthuses. "I'm proud to be a part of it."
"One of the most interesting things about Stander is that it's a story about the white South African experience during Apartheid, yet it's a very human story. Most films before tended to show white South Africans in a very negative light, but Stander's not so black and white." No pun intended.
Obviously Stander is not the first crime film Dexter's been a part of as, as over the last thirty-odd years he's popped up in everything from Bugsy Malone and The Long Good Friday to Layer Cake and, most famously, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. "I've a long history with crime movies," he acknowledges, "and I love those kind of films. Because 99.9% of the population is law abiding and we don't go around robbing banks, shooting people and driving cars in a reckless manner, it's interesting and exciting to watch films about people who do. It gives you a great, vicarious thrill, I think. And we're very good at making those kind of films."
Co-starring with Fletcher in the movie is Punisher star Tom Jane, truly memorable in the role of Andre Stander, and according to his cast mates, as game a person who ever lived. "I've gotta say," reveals Fletcher with a laugh, "Tom does some fairly outrageous things. He doesn't seem to have a fear button. I've even seen him chase baboons, which I would never do. We went to this campsite for the weekend, me, Tom and a member of the crew on a bit of a safari. We were in our car when baboons raided our campsite, turning over the bins and robbing people's tents. And while we're staying safe in the car, because a baboon will pull your arm off and smash you over the head with it, Thomas jumps out and chases after them with a little disposable camera. And this South African bloke was like, 'he's f***ing mad!' But Thomas isn't scared of anything. He'd never blanch at anything – he even ate witchetty grubs while he was out there." He sounds pretty tough to keep up with. "He can be," admits Fletcher. "You've just gotta take it in your stride. You have to accept that he's going to do it no matter what it is."
Fans of Bo Selecta are no doubt familiar with Dexter's work in Leigh Francis's current series, A Bear's Tail, in which he plays the writer under the stairs. "I'm responsible for every word that comes out of that bear's mouth," he boasts. Kind of like a god, really. "I wish I'd realised that when I was playing it," jokes Dexter. "I would have worn white robes and a beard." Limiting his contribution to a single day on the set with just Leigh in his bear suit, Dexter grins as he remembers his furry co-star "...taking the mickey out of me all day. Which I was more than willing to put up with. If anything I kind of encouraged it, played up on it a bit. If you're gonna go and do something like that, you have to have a sense of humour about yourself."
Dexter's next big movie role is in the live action feature adaptation of survival horror videogame Doom, in which a military force faces off against demons on Mars. "It was a lot of fun," he says of the experience, "no two ways about it. I got to play this character called Pinky, the communications officer. I'm in a wheelchair for most of the movie before turning into a monster with the wheelchair still attached." Shot from the waist up with a "super amazing" wheelchair added later on, "The special effects guy operated me on a remote control unit and basically drove me around the set." Essentially what he's saying is he sat around all day. "That's one way of describing it," he agrees, "though there was some acting involved. The toughest part of the shoot for me was when I had to spend the day covered in blood under a pile of dead bodies." At least they weren't real. At least, we hope not.
"I enjoyed getting to know The Rock a little bit, " he adds, "though everyone calls him Dwayne. He's really tough, but also very charming. I saw him firing this huge gun without blinking once, which was no mean feat, as they make a serious amount of noise and flames come out the end. He clearly loves making films and works very hard. He's a bit of a Jason Statham fan, so we talked a lot about Lock Stock."
As for his present and immediate future, Dexter says with eager anticipation that "...there are lots of interesting things coming my way. I've just finished a costumer for the BBC, and have just started another project for them called Hotel Babylon. It's about a luxury hotel in London. What goes on behind the scenes, and what the guests get up to as well. Max Beasley's in it, Tamzin Outhwaite's in it, and I'm in it. I play the concierge. It's an eight part series, and the scripts are very good. It's been a while since I've done any serious TV work, but it's a great part and there are a lot of very talented people involved, so I have high hopes for it."
If Dexter's not careful, he's may soon qualify for the title of Beloved British Institution. "I've been around a while, it's true," he says, wrapping things up. "Give it another thirty years, maybe, and I might let them get away with saying it!"
Date: 8th August 2005