The comedians Looking For Eric

How Ken Loach recruited a gang of stand-ups for his new film

One of the biggest hits at the Cannes Film Festival Ken Loach’s atypically feelgood film Looking for Eric, which scooped the Ecumenical Jury Prize.

While its eponymous star, Eric Cantona, was mobbed on the Croisette – no surprise given his godlike status in French football – the ensemble cast also features a handful of familiar names from the north-west comedy circuit.

The comedy revolves around a depressed Mancunian postman, also called Eric, struggling to cope with life and two unruly teenage stepsons. The former Manchester United star appears like a guardian angel to guide him through his troubles, while the stand-ups play his Royal Mail colleagues.

Here the comedians talk about their experiences on the film.

Des Sharples: ‘I've been a stand-up for eight years. Before that I worked at a Timber yard, bar work, cutting bricks, making garden sheds. All around Manchester. I was born in Old Trafford but I’m a City fan. That side of it was quite hard. I play it from the heart as if I am a United fan - but I'm one of them fans who don't sing that much on the coach.

‘Jack’s my character. He's a workmate and a long-time friend of Eric’s – they’ve been going to football together for years. Jack's more mischievous and a bit slimmer than the others. Bit more of a Jack the Lad. I got invited in for a chat with Ken. We were talking about City's glory days, the last of which was ‘76. Turns out Ken has met Tony Book, City’s manager at the time – he played for Bath City, who Ken supports. So we had that in common - we both support unsuccessful teams.’

Greg Cook: ‘I haven't been a comedian for long - I'm five years in. Before that there’s not much in my range of capability I haven't had a bash at - building jobs, pub and club doorman, taxi driver, pubs, been a market trader, worked in the rigs, street sweeper… I'm from Blackpool and Ken used to come there watching football back in the day. I'd picked up an old Blackpool player up in my cab and that was Jimmy Armfield - Ken remembered him from his playing days, so we talked about that at our first meeting. I kind of surmised there was some sort of football element involved.’

Mick Ferry: ‘I'm a stand-up comic, a United fan, I live in Oldham, and I started in comedy 11 years ago. Before that I was an upholsterer. I play Judge - they call him The Judge because of the hairstyle. It's just my hair, not grown especially for the film I should add. That's how it naturally is. Anyway, The Judge is a bit of a know all.”

Smug Roberts: ‘I'm one of the posties, called Smug. My stage name is Smug too which is good because nobody forgets who I am. I'm a stand-up and I'm also an actor. I did Buried, had a small cameo in 24-Hour Party People and I also did Phoenix Nights. This is massively different. It's really exciting - sometimes you have bits of script that nobody else has got. It keeps you on your toes.

‘We work on the same circuit the comics. Ken's seen the chemistry between us. Bring a group that have worked together to work together on a film - it's an inspired move in a way.’

Justin Moorhouse: ‘I’m a United fan. It was an open casting: they wanted to see comedians. Ken wanted to know what you were about and what your history was. I know Smug and Monk and Mick and Des, so these are my mates in real life as well. I play Spleen. So called because he vents his spleen about certain things. He's a postman, a friend of [lead character] Eric’s and he's now an FC United fan. He’s quite opinionated about that. What appeals to Spleen about FC United is the democracy of it I think. He does spout some ideology sometimes.’

Steve Marsh, of comedy double-act Electric Forecast but better known for Cbeebies Big Cook Little Cook, also has a role in the film.

Looking for Eric will open in cinemas across Britain on June 12. Here is a trailer:

Published: 24 May 2009

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