'I’m the pretentious twat in this show... there is some truth there!' | Gary and Martin Kemp on making another mockumentary with Rhys Thomas © BBC

'I’m the pretentious twat in this show... there is some truth there!'

Gary and Martin Kemp on making another mockumentary with Rhys Thomas

The Spandau Ballet brothers are back, three years after the Kemps mockumentary All True became a cult hit and showed 1980s heartthrobs Martin and Gary were more than willing to send themselves up.

But if you think the BBC have lavished a big budget on the follow-up on the back of that success, you’ve got another think coming. Money was so tight that The Kemps: All Gold – the follow-up being aired this Christmas – was shot in just eight days, mostly in the home of writer-director Rhys Thomas and his wife Lucy Montgomery, who also appears in the show.

‘That was our house,’ Rhys told the audience at a preview screening at London's BFI. ‘We had to help with the food.  Everyone mucked in. It was like making a home video, but it was really fun, it was a fun thing to make. It was made in eight days, for about… can I say the budget?’

Kemps and Rhys at BFI

‘No!’ came a cry from one executive in the room.

‘It was very fast, but I don’t think I don’t think filming something quickly has any effect on the product,’ he continued. ‘We tried to save money, it was the only way to make it. You have to think practically, "how can you film all this in one go?".’

In another bit of penny-pinching, the production couldn’t afford a police car for one scene in which the Kemps wind up in trouble with the law – so they used the family runabout of one crew member.

‘They had a baby seat in it, and rather than go, [in panic] "there’s a baby seat!" someone came up with a line about criminals getting younger’, Rhys said.

‘[Filming] is quite loose, there’s room to improvise…. I think we get on get well and we enjoy ourselves. It was fun. It’s tiring for them [the Kemps], they had a lot of lines to learn, but we always made sure we had fun at the end.’

And the fact that the show is relatively cheap may work in its favour, as it may make it easier for the BBC to commission more – something Rhys and the Kemps are keen on.

‘I think we’d always like to do more because it doesn’t cost a lot of money to make and if it does, well fine,’ Rhys said. ‘But we like doing it, and if people like it, we’ll do more.

‘There’s no shortage of ideas. What’s great about [the Kemps] is because they do music and acting and all the other sides of their careers, there’s a lot they can take the mickey out of – and they’re prepared to do that. 

‘If you were dealing with another person who was limited in that way, it’d be hard but there’s a whole world there between the two of them that we can mine for comedy.’

And they are indeed up for being mocked for anything. Asked if there was anything in the script that they vetoed, Martin said: ‘No, absolutely nothing at all. 

‘The fun about this is that Gary and I are open to everything. If we’d made this 20 years ago, there would have been a lot more [to veto] as we took ourselves a little bit more seriously, but towards the ends of our careers now, we can laugh at it.’

Although that sentiment was interrupted by Rhys challenging the idea they were an the end of their careers, interjecting: ‘Beginning!’

Kemps in the Spandau Ballet get-up

The new hour-long special has more of a plot than the 2020 mockumentary – including the brothers trying to make a film about the birth of the New Romantic movement (above), Gary attempting to build an arts centre for his pet project Spandau: The Ballet and the band racing against time to make a New Year’s Eve gig just as Big Ben strikes midnight. 

‘This one begins a few years after the first show,’ Gary explains. ‘My character, Gary has moved out to the countryside to get his head together and to write Spandau: The Ballet. Then suddenly, much to my annoyance, out of the blue my brother turns up because he’s been kicked out by Pepsi and Shirlie.’

‘After the the first one, we knew what worked,’ Rhys said. ‘We wanted to have a lot more characters and more of a sitcom element. There’s all these extra layers.

‘An hour is a lot to fill, so to keep moving it all, you need to set up plot stuff throughout. Also bringing other characters in, like Michael Kitchen playing the manager [a crossover with the universe of Brian Pern – the prog rock character Rhys created with Simon Day] and Danny John-Jules [the Red Dwarf star who plays a potentially dodgy builder]. 

‘It works better having [The Kemps] in a situation with other characters because then they look even more stupid rather than just playing off each other,’ Rhys said.

Gary agreed. ‘After the first one, we began to know how we are portrayed and who we are in this world. We were talking even then about ideas for this one. Now, in this moment, we’re thinking about the next one. 

‘We came into this show a bit more aware of who this Gary Kemp is or who this Martin Kemp is – I’m the pretentious twat. Little bits of truth are in there!’

Martin doesn’t contradict his brother.’ All the best comedy comes out of reality,’ he said. ‘If you heighten too much and people do not believe it is based in reality, then it will not work.’

Talking more about their fictional on-screen selves, Gary says it’s based on ‘the classic relationship… I’m the straight guy.’

‘I thought I was the straight guy!’ interrupts Martin, before Gary continues: ‘I want a better life, but I’m dragged back. I’m totally exasperated, aren’t I, darling?’

‘We’ve spent a lot of time with Rhys now and he knows who we are. He knows our characters. He knows the things we hide from the general public. He knows that and pumps them up and he brings them out. So when he writes now, he’s writing with our voices in his head.’

The show also occasionally takes pops at other figures in the pop world – Eurovision star Sam Ryder gets a particularly brutal character assessment from Kitchen’s blunt-talking manager – but the team insist it’s always in good spirits.

‘If you look at the show, me and Gary rip each other apart until there’s nothing, we’re just skin and bone,’ said Martin.’ I think if you do that, then you’re allowed to reach out and take the mickey out of people.’

‘It’s a warm-hearted comedy programme,’ Rhys insists. ‘The joke is on the person who says [any rude comment], not the subject.’ 

Real stars join in, too, with Status Quo’s Francis Rossi portrayed as joining forces with the Kemps for the New Year’s Eve gig – although it took him a while for the veteran rocker to say ‘yes’ to All Gold

Kemps with Rossi on stage

‘We didn’t hear back from him for a while,’ Rhys recalled. ‘So we thought who are we going to get instead? We said, "What about Rick Astley?" but he slightly turned it down. And then luckily, Francis Rossi said, "I’ll do it."

‘The irony is that Rick Astley is doing it for real on New Year’s Eve on BBC One. I thought it was just a joke but he’s actually Rocking With Big Ben!’

The first Kemps mockumentary had its roots in the Brian Pern series, after Martin took part in one of the episodes. 

Gary recalls they originally planned a clip show with talking heads ‘and then we had a really great lunch together and Rhys realised that we were really up for doing more.'

Rhys and Kemps on set

‘We all wanted to make it much bigger than that,’ Rhys says. ‘So rather than spend the money on ourselves and take all the money like some people do, we wanted to make sure we spend it all on screen We want to make it a better hour. That’s what’s so good about them, they don’t think "give me all the money".

‘The Kemps: All True took everyone by surprise, really as it was far more successful than any of us anticipated, both critically and with viewers. We were all busy on other projects for about two years. It wasn’t until a tiny gap appeared in March 2023 that we were able to film. So I rewrote the script, brought it up to date and off we went.’

• The Kemps: All Gold will be on BBC Two and iPlayer at 10pm on Friday December 29.

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Published: 12 Dec 2023

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