Parent Lines: Ian Hart discusses A Boy Called Dad

We talk to Ian Hart, one of Britain’s most prolific character actors, about his latest film <i>A Boy Called Dad</i>

Feature by Gail Tolley | 26 Apr 2010

Ian Hart is one of those actors you think really ought to be more famous than they are, especially when their credentials read like a list of the best of British film. He’s played John Lennon twice (once in The Hours and Times  and again in Backbeat), worked with heavy-weight British directors such as Ken Loach (Land and Freedom) and Neil Jordan (Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy and The End of the Affair) and even starred in the first Harry Potter film as Professor Quirinus Quirrell. Yet his frequent casting in supporting roles and his preference for smaller productions has meant that he’s yet to become a household name. Hart’s latest film, A Boy Called Dad is a prime example of the smaller projects the actor appears to seek out. In it he plays Joe, an absent father to 14 year old Robbie (played by newcomer Kyle Ward). When Robbie himself becomes a father he hopes to rekindle his relationship with his own Dad but instead a series of events sees the teenager on the run with his young son in tow.

Where do you start with creating a character like Joe?

The script was very straightforward, I don’t think I needed to do a great deal of pondering on this one to be honest. Sometimes you have to do a lot of research – sometimes it’s much more of a journey. This time around Julie (Rutterford – the writer) and Brian (Percival – the director) were very clear about what their objectives were and what they wanted. The exercise was to make me and Robbie see if we could have a relationship. That was what we spent the effort and energy on, making that seem real.

You've worked with Ken Loach in the past.  Do you see A Boy Called Dad as being similar to those kind of gritty, human dramas?

I think that Brian wanted to do the film in a way that wasn’t like that. Whilst the subject matter might ordinarily be dealt with from a very realist perspective, he wanted to tell the story in a visually interesting way. When filming social realism, everything is handheld using the ‘lens of truth’ as Ken would have it, whereby you get the replication through the lens of what the human eye sees – that’s one of the techniques involved, you choose a lens that give audiences a sense of getting a first hand perspective. Brian didn’t do that, Brian tried to tell it visually – cinematically. So in some ways it’s a departure.

What’s quite unique about the film is that it shows the perspective of a teenage father, whereas often we’re presented just with the mother’s point of view. Did you feel that that was quite an important topic to explore?

Well, you read the newspapers or watch the news and it becomes a statistical exercise. Britain has the largest number of teenage pregnancies in Europe are we’re constantly debating it. I think what Julie was trying to do was imagine what it was like from a male perspective – that’s the bit of the story we never get. The personal ramifications are never really dealt with in the media.

The director has also said there’s a lot of hope to be found in the film – where do you see this in the story?

In the fact that Robbie tries to do the right thing, his intentions are honourable and the experience he gains from that. There’s a scene where he is at his grandfather’s grave and there are three generations of lost souls who’ve not had a role model. He has no idea how to become a father but in a short amount of time makes that massive journey.


A Boy Called Dad is released on 30 April