The Inbetweeners Movie: An Interview with Simon Bird

As the Inbetweeners prepare for their big screen debut, Simon Bird tells us about trying to say no, the "Big Bugger tour" and the similarities between himself and Snoop Dogg.
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Well, first of all let’s clear one thing up… despite a statement accidentally put out by one of the cast, The Inbetweeners Movie is definitely not shit. ‘It’s so difficult doing this promotion racket’ says Simon Bird who plays Will, ‘people keep asking you the same questions; “How great is your film?” “Is it great?” Is it literally great?” We’re English and are naturally a bit bashful so tend to just be self-effacing in our answers which then gets interpreted as us saying it’s shit… I mean, to be fair, James Buckley did actually say the words “it’s” and “shit” (on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man the week before) but that was taken completely out of context and not in the spirit of how he meant it. So anyway, just for the record… It’s (almost certainly) not shit.’

We couldn’t agree more. In fact, it’s probably the film we’ve been most looking forward to all year (apart from, obviously, this). The Inbetweeners was the first show of its kind to properly capture the authentic experience of being a teenager. Not the twatty, attractive, Peaches Geldof kind that you normally see on TV, but genuine real-live ugly ones whose awkward and occasionally tragic lives we could actually relate to. And then there were the almost operatic moments of sheer, crippling humiliation inflicted on each of the boys which have got steadily more excruciating as the show has progressed. Not that this is to everyone’s liking of course... as one commenter wrote beneath the trailer on YouTube:

“They always talk about clunge in this show, but only ever show male nudity – what’s the fucking point?”

Mmm. Well he’s probably not going to be wild about the new film then as the male nudity is cranked up a good couple of notches… ‘I get about as naked as I’ve ever been’, says Simon, ‘and for the first time you see actual penises. I think that’s a first. We’ve had a ball before, but never a whole penis. So we’ve moved up a level there. I mean, I’m not actually sure where else we could go now? There’s always inside I suppose… would that be worse? Inside? (He falls silent for a few moments of quiet contemplation) Yeah, that would probably be worse.’

Do you ever feel that essentially you’re the victim of an elaborate form of sexual bullying? ‘Yes exactly. I do genuinely believe that one of the main reasons behind a lot of the writers’ (Iain Morris and Damon Beesley) storylines is that fundamentally they just find it funny to ridicule and humiliate us.’ Do you ever say no to any of the things they ask you to do? ‘Oh yeah! All the time. And then they remind me that I have a contract that stipulates I have to do everything they say. That’s how it works really; we get sent a script, spend time going carefully over it, flagging up the things we’re not really comfortable with. And then three months later we shoot them anyway…’

‘I will say that I think the film is a lot less gross-out than many people will be expecting. Season Three of the TV show was much more extreme than the other two in terms of those big humiliating set pieces. But I think the film is back to what The Inbetweeners does best – it’s got a lot more heart to it. That’s something Iain and Damon realised they had to do when they were writing the screenplay. With a 24 minute episode it’s fine to make it all about the funny, but for a full-length feature film you need to have an actual, you know, plot. And I think that’s something they’ve really nailed. I don’t know if it was necessarily an inspiration for the writers, but I think the film this might ultimately be compared to is Superbad. One of my favourite moments from that film was the scene at the end where Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are having a sleepover and keep saying over and over again how much they love each other. I thought that was really sweet and gave the film so much more depth than it would have had otherwise and I think we do have comparable moments in The Inbetweeners film.  Put it this way, I’m no longer worried about people saying it’s just a long episode of the TV show. And if they do say that then they’re wrong…. So don’t say it!'

The film follows the gang as they head out to Malia for a post-school lads’ holiday. They spent a month in Mallorca shooting it earlier in the year. Did anything particularly mental go down while they were out there? “Oh yeah big time! One night I organised a *rather successful* pub quiz!(Bird once spent a summer working as a camp counselor in America and is, more than literally anyone else you will ever meet, an enthusiast for “organised fun”). ‘Filming was great actually, it was basically like being on a big holiday for a month. Also we had a cast that was double the size of the TV show and a much bigger crew so there were a lot of new friends to make.’ Is there any new talent we should be watching out for in the film? ‘Yeah all the new people are amazing. There’s a guy called Theo James – he’s an actual proper actor who’s been in things like Downton Abbey and the new Underworld film with Kate Beckinsale. His character is supposed to be quite scary and intimidating, but he still manages to make it really funny.’

Finally we ask Simon if he’s ever been on a lads-on-tour holiday himself and how it compared to the movie. ‘Yep, we went to Tenerife after school, 10 of us. It was called “The Big Bugger tour” sort of inspired by Big Brother, which was at the height of its cultural significance at the time, but with the word “Brother” replaced with “Bugger” which is obviously… ruder.’ Uh-huh, see what you did there. ‘We also got T-shirts printed up with our nicknames on the back: mine was “S-Dogg”, spelt with two g’s like Snoop. It was basically building on the fact that I’d spent a year in America when I was younger, so was seen as pretty hip on the street…’

Hang on, so you’re saying that out of all your friends, you were the most comparable to Snoop Dogg?



The Inbetweeners opens in cinemas on Wednesday.

A version of this interview also appears in the August issue of Notion Magazine.

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