On your marks
“I was always someone who said no,” he recalls. “I never had any problem saying ‘no, I’m going off to do this’ or ‘no, I have to run’. That’s the only way you can get through your teens without getting distracted. You have to know your priorities and stay in control.”
Unsurprisingly, Clarke has never been drunk, drugged or merry. “I’m constantly doing stuff,” he says. “But in a way that is my downtime because I enjoy what I do. I still have time to sit down with my sons or take them to the cinema. But because I love writing, I never find it a chore. I’m on it. But I don’t necessarily think of myself as a workaholic. I’m sitting here taking about Fast Girls but in my head I’m four films down the line.”
He found work as gym instructor alongside the aerobics-instructor-turned-playwright Rikki Beadle-Blair and Clarke’s future wife, Iris.
“I wanted to be an actor since I was five,” he says. “I don’t know why. It’s really weird because I have a four-year-old at home and the idea that he’d know what he wanted to do for a living is crazy. We couldn’t afford drama school, but I just kept working toward it anyway. If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen, whether you’ve been to drama school or not. Whether you’re working in a gym or not.”
Clarke had already made it as a Doctor Who regular and won the 2003 Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer when he set his sights on the big screen. Sadly, the young actor soon found that the British film industry wasn’t making the kind of movies that he wanted to see – or that he was likely to find work on. He eventually bypassed the system by writing his own screenplays and struck out on his own with Kidulthood, a teenage misfits drama. Adulthood, a 2008 follow-up, grossed £3.4 million in the UK and beat out Sex and the City 2’s opening weekend take. Clarke won a Bafta for his efforts.
“There are a lot of films out there that make things hard for themselves,” says the 36-year-old. “See there’s this goat and the goat can’t walk and there’s a goat competition and the entire village comes out and the goat loses. You can’t sell goat movies. And that’s fine. I don’t think we should be making only commercial films. But it’s weird. I did find myself agreeing with David Cameron a few months ago when he talked about making quality unpopular films. Ultimately, films are supposed to entertain people. I like genre films. There is too much money getting handed over to goat films and not enough going to new people coming up who want to make something new and exciting.”
In a sector that likes to wash dishes in Ken Loach-brand kitchen sinks, Clarke dares to be different.
“What I’m trying to do is to make exciting films,” he says. “I want you to leave the cinema and think, man, that was entertaining. When I was a kid and I left the cinema after Indiana Jones or Star Wars, I’d be like ‘I’m Luke. I’m Han Solo. I got a light sabre. I’m just escaping the rolling boulder.’ To me, that’s what its all about. It’s inspiring someone to pick up an imaginary sabre. It’s smiling because you thought they were going to lose but then they won. I don’t see that making popular forms is a bad thing or bad ambition to have.”