Backstage: From Ben Cookson's chance meeting in the loos to the big screen, Ray Davies gets a say in who plays him, green on the red carpet and Richard E Grant keeps his clothes on


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The Independent Culture

It’s not on the red carpets of film festivals where the business side of filmmaking happens, but everywhere else – even the toilet. Just ask Ben Cookson, who found the key backer for his debut film, Almost Married, in a lavatory at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival.

“I had literally never been to Cannes, I didn’t know if I would get into the festival as my accreditation was pretty weak,” he tells me. “I had the script, and then I bumped into the producer Lionel Hicks, who I hadn’t seen in about three years, in a toilet in a bar at the festival.”

The rest is not just history, but an exercise in how novice  filmmakers can make their dreams come true. Cookson  knew that with limited resources he would have to plan  things carefully.

“I wrote it as a script to direct myself,” he says. “And I would literally ask myself every 10 pages, ‘if that was a short film, would  I be able to make it with limited means at my disposal – i.e. my using my mates’?”

Through contacts they found a casting agent, who managed to convince Philip McGinley (Game of Thrones) and Emily Atack (The Inbetweeners) to star. The entire thing was shot in just 18 days in the North East – a process that “nearly broke” Cookson. And he, along with Hicks, associate producer Steve Clark and other key crew members waived fees in exchange for being paid afterwards. As a result, the director has found himself living back with his family in Leicester and sofa-surfing with friends when in London for meetings.

And the toilet is not an entirely inappropriate metaphor for a comedy which tells the story of a man who comes back from his stag party with a sexually transmitted disease, and then has to face up to telling his girlfriend.

“Most adults of our generation have visited a sex clinic, once or twice and the first time you s*** yourself and think the worst, don’t you? Researching into that arena, effectively what the guys and girls at the clinic would do is they don’t get judgmental – they just give you the facts. And the fact is that their tests won’t cover you for anything that’s happened in the last three months – which, if you’re a paranoid bloke with a girlfriend, you’re going to stew on things, aren’t you?”

‘Almost Married’ is out in cinemas on 28 March

A Ray of light on who should play Davies

Forget dreaming about “who would play you in the story of your life” – Ray Davies has actually had a hand in choosing his star.

The Kinks singer joined director Edward Hall in picking John Dagleish to star in Sunny Afternoon, a musical about Davies’ early life. Joe Penhall wrote the book for the show, which features hits such as “You Really Got Me” and “Waterloo Sunset”, and Hall joked about leading a young cast in a play about a time that took place nearly 50 years ago. “I had to educate myself as not even I’m that old,” he jokes. “Seriously though, it was extraordinary how much of the music the younger cast members already knew.”

‘Sunny Afternoon’ opens at Hampstead Theatre  on 14 April

Green is the colour on this year's red carpet

Olga Kurylenko and Kellan Lutz are two of those appearing at the Oscars who have agreed to wear an outfit deemed “sustainable” by the contest Red Carpet Green Dress. Run by Suzy Amis Cameron (wife of James Cameron) it has a “strict sustainability criteria” for those at the Oscars, but that’s not the only green contest going on. A rival group, Green Carpet Challenge, is run by Livia Firth, wife of Colin, and counts Meryl Streep among its supporters. I look forward to seeing which one has more celebrity fans come this weekend’s awards, though I’m sure that both sides will see this as a competition where the planet is the winner.

Richard is not in a very revealing mood

Nudity seems to be de rigueur for those appearing in Lena Dunham’s superb hit show Girls. But guest-star Richard E Grant says he was given special dispensation to wear a vest when the script called for him to be topless. “I said, ‘Please, can you give me one of those undershirt things to wear? I don’t think the viewers should be subjected to  what I look like,’” he tells “And they agreed. I didn’t refuse outright, but I asked for clemency. For my own peace of mind. For the viewers not to go, ‘Aaaaah! My God!’”