Luke Treadaway - A rock'n'roll actor with all the right connections
His twin is a star and he's handcuffed to a woman in a new film. Charlotte Cripps meets Luke Treadaway, a man of many links
Friday 09 September 2011
Luke Treadaway, 26, is the star of You Instead, a new rock'n'roll romcom about two feuding pop stars handcuffed together by accident for 24 hours at a music festival. Treadaway made his screen debut in 2005 in Brothers of the Head, in which he plays the singer of a band, conjoined to his real-life twin brother, Harry, so being attached to his co-star is not a new experience.
Filmed over four-and-a-half days at Scotland's T in the Park festival in 2010, You Instead mixes in live footage to give the film an authentic festival feel, with plenty of action set against a backdrop of mud, portaloos, and thousands of people partying to live music. "There is a whole load of reality going on in the background, so it has this documentary look to it but it's also got this romantic comedy storyline running through it," says Treadaway. "But hopefully you believe these are real people in real situations as well."
Treadaway plays the heartthrob lead singer, Adam, in a Californian electro-pop duo called The Make, who gets handcuffed to feisty girl-band member Morello of The Dirty Pinks, played by Natalia Tena, who also played half-blood witch Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter film series. A prophet handcuffs them together at the beginning of the film after an altercation to teach them a lesson about love.
For Treadaway, this is a far more light-hearted role than being attached to his co-star twin for their big-screen debut, in what must have been a claustrophobic experience. They were joined by harnesses and prosthetics – including a five-inch bridge of flesh linking their chests together – for their roles as conjoined twins turned into the novelty rock band The Bang Bang. "It was both amazing and terrifying for our parents at the premiere," recalls Treadaway. "They had to watch Harry and I joined together and tear each other apart and go down a dark spiral of drink, drugs and depression. I think it was quite hard for them to watch us for the first time on the big screen."
In his latest film, the handcuffed couple are at each other's throats at the festival where they are due to perform, but try to get through the weekend as best they can. Tensions are high between them, especially as both are accompanied by partners, which makes spending the night together in a yurt during one scene very tricky.
To complicate matters further, Treadaway's real-life girlfriend is the actress Ruta Gedmintas, who in You Instead plays his supermodel girlfriend, Lake – she is most put out by her boyfriend being handcuffed to another woman. She also starred as Henry V111's mistress Elizabeth Blount in the hit drama The Tudors, alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
By the time the handcuffed pair fall in love – Adam, with his shades and flying jacket, and Morello, with her queen of cool boyish manner – it is clear this is a feel-good movie, especially when she surfs through the crowd to meet him on the main stage. "It's not an original story, two people being antagonised by each other while trapped together in a situation – take The 39 Steps – and then realising they have a lot more in common than they think. But what makes this film unique is that it is set against a genuine backdrop of a music festival," says Treadaway.
The fake performances by the The Make and The Dirty Pinks were filmed on stage the day before the festival opened. "It looks like I'm performing to 80,000 people because of the way it is edited, but really it was just to a field," says Treadaway.
And during the soundcheck for The Proclaimers' performance on the main stage in 2010 – coincidentally, the Scottish band consists of twins Charlie and Craig Reid – they were allowed to film the scene in which the handcuffed pop stars storm the stage to ask the crowd for bolt-cutters. "After that I had festival-goers coming up to me saying, 'I know you! It's Adam of The Make!'" says Treadaway. "They didn't know we weren't a real band but happy accidents like this were kept in the film."
Treadaway, who sings, plays guitar and is forming a band in real life, had already written the song "You Instead", which he performs in the film, two months before he got the role. "David Mackenzie [the director] asked me to bring my guitar along to the audition and then I ended up performing 'You Instead' in the film. Six months later the film title had changed from In the Park to You Instead," he says, clearly amazed by the chain of events.
Two teams were formed to produce the sounds of the two bands. Eugene Kelly, founder of the Glasgow band The Vaselines, worked closely with Treadaway and Matthew Baynton, who plays Tyko, his bandmate, and who also appeared in Clint Eastwood's Hereafter and played Deano in Gavin and Stacey. All the tracks featured in the film are written by Kelly or Treadaway. "We went for something between MGMT and the Editors crossed with some Eighties synth bands thrown in," says Treadaway.
The Glasgow-based musician Brian McAlpine worked with The Dirty Pinks, helping to create a rockier edge to their sound. Performing comes naturally to Tena; in real life, she is the lead singer and accordion player in the London band Molotov Jukebox.
The cast and film crew slept in yurts in the artist's compound backstage. "We had to keep out of Jay-Z's way while filming scenes backstage," recalls Treadaway. "We were filming in the VIP lounge and hospitality tent. I bumped into La Roux, who I know – that was nice. But most of the challenges were filming outside in the festival because we couldn't control anything. We were literally out there with the festival. We tried to be surreptitious about it and get the camera out at the last minute, shoot it and move on."
The son of an architect and a teacher, Treadaway grew up in the idyllic village of Sandford in Devon, along with Harry and their older brother, Sam, spending their childhoods "exploring fields and woods". His mother was a primary school teacher in their village: "She had the misfortune of having to teach both myself and Harry for a year in the same class. I pity her, I commend her, and salute her," he says, as if he is on stage.
They attended a local comprehensive in Crediton, Devon, and formed a band, both of them singing and playing guitar, before training at LAMDA in the same year. Socially, they have been labelled the "Treadaway Set", which includes the playwright Polly Stenham, Doctor Who's Matt Smith, and the actress Felicity Jones, as well as Toby Kebbell and Carey Mulligan.
But mentioning his twin status is a sensitive subject that only causes irritation. "Other actors don't get asked about their brothers or sisters, so why do I have to always answer questions about having a twin brother?" he asks. "I suppose it's interesting for everybody other than me."
The brothers starred once more together as twins in Over There by Mark Ravenhill in 2010 at the Royal Court, a play about two brothers raised on different sides of the Iron Curtain, who meet as adults. Ravenhill's casting of real-life twins in the same play was, he said, "probably a unique experiment in theatre history". Treadaway is not keen about acting with his brother, though: "It's not the easiest thing in the world to act with Harry – we are very close. I'm not saying it won't ever happen again but it's best to work with other people. There are no professional boundaries at which to stop when you act with a sibling."
After drama school, Treadaway followed a career in theatre, appearing in the National's Saint Joan and War Horse in 2007, then in Philip Ridley's brutal kitchen-sink drama Piranha Heights at the Soho Theatre in 2008, in which he played the sadistic teenager Garth. Harry moved towards film roles such as the Joy Division drummer Stephen Morris in Anton Corbijn's 2007 biographical film Control.
But more recently Luke Treadaway has had a string of film roles: Prokopion in the 2010 blockbuster remake of Clash of the Titans, and Brewis, a yuppie stoner in Joe Cornish's recent film Attack the Block.
He will soon be seen in the costume drama Cheerful Weather for the Wedding, as a star-crossed lover alongside Felicity Jones. He also plays a young UN peacekeeper in Bosnia, alongside Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave, in The Whistleblower. He's also finished filming St George's Day, a London-set diamond-heist thriller directed by Frank Harper, of which he says: "It was great to play an ex-marine cockney thug. All my roles are as different as the colours of the rainbow."
'You Instead' opens nationwide on 16 September
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