A film about the credit crunch set in a scrapyard in Liverpool? The obvious fellow to walk the Cannes red carpet and help his movie-making chums with a little publicity has to be the Scouse midfielder and millionaire Steven Gerrard.
After attending the A-list after-party for Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds premiere, the footballer made time to support his old school friends on the Croisette.
Gerrard left film critics scratching their heads when he turned up at the Palais des Festivals premiere of the Liverpool-based comedy Charlie Noades RIP – a slice of Mersey by the Riviera. The movie was penned by Neil Fitzmaurice, the Liverpudlian twice Bafta-nominated co-writer of the television comedy series Phoenix Nights. Its budget was just £350,000 (an independent film of its kind is usually made on about £3m), and was partly shot in a scrapyard in Prescott.
Gerrard's presence raised the profile of the frugal project, which could arguably have slipped below the radar, among the hundreds of other small-budget films vying for attention – and distributors – at Cannes.
Fitzmaurice wrote the screenplay nine years ago but funding problems meant filming did not start until 2007, he said.
Its cast of British comedy stalwarts includes John Thomson, of Cold Feet and The Fast Show; John Henshaw, who features in Ken Loach's Palme D'or-nominated film Looking for Eric, and Phoenix Nights alumni Justin Moorhouse and Dave Spikey. Ian McCullough, of Echo and the Bunnymen, makes a cameo appearance.
Fitzmaurice said he had been inspired to write about "people struggling to make a living and relying on their loved ones to get through through... It's the 'band of misfits' idea and they've hit rock bottom. There's very northern humour".
Gerrard had not invested in the project, sources said. Fitzmaurice commented: "He has come to support us. He is a friend and he knows how important it is to us."
The central character, Steve Parr, works in the family business "Parr's Scrap and Salvage" yard, owned by his father Les. Steve is determined to transform the failing yard into a success, and begins a search for hidden gold rumoured to have been hidden nearby.
Fitzmaurice has won a British Comedy Award for his work on the show That Peter Kay Thing and his acting credits include roles in The Office, Peep Show and the recent ITV drama Mobile. His brother, Tony, a producer at North Star Productions, which made the film, described it as a rags-to-riches tale that followed on from their first feature film Going Off Big Time (2000), which was nominated for four British Independent Film Makers Awards.