To Harry Potter fans, he is the flame-haired best friend of the boy-wizard who has attracted an army of fans and dedicated websites. But when the actor Rupert Grint moved on from his boyish role as Ron Weasley at Hogwarts and signed up to star in a coming-of-age teen film featuring sex and drugs in Belfast, it did not put his fans off one iota.
After the independent film Cherrybomb, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, failed to attract a distributor, Grint’s supporters set up a campaign to petition for its cinematic release. Cinephiles from as far afield as Mexico and Los Angeles contacted The Little Film Company, its sales agent, to enquire about its release. And the “people power” campaign has now paid off.
Backed by a website petition and Facebook group boasting more than 10,000 supporters, including over 1,000 Britons, producers secured a major distributor in Britain. Details of the release, planned for early next year, will be announced this week. The Little Film Company is also in negotiation with an American distributor.
Grint said that he was delighted by the fighting spirit of his fans. “I am backing this campaign wholeheartedly,” he said. “I’m delighted by the huge support the film has already received on the official Facebook page and other sites on the web and am so grateful to my fans in particular, who have travelled the world to support the film at festivals and preview screenings.”
The drama also stars James Nesbitt, Kimberley Nixon – who appeared in Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, – and Robert Sheehan.
Set in post-Troubles Belfast, the film stars Grint as a Northern Irish teenager who takes drugs and is featured in intimate bedroom scenes with Nixon, roles far removed from his childlike turn in Harry Potter. The film’s poster shows him lying topless on a lilo, with the tagline: “Two guys. One girl. Game on.” Working on Cherrybomb “was a world away from Harry Potter and one I’ll never forget,” he said.
Robbie Little, the co-president of The Little Film Company, said the internet campaign unquestionably helped the film’s success in attracting a distributor. Earlier this year, he said, he was inundated by emails from people who had seen the film’s trailer online, and wanted to know when they could see it in their cinemas.
A Grint fansite called Ice Cream Man came up with the idea of an online campaign. When Little realised the level of interest it was attracting, he organised a Facebook presence as well.
“We were being contacted by people wanting to know when they could see it. They were, at the beginning, Rupert Grint fans, tracking what he was doing. We got an incredible amount of emails saying how cool the film looked and they loved the music. We reacted to the demand we saw, and set up the campaign. “It has helped to have an online campaign when talking to distributors,” he said.
Lisa Barros D’Sa, who co-directed the film with Glenn Leyburn, said she was astonished by the fervour of the fans who built up the momentum of the campaign. “It started off with Rupert. We have been astonished by it. Even when they heard we were shooting the film in Belfast last year, internet fan sites were interested in Rupert’s role,” she said.
Ms Barros D’Sa said she was delighted – and astonished – at how many of his followers made their way across oceans to see the film premiered in Berlin. “Some of them came from America to stand outside the premiere in Berlin,” he said.
She confirmed that there was a bedroom scene which featured Grint, and said “the world will see him in a different light”.
Aidan Elliott, an executive at Generator Entertainment, which produced the film, said it incorporated the use of text messaging and modern technology, which evidently appealed to the “Facebook generation” that helped its journey to the big screen.