Frank Cottrell Boyce & Danny Wallace: 'My daughter thought it was going to be Danny Boyle, and was very disappointed'

The pair met when writer and broadcaster Wallace asked former 'Brookside' scriptwriter Cottrell Boyce to write a script of his book, Join Me, in 2004

Danny Wallace, 38

Wallace (right in picture) is a writer and broadcaster whose books include 'Yes Man', which in 2008 was made into a film starring Jim Carrey. He lives in north London with his wife and two children

I first met Frank in 2004. We were brought together by someone who thought we might make a good team because we apparently had things in common, a similar outlook. I had just published a book, Join Me, which followed what happens when you put an advert in a paper and find like-minded souls.

It was a really overwhelming period of my life. Pre-Facebook, pre-MySpace, I'd somehow amassed this huge network of people, thousands of them, all of whom were linked by two things, really: a sense of humour, and wanting to be nice and to do good in the world.

The film rights were sold and Frank was to adapt the book into a screenplay. I would be on hand to watch him and help him come up with ideas. I went to meet him at his house in Liverpool, this huge, sprawling place filled with children, and it was like making an instant friend.

Join Me never got made into a film; it just didn't work. We kept in touch, though, and every so often he'd check in with me, sending me, for example, a book from the 1940s, convinced I would like it. He's good like that.

He does go to ground a lot, and months can go by when I won't hear from him. He really values his family time, and also getting stuck in to work. So we may lose touch for ages, then all of a sudden I'll get a call from him on my mobile, of all things, which is something I never thought would happen with Frank. It's a bit like suddenly getting a Facebook request from your great-grandmother.

I bumped into him in Charlotte Street, London, a while back. I hadn't seen him for about two years, so we had a lot of catching up to do. I asked him what he had been up to, and he told me he had been helping to write the opening Olympic ceremony with Danny Boyle. You can't compete, really, can you?

I really do think he is the kindest man, a heart on legs. He literally wouldn't hurt a fly. In fact, I find it impossible to imagine him with a rolled-up copy of The Beano chasing a fly around the house. No, he'd try to talk it out of the house, using storytelling. He's a very good storyteller, Frank, an inspiration to me. I started writing fiction for children because I've loved his books for kids so much, even more since I became a father myself. You can tell he is a good storyteller just by looking at his face, the impish, pixie-like expression, the sparkling eyes, the suggestion of fun.

He also happens to be the kind of man you would trust with your house keys. I do.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, 55

A former 'Brookside' scriptwriter, Cottrell Boyce is a writer of children's fiction and screenplays. His work includes 'Millions', which was filmed in 2004, directed by Danny Boyle. He lives in Liverpool with his wife and seven children

I was asked to do a script of Danny's book, Join Me, and he came up to Liverpool to meet with me. It was an intriguing book, very difficult to imagine how you might make it into a movie, – which was what made it so attractive.

We ended up knocking around together quite a lot, and inhabiting the whole online Join Me world. This was before Facebook, and Danny had managed to commandeer all these people all over the world into his club. It turned him into a kind of Highland clan chief, all these people swearing complete loyalty to him, complete devotion. He could command them to do things, nice things, and they would do it. For example, he would find out there was an old man in Wolverhampton who was lonely and liked KP Nuts. Then 15 people would appear at that man's doorstep with some KP Nuts for him. He was everybody's fairy godmother. It was fascinating to hang around with him during that time in his life.

He tried to get me to be part of the clan, of course. All I needed to submit, he explained, was a passport photograph. He was adamant; I refused. It probably accounts for the sexual tension in our relationship: I was never going to hand over the thing he most wanted.

Our friendship has endured ever since. He really took to the family. We had this big house full of kids, and I think he quite liked that. He was very avuncular, good at teasing the kids. And they were good at teasing him back.

I once went to pick him up from the station with one of my daughters. She asked me who Danny was, and I explained that he was a sort of comedian. She was only little at the time, and when he got off the train she was very disappointed. She told me she had thought it was going to be the other Danny, who she thought was much funnier – Danny Boyle. I never let him forget that: he's not as funny as Danny Boyle. It's a good stick to beat him with.

Before meeting him, I had never really knocked around with people who wrote books. I'd been to a few poetry readings – Seamus Heaney, Roger McGough, people like that – but watching Danny read is a different proposition altogether. He can work an audience really well. I've learnt from him how to tell an anecdote to a crowd.

I don't think success has changed Danny at all. He must be quite driven to be as successful as he is, but I haven't really seen that side of him. He just seems to be intent on having a good time, and he does that very well. He has taught me that being a writer doesn't necessarily simply mean sticking ideas down on a piece of paper. It can involve making things happen in the world. That's powerful.

'Hamish and the WorldStoppers' by Danny Wallace is published by Simon & Schuster Children's Books, priced £6.99. 'The Astounding Broccoli Boy' by Frank Cottrell Boyce, (£9.99, Macmillan Children's Books) will be published on 26 March

Comments