|Dancing Fool||Crocodile Shoes still fit after walk with Evita|
|SPENDER SPENT||New Series Attracts Spender Fans|
|HARD AS NAILS|
[The following article appeared in THE LISTENER (weekly New Zealand TV magazine), August 14, 1993] Jimmy Nail fans will be disappointed to learn that he's giving up his role as the tough, introverted cop in SPENDER. He's even thinking of giving up acting altogether. As he told the British TV TIMES, "I find it very hard to play a part, then take it off like a cheap suit and become Mr Normal, Mr Nice Guy. I haven't got the kInd of discipline where I can turn my emotion inside out and then just switch off. It affects me fairly profoundly and I don't like putting myself through that kind of mincer every day." Nail would like to develop a career as a director and writer. As well as starring in SPENDER, he was the writer and sometimes executive producer. In his next project, a musical drama series called CROCODILES SHOES, he also as the multiple roles of star, writer and producer. Though he hasn't lived in the north-east of England for years, Nail remains a Geordie at heart. SPENDER, he says, "was created with one eye on taking as much revenue and work to the north-east as I could. Over the three seasons we did 20 episodes at an average cost of something like 500,000 pounds each, so indirectly we took about 10 million pounds to the north-east. That's what I'm proud of." Not that the locals were grateful. Nail had his car nicked during the last series. [Am quoting this material from the incomplete episode guide prepared by KerrinJones@comp.uvw.ac.nz]. Go to top
[Credits: By John McKay, Canadian Press. Appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, Monday, October 16 , 1995] TORONTO - IT'S a face that looks, well, lived in. A lumpy nose pushed way over here. Droopy eyes. Shaggy, greasy hair. And my, that blue-collar Newcastle accent! Then there's the reputation for being a bit of a hard-drinking brute in his younger days. Even the name sounds tough, Jimmy Nail. Is this a TV hero? Well, apparently in the U.k. it is. And in the past year this gritty hit cop series Spender has developed something of a cult following on the Canadian cable channel Showcase. And for Spender fans, good news. Nail's new seven-part series, Crocodile Shoes, premieres Wednesday night on Showcase.
"Well, beauty's in the eye of the beholder." Nail suggests, when asked about his unorthodox looks. "Thankfully in Britain you get the gig on what you can do, not on how you look." One U.K. critic sail Nail's is a face that would look more handsome if viewed in the back of a spoon. Another said that the dialect was one you could file your fingernails on. But Nail dismisses Hollywood's penchant for casting beautiful people in starring roles, proposing that the "android" look is often a guise for troubles and imperfection underneath. "I'd like to think I'm more together on the inside." Together hardly describes it. Nail is being called England's new Renaissance Man. This for his ability to create, write, star in, and even sing the music for his projects. A soundtrack album of songs he wrote and recorded for Crocodile Shoes topped the U.K. charts. Crocodile Shoes tells the story of Jed Sheppard, a northeast working-class Geordie who operates a factory lathe. On the side, he writes and records hurtin' songs and dreams of being a star. When one of his home-made cassettes falls into the hands of an impressed London talent scout, Jed finds himself exposed to the sleaze and corruption of the big-city music industry. Will he make it to Nashville before his new agent self-destructs on cocaine, crime and sex? That agent, Adrian Lynn, is played to perfection by James Wilby, despite Wilby's genteel reputation in Merchant-Ivory-type costume dramas like Howard's End. His blond Edwardian elegance has had a grunge overhaul with the addition of rumpled sleepover suits and a three-day growth of beard. Audrey Cole, programming vice-president for Showcase, says their audience fully embraced Nail as Spender. "We got tremendous amount of mail and viewer inquires about... "there must be more, why aren't you showing the rest of it?" she says. Nail, 41, doesn't plan to produce new instalments of the 1992 series, but Showcase does plan to re-run the original 20 episodes later in the season. Like Spender, Crocodile Shoes is a warts-and-all look at the common man and at some of the seamier back-alley of life. Nail is cautious when asked if, like his Crocodile Shoes character, he has ambitions to crack the American entertainment market in a big way. He is, after all, now involved in his first major motion-picture role, co-starring with Madonna and Antonio Banderas in the musical Evita. "Hopefully it offers a very large window internationally." he says quietly. Go to top
[The following article appeared in the March 1996 edition of Scanorama, the SAS inflight magazine, pages 22-26. Author: Harold Von Kursk.] Jimmy Nail put violence and alcohol behind him to become a self-made star of television drama and music. Cinema could be next; he recently won a part in the movie project on the life of Eva Peron. Harold von Kursk gets to grips with Newcastle's second-best export after its famous Brown Ale. JIMMY NAIL WAS, in his teens, a wayward youth engaged in a life of petty crime and football hooliganism. In his twenties, alcholol transformed him into a menacing figure whose violent tendencies resulted in a six-month sentence in Strangeways Priosn (conviced of grievous bodily harm after a post-football match fight). "I was racing through life, utterly confused and angry," he expains. "I don't know if I was out of control; it was more like I felt frustrated with myself and everything I saw happening around me. I couldn't make sense of things. But then I began the process of civilizing myself and trying to become a decent human being. I'm still working on it." Nail has just finished recording a new album and is in the midst of writing the set set of episodes for this Crocodile Shoes TV series. Crocodile Shoes is a stylish, if slightly overcooked, seven-part drama about a Newcastle- born lathe-operator, Jed (Nail), bent on finding fame and fortune as a country-and-western singer. Fate intercedes when Jed is discovered by Ade (James Wiby), a seedy record-company executive with a heavy cocaine habit. Oscillating between Newcastle and London, Crocodile Shoes explores the underbelly of the music industry as Ade, his life collapsing around him, gives Jed a makeover and pushes him up the recording ladder. "A lot of my own character is filtered into Jed," says Nail. "But I think what really attracts people to him is that he projects a kind of working-class integrity in the way he tries to live. There's an honesty about him and an ability to distinguish what's real and what's artificial in life. The music business was a way to mirror these issues." The series draws heavily on Nail's own experiences as a struggling musician in the late 1970s. "Names were changed to protect the guitly, "laughs Nail. "All the characters are a potpourri of people I've known and there a lot of anecdotal references to things I actually witnessed. But what I wanted to show is how disillusioning the music industry, just like life, can be. The problem with the record business is that you have creative artists who don't have a clue about how the business is run - this makes it easy for them to be manipulated and robbed. Jed is a witness to the process." Nail's native Newcastle looms large in the series. It is a former mining, steel-making and shipbuilding city, located on England's north-east coast. "I'm very keen to keep Newcastle on the map, because there are too many people who have come out of there and owe the region something but who have decided for one reason or another to disown it. I'll always remain true to who I am and where I come from." Nail has come a long way since his days as the gruff Geordie (the British nickname for Newcastle natives) bricklayer in Auf Wiedersehen Pet a hugely successful BBC series from the early 1980s. When Nail's wife, Miriam, told him about an audition for a series about a gang of ex-patriate British construction workers in Germany, he showed up for him interview with a bad attitude, introducing himself with the legendary line: "Get your skates on because my car is double-parked on the yellow and I don't want to be here anyway." The producers immediately knew that this was the man they needed for their boorish brickie. The nation fell in love with Nail's character Oz, making it practically impossible for him to walk down the street without being mobbed. "I went from being totally unknown to getting stopped everytime I went out," recalls Nail. "I always wanted to be successful, but I have never wanted to become a celebrity. I never, ever, craved that. Even now I can't stand being recognized in the street. I just hate it when strangers come up and try to talk to me. I'm pathologically shy." But as much as Nail was unprepared for being thrust into the limelight, Pet was merely the first step. Over the course of the last ten years, Nail has emerged as a Geordie Renaissance man who has written, directed, produced and starred in two hit television series, the first being Spender (a highly inventive detective drama), followed by Crocodile Shoes. As a child, Nail had always nursed writing ambitions and wanted to teach English literature before the pressures of growing up in a tough Newcastle neighbourhood sidetracked him. "It's so odd. But it took me 15 years to finally figure out who I was. It's as if there was this huge gap in my life before I got involved with music and writing." Nail has what one might call a reputation in British media circles. He certainly looks like trouble with his melancholy expression and grim features. At 1.92 centimeters and 82 kilos, with dishevelled brown hair and a boxer's nose (broken five times), Nail has been know to vent his wrath on journalists who tread too harshly. Even his surname -- it was changed from Bradford after he stepped onto a 15-centimetre spike in a glass factory - suggests a violent persona. But growing up in the working-class community of Longbrenton, Jimmy Bradford, as he was then known, was forced to be tough. At school he quickly learned to counter violence with violence, which , coupled with a distinctly anti-authoritarian streak, turned him into a fearsome figure. He was disruptive, disobedient and frequently punished. He was expelled after setting fire to curtains in the main auditorium, became a leading member of a football supporters' gang called The Benders, and had a habit of "picking fights in bars with the nastist blokes I could find." His mother, Laura, was "brilliant, a salt-of -the-earth type", who read extensively and introduced Nail to literature. His father, also named Jimmy, had been a boxer and professional footballer until a second world war shrapnel wound hobbled him. As a child, Nail didn't get to know his father well as he would leave the house at 6:30 am for work and return at 9pm. "All I can remember about my dad is how he would sit up on the bed every morning and cough up phlegm for 15 minutes. That why I detest smoking so much." Nail worked first as a welder, then at a glass factory, and reached his lowest ebb when he was sent to prison. Upon his release, he was determined never to lose control of his life again. He understood his tough-guy behaviour was stupid and self-destructive, and it was around this time that he fell in love with his wife-to-be, Miriam, a student at Newcastle University. Nail and Miriam moved to London, where Nail went into property speculation. "My partner and I made a fortune renovating old properties and selling them on," recalls Nail. "Miriam and I must have moved 17 times in the space of two years. Of course, we had to bring builders down from the north-east as London ones are notoriously unreliable," says Nail, winking. But as fate would have it, Nail gave up on the property market to consummate his long- frustrated artistic aspirations. The Jimmy Nail I spoke to was the perfect gentleman, speaking calmly, and responding to every question frankly. Has the Nail gone soft? "I think people who know me will have noticed that ever since I stopped drinking eight years ago I've become less confrontational," he says. "That's been the greatest revolution in my life. Alcholol did wicked things to me, it made me mean and miserable. One morning I woke up with a deadly hangover and I said 'That's enough of that.' I wanted to progress my TV delevopment company which meant sitting down at a table with TV executives discussing million pound deals. You don't want to go to those meetings with a buzz in your head." It took eight years for Nail to get the BBC to front the $4.7 m needed to bring Crocodile Shoes to life. Music has always been an improtant part of his life. At 16, he began gigging with a variety of rhythm and blues bands and would even show up on stage wearing his sister's frock and Doc Marten boots as a frontman for the King Crabs, a punk group. "I was incredibly bad," Nail recalls. No one expected Nail's musical career would ever take off, until Auf Wiedersehen Pet gave him the recognition he needed. But acting wasn't enough to satisfy him. He began learning the technical side of the British televison industry and was determined to write and produce his own series. That led to Spender, where he played a dour undercover cop returning to his native Newcastle from London. "Spender" not only showed that Nail had a keen sense for dialogue and gritty realism, but his down-to-earth manner and eccentric looks turned him into a rough-hewn sex symbol. The serial would play for three seasons until Nail decided to retire the role in 1993 "before the concept became stale. Television tends to gobble you up and you've got only so many tricks in your bag before it spits you out." During the last ten years, Nail has recorded several hit singles, culminating with last year's million-seeling sountrack album from Crocodile Shoes. "I like the fact that there's an organic link between the show and the music," says Nail. "I've written nine of the songs and was given two by Paddy McAloon of (British pop band) Prefab Sprout." Considering British music is in the middle of a spectacular pop revival, the phenomenal appeal of Nail's Netcastle-meets-Nashville sound, with a voice that is part Kenny Rogers, part Rob Stewart, makes his success all the more impressive. At age 41, Nail is old enough to have fathered members of groups like Blur and Oasis. Yet last summer he toured Britain, playing to capacity houses and climaxing with a wild performance for 10,000 fans at London's Wembley Arena. "It was very moving for me to walk out on stage at Wembley," he explains, "because of all the heavy football history the place represents." Fortunately, he didn't beat anybody up after the gig. Refocusing on the present, he remembers he's got things to do. "Right now I've got to keep writing and working on the next Crocodile Shoes. When it comes down to it, writing is the thing that puts me in touch with myself and how I feel about life. It's all part of my civilizing process." [Harold Von Kursk: is a German-Canadian film-writer. He covers the American and European cinema and recently directed his first feature. He lives in Munich.]