Nick Moran talks to the 405 about his directorial debut Telstar Nick Moran shot to fame back in 1998 in Guy Ritchie’s gangster flick Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He’s shared screen time with performers as varied as John Hurt and Chesney Hawkes, and over the past decade has enjoyed a successful stage career in the West End, starring in productions of Look Back in Anger, The Countess and Four Nights in Knaresborough. Moran became fascinated with the story of independent record producer Joe Meek back in the mid nineties after seeing plaque at the site of Meek’s former flat turned studio on Holloway Road, London. Meek was the musical pioneer behind hits Have I the Right?, Johnny Remember Me and most famously Telstar, the first record by a British band to top the US charts. The song, recorded by The Tornados, was released in 1962. Meek also famously turned down The Beatles no less than four times, as well as the opportunity to work with then-unknowns David Bowie and Rod Stewart. His rise to fame ended in a descent into debt, paranoia and depression, compounded by his being gay at a time when homosexuality was still illegal. Meek murdered his landlady Violet Shenton before turning the gun on himself on 3 February 1967, aged 37 and eight years to the day after his musical hero, Buddy Holly. Moran co-wrote the stage play of Meek’s life with James Hicks, which opened at the New Ambassadors Theatre in 2005. Leading man Con O’Neill reprises the role of Meek in this movie adaptation, alongside real life rockers Carl Barat, Justin Hawkins as well as Kevin Spacey, James Corden and Ralf Little. In his directorial debut, Moran hopes to reinvigorate some interest in this iconic but often overlooked figure from Britain’s musical past. How different is Telstar the movie from Telstar the stage play? The film is written as a film, not as an adaptation of the play. It was my pet project but after Lock Stock, it went on the back burner. It started out as a play was because I thought that, as an impoverished under-employed actor I could probably get enough money to put it on over a pub somewhere. But it was always in my mind that it would eventually be a film. What drew you to Joe Meek? The Joe Meek story is something I stumbled upon, and I got rather obsessed with the humanity behind it. This is the story of a man who creates his own tragic device using the same tools that made him a success. The drive, compulsion, energy and the vigor that made him a success became the pigheadedness and the arrogance that led to his downfall. Joe’s story is like a Greek tragedy, it’s a story for every man. Whether you think the stuff is sordid or whether you think it’s justified, it’s a story of a man’s journey into loneliness and despair. That’s something everybody can identify with. But the thing about tragedy is there tends to be a funny side to it as well. This guy turned down The Beatles four times because he thought they were rubbish. The man ended up penniless and he blew his own brains out but The Beatles had knocked on his door four times. We know what should have happened. Has being an actor helped you as a director? The advantage is that I have a fast-track communication with the actors. You can say things to an actor that he needs to hear and you know it’s going to make his performance rock. That’s the benefit of having 18 years of insight. Would you say this is a very British story? I would say so, but we are the richest nation on earth when it comes to culture. Going back to when men used to wear make-up and powdered wigs every page of our history and culture has some sort of drama in it. Right up to the idiosyncrasies of contemporary British life. There is more to us than gangsters and footballers and any other generic stuff that we try to make movies about to export. This is a film about a period in British history. The part of the 1960s that was still in black and white. Before The Beatles came along, and everything went Technicolour. It’s a part of Britain’s history, and certainly of London’s history, that is great to tap into. Have you got sick of the song Telstar yet? Oh, good God, yes, but the key thing about Telstar is not so much the song as the achievement. Three million people bought that record in 1962 and that’s an awful lot compared to how many record players there were. It couldn’t have been a bigger success. The record was years ahead of its time in its production, the way it was mixed and engineered, and it was recorded in someone’s kitchen. There are some very, very good Joe Meek tunes that we have been lucky enough to discover. They’re peppered throughout the film and some of the tunes are so cool. In my opinion, Joe had a problem recognizing a good tune from a shit one. He really couldn’t tell the difference, but when you hear them now and you have a modern day filter on they’re great. Meek was doing prog stuff and mental noises long before Pink Floyd came along. We’re getting some contemporary bands to record some of the tunes that are brilliant and obvious hits. Maybe we can create a little resurgence for his work. Competition now closed!! The 405 has five copies of the Telstar soundtrack to give away, all you have to do is answer the following question. Which band recorded Telstar with Joe Meek? a) The Honeycombs b) The Tornados c) The Outlaws. Competition now closed!!! Telstar is out in cinemas now www.telstarthemovie.co.uk