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John van de Ruit

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Potato Movie and other musings (Plus: the actor who will play Spud revealed!)

It’s been a while since I last indulged in a spot of blogging – 2009 in fact. I trust you all had a spankingly good holiday – although no doubt the memory of which has long receded in the mind. My festive season was a chaotic affair, mainly due to the fact that Jules and I moved into a new house. It was sad to leave Wombat’s flat and Wombat’s ghost behind, but neither seemed to take offence at our hasty exit. Wombat’s flat (as it is now known) is where I have done much of my Spud writing and it still has Catch 22 pasted to the wall of the study. Now faded and yellow and yet still brilliant.

Three days after moving into the new house, I received the screamworthy news that John Cleese had officially signed on the dotted line to play The Guv. Five days after that, and following months of torture, I learned that the financing had finally been secured and the film was green-lit to begin shooting in March. After years of uncertainty and one step forward, two steps back, Spud the Movie has galloped past the point of no return. A 100% privately financed film in South Africa is a rarity, and my endless thanks and gratitude go out to those who have taken the risk in the name of faith, hope and Spud. I wish for your investment to be returned tenfold. Now, for those of you who aren’t that well versed in the lingo of film, being privately financed means that creative control and all creative decisions remain in the hands of the producers rather than film studio execs, or even worse, a pushy financier who once starred in a house play at school. That means we live or die by the creative decisions we are making right now, and will continue to make for months. That all adds up to more excitement, less sleep and less fingernails.

Speaking of choices, final casting for the teen roles is imminent, although I can officially announce that the role of Spud will be played by the phenomenally talented Troye Sivan, star of Wolverine X-Men Origins. But returning to the search for the teen characters – what an intriguing process it has been. It evolved into a nationwide talent search that opened the door of possibility to many who would never have had a shot at auditioning for a film before. To call the process thorough would be an understatement and I thank you all for your patience and courage in giving it a shot. I could not tell you how many audition tapes we have watched and re-watched. Debates and discussions have zigzagged between Cape Town, Jo’burg and Durban as we gradually filed the actors down to the shortlist for each character. For those that are cast, congratulations and break a leg, to those that got so close, my commiserations – take strength in the knowledge that you got this far and the creative spirit resides in you all.

As you can imagine with all the film tumult, I have had little time to cast my mind forward to the final book in the series. I’m often asked when the final Spud might magically appear in a bookstore round the corner – unfortunately I cannot answer that yet. Rest assured, as soon as I know, I’ll let you know.

Be chilled, and be happy.



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