Actor Richard Mason was flogging hot dogs and making ‘awful lattes’ when he got the call about independent film Scott and Sid. We caught up with him ahead of its release this month
Back in the day, a teacher told Richard Mason he should be a plumber, so he could earn some money and support a family which at 15 felt a bit premature! When he told his family he wanted to be an actor they laughed and pondered how long it would last. Now, with Oscar-winning short film Stuttered under his belt, a stint on daytime TV’s Doctors and a feature film due out this month, the working-class lad from Halesowen is doing alright. Although, if Steven McKnight is reading this, an audition for Peaky Blinders would be grand!
Other than performing for his nan and her friends, Richard wasn’t into acting as a boy. In fact, the thought of the dreaded school play was toe-curling to him. School generally was something to be endured and Richard’s loathing of the place could well have pushed him down an acting path. He recalls: “My educational background was pretty much sitting at the back of the classroom, not talking and staring out the window. I hated school, I had no friends and I knew I had to break into an entirely new place.”
Having trained with Birmingham City FC’s youth squad until injury took its toll, Richard moved to London to pursue an acting career and won a scholarship to the Giles Foreman Centre where he studied for three years. “I just packed up and moved to London. It was thrilling. I felt alive for the first time,” he says.
BILLY BIG BOLLOCKS
Richard thought he’d sit in Piccadilly Circus and wait for the world to take him in. “Looking back, I simply turned up in London and had no idea of this city. Then, it was a case of just being available and open to opportunity. There are so many key moments that led onto something else, I believe everything I saw and did, good and bad, had a knock-on effect and helped me find my base here and grow up a little bit. I was a bit of a livewire when I first arrived!”
Richard doesn’t have great memories from before he left the region and says his favourite part of Birmingham is the train out of it! He recalls nights out in Brum when he was 18 where he’d be on Broad Street playing at being ‘Billy Big Bollocks’, so the move to London felt fresh and new.
When feature film Scott and Sid came along, Richard jumped at the chance. Due out this month, Scott and Sid is an independent film based on a true story of triumph against adversity, about friendship and coming-of-age as two mates navigate the distance from dream to reality and never succumbing to an ordinary life – whatever that is.
Richard plays Scott, an unloved foster child who has been expelled from multiple schools, is rootless and uncontainable alongside fellow Midlander, Tom Blyth who plays Sid. Richard and Tom lived with the real-life Scott (Elliot) and Sid (Sadowskyi) – who also wrote, produced and directed the film – in York for weeks prior to filming to get to know them and their lives. The film, and in particular Scott’s character, appealed to Richard. He says: “I was attracted at how loose Scott was and how Scott and Sid went into something with an attitude of both love and don’t give a shit. Risk taking is something that has always attracted me.”
GENUINE AND REAL
Scott Elliott and Sid Sadowskyj had never written, produced or directed a film before and the audition process was less than conventional, so Richard took quite a punt, but just felt it was right. After sending an audition tape Richard got a call from the pair who wanted to meet him. Richard naturally expected a standard audition.
“I met Scott in Covent Garden and I was looking around for a man in his late forties I presumed. How wrong I was! Scott said, ‘tell me a restaurant you want to eat in.’ I could barely afford to ever eat out, so I had no idea where to go.” The meeting went well and shortly afterwards he travelled to York to meet Sid and spent the weekend there.
“It was the most unusual casting session I think I’ve ever had, yet by far the most real and genuine.” This is something that Richard swears by. Whether it’s film, TV or stage, he must feel he’s working with great people who believe in what they’re doing otherwise, ‘what’s the point?’
Of filming Scott and Sid, Richard recalls: “We were filming in a beautiful part of the country. I’d never been to York before and spending three months with such artistic people was great.” Producer Sid says: “Richard is definitely a name to look out for. He has a great head on his shoulders, this is just the start for him.”
Richard’s heroes include namesakes Richard Burton and Richard Harris along with Oliver Reed. He enthuses: “They were the greats, I tend to want to associate myself with hell-raisers. They were so much more than just actors as you always got such a humanity from them. And that’s what I aspire to, being able to be intimate and tell stories.” And not plumbing!