THREE years ago they thought it was all over.
Then The Inbetweeners movie opened in cinemas and after a record £13m opening weekend showed its staying power by raking in more than £45million at the UK box office.
The young actors who played Rudge Park Comprehensive schoolboys Will, Simon, Jay and Neil thought that small-to-large screen transfer for the C4 hit would be their farewell as they’d left school. The show’s creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley thought otherwise feeling there was still someewhere to go with the characters – Australia, the setting for The Inbetweeners 2.
The cast were suspicious and unsure about continuing the story. “We wanted to do something we’re proud of. So many sequels are the same story as the first film and just repeat jokes. We didn’t want to do that,” says Simon Bird, who plays hapless outsider Will.
James Buckley, alias cocky and boasting Jay, says that after three years they still talk to each other a lot and are very close, and miss not doing the Inbetweeners together. “Then the writers came up with an idea we all fell in love with and we thought, maybe…” he recalls.
“People were still asking three years later if we’d do another film. If it wasn’t for the fact that we have such passionate fans – strangers in the street come up and say please do another one – then we’d never have done it.
“There were selfish reasons for doing it, I suppose, in that we wanted to spend time with each other because we enjoy that. But if it hadn’t been for the fact we have amazing fans, this film would never have happened. So in a way it’s thanks to them because filming Inbetweeners 2 has been the best experience, I’ve had do much fun doing it.”
When I interviewed them before the first film opened they were adamant it was the end of the road for the Inbetweeners. Blake Harrison, alias Neil, genuinely believed that, saying that if there were any cynical plans to just cash in on its success they’d have done a second film sooner.
He too puts the sequel down to fan pressure and a brilliant script which sees the gang head off down under on a gap year trip.
“The reasons not to do it became less and less,” he says. Quite what they get up to in Australia is under wraps until Wednesday night’s world premiere in London but if audiences have as good a time watching as they had making the film, we’re in for plenty of laughs.
Getting back into Inbetweeners mode was “oddly easy”, says Harrison partly because the first film was the biggest thing any of them had ever been in and they bonded through the experience. “You’re pitched into the unknown together. Some sort of bond was formed that still seems to be there when we come back together. It’s weird, it just clicks back on.
“It’s different to any other set I’ve been on. The behaviour and things that happen on an Inbetweeners set wouldn’t fly on any other set I’ve been on. You can get away with it because you’re like, ‘oh, if we mess about and are really immature that’s good because we’re getting into character’. You can’t hide behind that on any other show.
“The attitude on set is to try to wind each other up and make each other laugh. That stems from the writers as well – from day one they set up an atmosphere that if it’s funny, it’s fine.”
Bird says they all got along well straight away when the TV series began. “Then Iain and Damon set the tone for how we behave together. The banter is very juvenile and so are the pranks. It’s a great excuse to behave like a child.”
Joe Thomas, alias Simon, recalls the writers getting told off by the AD (assistant director) at the end of the first week’s shooting on the first film for winding up the actors too much. “It’s much like when you go home to your parents’ house and immediately behave like a child. The Inbetweeners is much like that – it’s an infantile regression”.
The tomfoolery didn’t let up on the second film, with actors and directors the victim of good-natured wind-ups, whether it’s Harrison’s shoes (he became Velcro Boy after wearing trainers fastened with Velcro not laces) or a running joke that Buckley plays on Thomas
“You often find Joe with his beak in a book so whenever Joe is in the midst of reading a book, James finds some way to ruin it,” explains Bird. “On the first film James carefully cut out the last page and then Iain ate the page. So we built on that for this sequel.”
At which point prankster Buckley takes up the story. “I took a marker pen and blacked out every fourth or fifth word in the last chapter. I just left little bits in there that made no sense,” he explains.
“He was upset about that so he bought a new book. I stole it, took it away and read the last chapter and then slowly as the afternoon wore on I told him bit-by-bit what went on in the final chapter.”
What people in the street usually want to know is how much are the quartet like the schoolboys they play on screen. “The relationship between the four of us is very similar to the relationship between the four characters but as people we’re not necessarily that similar,” suggests Bird.
“Obviously these characters have our faces and our voices, and will have some quirks and characteristics that we have. But Blake definitely isn’t like Neil, James is not like Jay. There are probably bits of me that are like Will and bits of Joe that are like Simon but that’s because Simon is most normal character. It’s always a difficult question to answer that.”
Buckley, who’s married with two children, adds “People really want us to be like our characters so most are disappointed, especially when they meet me. They think they’re going to meet this mental, sex-obsessed pervert.
“They get a shock when they ask me for a photo and I say it’ll have to be quick as I’m dropping off the laundry and have to get back to my wife and kids. I can see a bit of their soul die.”
Now the question that must be asked is this: is this new film that last we’re going to see of The Inbetweeners? “As far as we’re concerned this is definitely the end because basically the writers have said to us, ‘we’ve no more ideas’.” says Harrison.
“So this is the end … although I don’t like to say definitely one way or the other”.
The Inbetweeners 2 (15) is released in cinemas on Wednesday.