As Nick Tilsley, actor Ben Price may be used to sparring with on-screen sibling David Platt, as played by Jack P Shepherd. But, behind the scenes, the pair have joined forces for a new film set in an unsettling future.
Written and directed by Price, Taubman stars Shepherd as an officious bureaucrat trying to stymie the efforts of a Jewish piano tuner (former Corrie star Ian Puleston-Davies) to get a passport.
But as their war of words escalates, the balance of power shifts and starts to break down. Here, Jack P Shepherd reveals all about being directed by his Coronation Street brother, while Ben Price discusses why he chose this story as a follow up to his acclaimed debut I’m Sorry to Tell You.
So, tell me where the idea for this film came from?
Ben: Well, Jack’s mum likes to look into people’s family trees and she discovered that a whole line of my family had changed their names from Taubman to Topman. And then my wife also discovered that her grandmother had hidden her religion and changed her name. And it got me wondering about how scared you’d have to be to change your identity and wipe out your religion. And that got me thinking about a scenario in the future where it wasn’t going to be enough to demonstrate what was on your passport – you also had to show what your heritage was going back through the generations. It all tied in with what we’re seeing now about travel becoming more restricted. And then I created this snotty little interviewer that I thought would be perfect for Jack to play.
Jack: Yes, my character is a bit of a s**t. He’s a bit weird. You don’t know why he’s being so officious but you’re interested in him. And, then, by the end you do feel sorry for him because of this shift in power. I don’t think, though, that Ben had that twist planned out at the beginning…
Ben: No, initially, I couldn’t figure out an ending. And then I realised that both the characters were Jewish and that they’d both been fighting a system that had marginalised them.
How easy was it to find time to rehearse?
Jack: For a while, we couldn’t find the time at all. Ian [Puleston-Davies] was gearing up for his exit storyline at Corrie. Ben and I had big plotlines too, so it was difficult. In the end, we decided to get permission from ITV to use space at the studios once everyone else had gone home. So they’d all leave at 7pm, we’d rehearse until midnight, go home to learn our Coronation Street lines and then come in the next day to do our actual jobs. But it was fun, interesting work and we had a lot of laughs doing it.
Ben: Jack was very up for it, so all credit to him. Believe me, Jack wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t want to. And I wouldn’t have put him in it if I didn’t think he could do it. And it’s testament to him how amazing he is in the film and how different to David. With his hair and his costume and his manner. I wanted him to understand that this film will be entered for festivals in, for instance, America and Germany – they won’t know David Platt. They’ll only be seeing him as an actor.
What are the differences between making this and doing an episode of Corrie together?
Ben: Jack understands Coronation Street really well and he knows that you sometimes have to sell the cliffhanger, so that people come back for the next episode. But with the movie, there is no part two. You’re leaving the viewer to make up their own minds. And Jack was really up for taking the time to let this script breathe. I kept saying to him, “don’t say the line! You can leave a pause!”. With Corrie, you’re used to making very quick decisions, but with the film we had the time to rehearse.
Jack: Yes, you’d never get away with a nine-second pause on Corrie. You have to just speed it along. So it was a relief that we could do basically what the hell we wanted. Now, there’s a scene at the end where I have the tables turned on me and I almost start to cry. And because I’m so used to Corrie’s cameras not picking up the tears in your eyes, I felt like I had to give it the full guns, so that everyone could see it. When we’d done a take, I felt like I needed to go again. But Ben insisted that he’d seen everything he needed to and that I should trust him. And he was right.
How long did it take to edit?
Ben: It took 18 months to finish. A month per minute of film, so a long time. At times, I was losing my mind with it, because I had this big story with Nick and Carla running at the same time on Corrie. And Taubman wouldn’t have been completed without all the people at Corrie, who’ve done an extraordinary job with it. Helping me with the colour, the dubbing, the sound. It was a real collaboration.
Jack: I’ve got quite bad eczema on my hands and in the corner of my mouth, so all that had to be taken out. The poor guy did it frame by frame and it took months. And he did it all in his free time.
And what are your hopes for the film?
Ben: Well, I got the former Coronation Street producer Phil Collinson to read the script. And my old Casualty boss Oliver Kent read it too. And they were both very insightful. They said that it can’t just be good because the three actors are in Corrie. There had to be something else to draw you in because, quite frankly, when it’s showing in Berlin, New York or Barcelona, nobody cares that you’re in Coronation Street. So I wanted the themes to be universal and for the film to touch you when you least expect it. Hopefully, you’ll come away thinking about what it says about all of us and where we’re going in the world.
You can watch a trailer for Taubman below.
And visit our dedicated Coronation Street page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.