FILM PREMIERE & Q&A: The Pass starring Russell Tovey

WORTH A LOOK? *****

WHERE: Odeon Leicester Square

WHEN: 16/3

‘Being gay is not an option’ laments Russell Tovey’s closeted Premiership footballer unforgettably in his new film The Pass which opened the BFI’s 30th LGBT Flare season.

Read on for our full Q&A and review of The Pass at the opening of the BFI’s Flare season

We’ve history with The Pass because we saw it in its original form as a play originating upstairs in a tiny room seating 90 at the Royal Court starring Tovey over two years ago.

Tonight Tovey, the cast, author John Donnelly, director Ben A Williams and producer Duncan Kenworthy are in attendance at the film’s world premiere at the Odeon, Leicester Square.

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Speaking after the screening Tovey says of the film: ‘You see my character over 10 years. He starts off like a little imp on the precipice of all the potential he has to fulfil. He’s chasing his dream, living his public persona yet is so hurt and so damaged. It was a gift for an actor. You don’t really get that sort of journey normally and it’s such a hot topic. It’s the last taboo for British sport.’

Producer Duncan Kenworthy has had other notable successes including Four Weddings And A Funeral and Notting Hill and explains that the film is unlikely to be out until October and talks are currently underway with a potential distributor.

The film itself is based very much on the structure of the play although if anything it is more claustrophobic. It consists of three half-hour acts in three different rooms over a 10-year period. We see Tovey’s character Jason sharing a room with teammate Ade (played by Arinze Kene) as they work out, drink protein shakes, banter, argue and flirt in their underpants before a crucial game for them both in 2006 in Bucharest, Romania. Its outcome couldn’t be more contrasting for the two excellent leads.

Five years later in a London hotel room Jason has brought back a pole dancer (the tough and touching Lisa McGrillis) who is not all she seems and then in 2016 in a Manchester hotel room Jason invites Ade to visit as he contemplates the end of his career and what his failed marriage and two children have brought him. Employee Nico Mirallegro is hilarious initially and then horrified by their behaviour.

In the Q&A Tovey describes Kene (the only member of the cast who didn’t transfer from the Royal Court) as ‘just incredible’.

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Author Donnelly talks of his inspiration as the Manchester United youth team of the early 90s which contained among its members David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers. But what would it have been like to have grown up with them but not to achieve the success they had when that is all you had known from a very young age?

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Kenworthy describes how Tovey used to live in his building and offered him a ticket to the Royal Court’s sold-out seven-week run. ‘The play was well-written and performed as well as being a very intense experience. What surprised me was the audience. It was about gay footballers yet the people watching were two-thirds women.’

Director Williams says rather than expanding the three-room structure of the play as films traditionally do, the decision was made to make it more claustrophobic.

And it is this sense of being unable to avoid Jason’s fate which makes the film so memorable and compelling. One day we will look back and marvel at how small-minded we were not to welcome with open arms the Premiership’s first openly gay footballer. Until that time The Pass stands as a tautly-written, well-performed, stark reminder about how closed minds can ruin lives and how far we still have to go.

  • Main picture courtesy BFI Flare. Tickets for the rest of the BFI Flare season here.
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham 

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